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Torrevieja

Today marks the first time that I will travel abroad since I was 18. That was *cough* 19 years ago. We are Torrevieja bound! Last week we were so bored of the wet and damp weather in Yorkshire that we embarked on a mission for warmer climates. What we didn’t realise was that the weather was going to get much better in the UK too just as we were due to leave. Typical! That being said as we drove down to Gatwick airport yesterday ready for our flight this morning, we were driving into a reported 60 hour thunderstorm that was sweeping its way northwards.

M25. Always a pleasure!

As per usual the M25 decided to be slow moving and seemed just down to the amount of traffic rather than accidents. It gave us plenty of time to watch the planes taking off from Heathrow and imagine how we would be feeling in just 12 hours time!We arrived at my brother’s and parked Chewy on his drive with about an inch to spare before kissing the gutter. We checked we had our passports about 20 times and had a shower before heading to bed. It was only on the last round of checks that I thought about doing the bag up and realised the carry on bag I had chosen had a broken zip. It’s 11pm and we have to be up at 2:30…We scan the guest bedroom in a panic as we can’t be slamming the van doors at this time. Spying a sports bag on the wardrobe -we borrow/steal it. I make a note to tell my brother in the morning!As night sets in, so do the storms. At 2:30 we awake to thunder and lightning. A rumble that fills us with a little bit of worry. Taking off in a thunderstorm is not ideal! The journey to the airport came free with a light show but luckily by the time we arrived at Gatwick it was passing. It was almost dawn but already the airport was buzzing with people all excited to be flying today.Check in went well with just a small technical hitch over my hair gel being in a bottle that was too big, even though it was almost empty. I hadn’t realised it’s not on the quantity left in the bottle that counts, it’s the bottle size. Noted for next time. We headed through security and Louise told me we were going to the No1 lounge. She had booked us in as a surprise. As I haven’t travelled around very much I hadn’t experienced a lounge before and I loved it! How relaxing! And a prosecco at 5am isn’t a bad start to the day!Soon we were boarding the plane via a short shuttle bus ride from the gate to the plane. A Boeing 737. Smaller than Louise would like but just happy it didn’t have propellers! Taxiing to the runway we felt the excitement and suspense build as the rain was just stopping but the clouds were still dark. The captain said there may be some initial turbulence but should be a good flight. Norwegian airlines have in flight WiFi and an app that let you see where you are on your journey as well as speed and height.

Where did we fly?

According to the captain our flight took us out over Brighton to the English channel and across to France. We coasted down past Bordeaux and over the Pyrenees mountains. Even in June they were topped with snow still! After a quick trolly dash up the aisle with drinks and duty free, our two hour 20 minute journey was over just as quick as it had begun. Coming in to land in Alicante was a delight as we descended close to the mountains and were able to see the stunning landscape unfold before our eyes. It seems the captain was also distracted by the scenery as his landing was quite sudden but safely down, we were able to disembark.

To Torrevieja

We are heading to the Spanish mainland city of Torrevieja. It’s a sunny city on the Costa Blanca. Known for its Mediterranean climate and sandy beaches. Torrevieja translates to Old Town and was once a town demolished by an earthquake in the 1800’s. A recent renovation initiative has seen a brand new city emerge built for tourism. It has the largest market on the mainland every Friday and we can’t wait to go! We were very lucky to have had a lift to our villa and we were given a small guided tour along the way. We drove past some stunning salt lakes where the flamingos hang out before moving on.

The villa

So here we are. Having found our way to the local Aldi (I know… We flew to Spain to go to Aldi but we needed food!) We made ourselves a fresh lunch with meat and cheese, salad and pickles. No bread, cakes or crisps! A glass of wine to toast our arrival and lots of plans to be made. We decided it was far too hot, 30 degrees in the shade, so went for a little walk to find the swimming pool. How beautiful it was with palm trees tapping in the breeze, colourful flowers a small pool for the local residents of this villa block. The water was nice and cool but not cold, so was a delight to cool off after the belting rays of the sun. After a short swim we took advantage of the sunshine and basked in her heat, talking about destinations we want to visit and that we could easily fall in love with Spain!It’s day one of our trip to Torrevieja. We are so excited to experience the rest of what is on offer and will keep you up to date on our adventures. Right now, time for a short nap before we BBQ some fresh fish! Please comment, share and tag your friends. Let us know where to visit below if you have any suggestions for us!

VanLifeDiary Solstice

Here at vanlifediary, Solstice is creeping up on us. Follow our journey from Yorkshire to South Wales as we get sentimental and personal with you!

Our journey begins

Yorkshire has been our home for the last few weeks as we visited our daughter. Thanks to the rain, it was a damp visit. The waterfalls were bursting as the rivers somersaulted off of the rocks – free falling to the river below. The noise was a tremendous orchestra of rumbling and crashing, echoing off of the walls and down the river. It was very grounding to be stood watching this immense power that mother nature brings to the table. The rivers that have been carved out over hundreds and thousands of years are still evolving today. We are witnessing that happen at this very moment. The water that falls here will be life sustaining – it will also be recycled. The cycle of life will repeat and the next season will have its turn.

Our journey as vanlifediary, during the 2019 summer solstice, is also going in circles. Mostly by design. We had committed to be back in South Wales by the 21st June. We had to, at some point, start our journey down to South Wales from the Dales and we were a little reluctant! There are so many places we still want to visit there. The journey was a great opportunity to see some friends along the way but we hadn’t really understood why these people were the ones to be a part of our very special journey until the solstice itself!

High force, co durham
vanlifediary solstice
High Force falls, County Durham

A moment of real reflection and a sudden realisation…

On solstice evening ‘vanlifediary’ found ourselves sat in our campervan next to a reservoir in Wales. You can barely make out the paths and roads on the opposite hill as the leaves have exploded into their summer outfits and are providing shelter for the wildlife. The reservoir was in the shade of those hills and rippling in her dark blue silk dress, as deep in colour as she is in the middle of her large expanse. Looking out, the seasons new offspring of ducks and geese follow their mothers in perfect lines from the bank, still growing into their adult plumage. A slight purple haze started to cover the sky as the sun got ready to finish the longest shifts of her cycle. A picture of serenity with barely any sounds other than the natural noise of the earth and the odd car that passes us by.

This week saw a milestone in our travels. We left our jobs on the spring equinox and have just seen our first summer solstice as full time vanlife enthusiasts. A whole quarter of a year of full time travelling now under our belt! It is very exciting and has seen us go as far North as Yorkshire, Somerset to the south, Gower on the west and a week’s long road trip in Norfolk to the east. By no means have we done everywhere in between. We have made a lot of new friends on our travels and had the chance to see some old friends too.

sign vanlifediary

Nottingham

We left Yorkshire on Tuesday and drove to Nottingham. We met up with a very special lady, El. I met her when I was helping out at a castle in Staffordshire and we became good friends in an instant. I recall the day like a movie scene. After all the events (from Reenactment teams to a ghost hunt) we found ourselves sat in a tent at 3 am with a knight, a witch and a swordsman drinking tea and vodka, whilst eating El’s mini cheddars! Some nights are so surreal! Funnily enough, that was on the summer solstice 2009. Exactly 10 years ago that we met and I still count the people I met that day as very close friends.


We were so happy to stop by and see her and the family. She cooked us a lovely mexican meal and we reminisced about our days at the castle. I always get a little nostalgic and then I wonder… we look back at history and read all about the monarch and lords, see the stately homes etc. What will future generations think when they look back at us, when our lives are just names in a census and a period of time governed by our Queen, our government and the building techniques we used. Perhaps they will even laugh at our methods of medicine? Are they much more advanced? Have we gone too far already to save our future? Has there been another world war? Time to stop thinking too much and move on to our next destination.

Crickhowell

sugarloaf vanlifediary solstice 2018
On top of a mountain!

The next stop on the vanlifediary solstice tour was to see Luke. We lived next door to Mrs C when we were working and she had a large family. Mrs C is a remarkable woman and always made us feel so welcome living next door and we became good friends. Luke is one of her sons who happens to live in the Brecon Beacons. A year ago, for Louise’s birthday, we decided we wanted to climb the Sugar Loaf mountain in the Brecon Beacons. It took us long time to complete. 3 adorable pugs managed to lap us before we had made it up to the summit. Not our finest moment but we pushed on. Sometimes stopping every ten steps to catch our breath as it was so steep in places.

Finally, out of breath and sweaty, we reached the summit. We dropped to the floor in a glorious display that should have been narrated by Sir David Attenborough and panted for a good 15 minutes. Just as we had caught our breath a school party of about 20 ten year olds all came singing and dancing along the ridge with no sign on exhaustion. They looked like they had just got off of the bus!!! Some sheep joined us, sensing that food is often consumed on the summit. The boys in the school party decided to name one of them ‘Snot’ and I dread to think what the others were called.


We checked ourselves in on Facebook as being on top of the mountain with a photo of us at the trig point for proof and shortly after Luke sent us a message. He said he lived close and wondered if we would like to pop over for a little bit of dinner and see his home at Bryn Bach Barn! (which is also a holiday let! click here!!!) “Of course!!!” we said… realising we now needed to get off of the mountain and not smell like a sailors armpit for dinner, we made our descent.

solstice brecon beacons
Bryn Bach Barn, Holiday let in the Brecon Beacons

Food for thought!

This year, we met Luke for a much more civilised brunch in Crickhowell and enjoyed some marvellous Welsh cakes and refreshments at Latte-Da Coffee and Kitchen. Latte-Da is a small but elegant tea room with a nice assorted menu. A large percentage of their menu is locally sourced and they make home made cakes, gluten free brownies and American pancakes.

They have a wide range of coffee to choose from and the staff were very polite and helpful. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to have soya milk with my tea! Louise had the Dirty Chai, a regular chai Latte but with a shot of espresso. The cafe had a very natural and welcoming feel. Even though the tables were quite close together this just felt cosy and not claustrophobic. They are so popular that Trip adviser has them rated at number 1 for Crickhowell and 2 for the whole of the Brecon Beacons!!! We can certainly say that we will be visiting again when we are passing through.

Car parking is just across the road and is a great place to start before you have a look around the town. Did you know that Tolkien took his inspiration for parts of Lord of the Rings from the local area and named Crickhollow after Crickhowell! It has been exactly a year since we last met up with Luke on his home turf. Another Vanlifediary Solstice anniversary. (even if we were not full time vanlifers then, we did travel part time in our VW – Which I really miss!)

Back to where it all began

As I sat by the reservoir, all the puzzle pieces stated to slot together. Ten years since I had met El and a year since we had seen Luke on his home patch. We drove past the Sugar Loaf mountain on the way to Crickhowell. Now we are sat by the very same reservoir that we came to when we set off on our journey at the spring equinox. We were in Talybont-on-Usk.


None of this was pre planned. It was a revelation in the evening that we had reconnected with these people. We hadn’t decided on where to stay, just remembered how lovely it was. When we got close and thought it would be nice to stop there again for Vanlifediary solstice. We remembered how the last time we visited you couldn’t move for frogs as it was their mating season and the floor was covered with the frisky amphibians. By now, their offspring are likely enjoying the tranquillity of the reservoir and their cycle is just beginning.

Relevance of cycles.

The relevance of these cycles never ceases to amaze me. The deep connections that we make to places and with people run deep in our subconscious. Perhaps we will be like migrating birds, always coming back to Wales for summer solstice. Perhaps the people we meet on our journeys will stay with us and connect again on their own cycles. As I sit by the water I watch sky darken. Able to make out the shapes of bats and hear the owls start to call, I watch the water lapping at the shore line. I wonder if these are the same drops of water we saw 3 months ago. How far have they travelled before returning? When we return again, how much more will we have seen? What will we have learnt? Who will we bring with us?

I am a deep believer in the cycles of events. For example, if we haven’t dealt with a situation in our lives we will face a version of it again. This will repeat until we have learnt what we need to and grown. I believe that people can come into your life for many reasons, some stay, others go, some come back again.

As we travel further into our own lives and take stock of situations, we can sometimes look back and realise the mistakes we made. Or the exact moments when everything became clear. The ‘A-HA!’ moments. As we drive we are still learning. We have learnt more in the last 3 months than we can believe. Life isn’t about text books, its about being outside, exploring and learning. That’s what makes us so rich and lucky.

If you enjoyed reading about our vanlifediary solstice, please leave us a comment. Subscribe to the blog and follow our Facebook page for more interaction!

Gloucestershire Attractions and Campsite

We visited a small organic campsite in Gloucestershire and local attractions and attractions not long after we picked our van up in January. We called her Patchouli but Chewie for short) and sent her directly to the mechanics for a thorough check over. As soon Chewie returned home we were eager to take her out for a weekend. We searched the internet for a relatively close site just in case anything went wrong. That way we were not too far from home. Finding a site called West End Farm near Arlingham in Gloucestershire we booked our pitch. £10 for Friday night on a hard standing pitch and £4 extra if you wanted electric hook up.

We packed some food that we had in the house so that we didn’t have to buy any. A chilli and a pasta that we had in the freezer coupled up as freezer blocks to keep the rest of our goods cool. (That’s when we remembered we now have a fridge – a new luxury!). Singing tunes on the radio, we set off in the sunshine down the M5 for a few junctions and then took a country lane for a couple of miles until we reached the farm. On arrival there was a sign to say that due to them being a small site there was no reception but just to ring if we needed anything. Our start to Gloucestershire campsite and attractions was going well as the site was very clean and welcoming.

We had a look around and found they had a couple of grass pitches with electric hook ups. There was a new wooden structure with toilets, showers and a washing up area. Very nice and clean!

The site is part of an organic farm and we saw this sign in the toilet block. Turns out we were sharing our fresh water with the cows. The cows had priority too! West end farm is home to plenty of wildlife but cattle is their main priority. Although you can hear some noise from the machinery nearby it isn’t enough to cause an issue.

Vanlifediary.com Gloucestershire campsite


River Severn and the Severn Way.

This was a great spot when taking Gloucestershire campsite and attractions into consideration. The location itself is part of an attraction! The Severn Way. It is a long network of paths following the River Severn from it’s origin high on Plynlimon, in the uplands of Mid-Wales. The RIver Severn is the longest river in the UK measuring 220 miles long. It passes through Powys, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire before reaching the Severn Estuary.

The Long Distance Walkers Association gives the Severn Way’s length as 360.3 km (223.9 mi).

The campsite is located on a horseshoe bend on the River Severn and therefore has direct access to lots of lovely walks including access to the Severn Way.

The Severn Bore is a tidal bore seen on the tidal reaches of the River Severn in south western England. It is formed when the rising tide moves into the funnel-shaped Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary and the surging water forces its way upstream in a series of waves, as far as Gloucester and beyond. Surfers love to take advantage of the waves as they surf up the river on the bore. Make sure you do your research and try to witness this event when the spring tide is at its highest!

vanlifediary.com Severn bore

Arlingham Village

Driving to the campsite you drive through the quaint village. It isn’t very big, in fact the 2011 census recorded just  459 inhabitants in 176 households. Arlingham has the River surrounding it on 3 sides and a canal on the 4th. Even with so much water surrounding it, Arlingham does not have a high flood risk. The village is full of character and remains very rural with 10 working farms with Dairy and beef herds.

The church of St Mary the Virgin’s registry dates back to 1539 and has lots of very old but well preserved tombs and headstones. Although it was closed when we visited you can tell from care taken in the grounds that this little church is very important to it’s parish.

We took a walk around the exterior and the winter sun was low in the sky. The light reflected off of the rear double door to display a golden shimmer as though it had been covered in gold leaf.

vanlifediary Arlingham church

Meet the locals – at your own risk!

The graveyard isn’t a scary place to be, not once you have met the locals of course.

I mean to say that some of the residents are a little unsure of visitors. Perhaps a little territorial even! No I don’t mean the humans, I mean the pheasants! A cock greeted us as we began our walk home and at first he seemed a little shy. The pheasant started to follow us down the road a little. We even thought he was cute! We even stopped to take a photo of this encounter… It was then things took a disastrous turn for the worst!

Out of nowhere, the little swine decided to take a pot shot at Louise! (See video here). He jumped up and kicked her with both his feet and tried to take a bite of her! Once safely back to the van we snuggled up for dinner and had an early night.

Saturday morning we woke up to a bit of a damp day but we were happy. It didn’t matter to us. We had a really good night’s sleep, our first night in Chewy, felt relaxed and refreshed. In fact, once we went to sleep we both had a really deep sleep and woke up around midnight feeling as though we had slept all night long!

Robinswood Hill – Gloucester

A hearty frankfurter omelette breakfast (nicer than it sounds) set us up for the day. We didn’t want to spend any money so decided to head to Robinswood Hill in Gloucester. 250 acres of open countryside with nature trails marked out for you. At the summit you can see views of the Severn Bridge to the South, the Malvern Hills to the North and the Black Mountains to the West. This attractions was only 20 miles from the Gloucestershire campsite

Car parking is free, even for the motorhome, no height restrictions and luckily the car park was flat or we may have had to drive on! The van is quite heavy and we need to build trust in the handbrake… which was at that point ‘selective’ on her ability to hold!

We donned our wet weather gear and polished off a sarnie before our walk. It didn’t look too bad from the bottom but boy are looks deceiving! Louise decided the path was too boring and dragged me up through the trees forging our own path… Never again! I swear I thought I was going to pass out at several points. I was going up a bank on my hands and knees grabbing on to tree roots to pull myself up, all the while slipping and sliding – making very little progress! Once up that bit I decided that we were going to follow the path!

Up Up and Away!

Incline after incline we inched our way. Throwing a strop every 5 minute I was encouraged on even though I was really hating it at that point. Although I climbed the Sugar Loaf last year this is the first major climb I had done since my foot injury and I am glad to report it held up well!

All of a sudden the summit appeared a few hundred metres above us. One last hurrah and we made it to the top. Another trig point achieved! It is also a beacon point. From the top of Robins Wood Hill we couldn’t see too much as the visibility was poor. Did I mention it was raining and windy? Looking down from our position we could see parts of the county briefly, before more rain clouds hampered our visibility but the M5 services we easy to spot!

It was really windy up there so after a short break we slowly edged back to the car park. We knew we had done it and being able to get into our converted van, have a brew, some soup and get changed makes all the difference in this weather. The heating went on to warm us up and we reflected on how much better we felt now the cobwebs had been blown away. Despite my reluctance and grumpy demeanour I did actually enjoy it – when it was over.

iGrill Restaurant

When taking Gloucestershire campsite and attractions into account, sometimes a meal cooked for you is a real treat. Not far from Robinswood Hill is iGrill, an amazing burger/pizza/grill restaurant on Metz Way, Gloucester.

There is free parking available and all the food is cooked fresh for you. I have never had a burger like the ones they cook there. It is a minced sirloin of lean beef with no artificial flavours or additives. They mince it and make it into a patty so its succulent and juicy. They even make their own signature sauce as an optional extra. As it’s cooked fresh you can even request it to be cooked a certain way.

They also do pizzas, kebabs on skewers, Vegetarian menus, smoothies and milkshakes. They are on the Just Eat app so will deliver too! We went there for some proper food on our way home and boy did it taste amazing!


Prinknash Abbey

Prinknash has lots to offer, from Roman Catholic Benedictine Monks at Prinknash Abbey to the bird and deer park where you can hand feed the deer! This location is certainly worth putting on your next to do list!

The Abbey

According to the monks, it is not known for sure when Prinknash made its first documented appearance.e in documented history. According to a venerable antiquary Gloucestershire was erected into a County and divided into Hundreds by King Alfred [c. 890] and in a list of these Hundreds Prinknash is included in the division of the Hundreds of Kings Barton. Gloucestershire antiquaries, however, are not always reliable and we cannot say for certain how ancient the place is.

Monastic life did not end in the middle ages and there are still monks in residence here. You can visit the Monestry’s shop which sells monastic gifts and books. There is also a cafe however the Monastery is private for the monks that reside there.

Deer Park

Next door is the Bird and Deer Park, a real treat for animal lovers. It was created in 1974 by Phillip Meigh and now run by his daughter since his death in 2008. This parkland incorporates the old monks ponds to create a habitat for all sorts of wildlife. You can visit here and spend time hand feeding the birds, fish and fallow deer. It’s a photographers dream!

We had a lovely afternoon here and it is on our list of places to go back to. The site is on a hill so do wear suitable footwear. I was on crutches at the time of our visit and had to wear a hard boot to protect my foot. This made some of the navigation tricky but still doable!

The animals in residence are

  • Reindeer
  • Fallow deer
  • Pygmy goats
  • Miniature donkeys
  • Waterfowl including geese, ducks, Ne Ne’s, Snow geese and Bahama Pintails
  • Peafowl
  • Poultry including Mad Frizzlers, Polands, Dutch faveralls and seabrites
  • Pheasant and Fowl including the stunning Golden and Yellow pheasants
  • Kookaburras
  • Caged and Aviary birds from D’anvers and Japanese Quail, to Budgies, Cockatiels and Lovebirds
  • Fish including Carp and Tench

Family fun at Gloucestershire campsite and attractions.


Make sure you take plenty of change as for 20p you can obtain food to feed some of the animals. We had a slight hiccup when a deer snatched one of the paper bags of food and ran off with it so do hold on tight!!! Also watch the birds, they may poop on you… and they did poop on us! But it was so nice to be able to relax and just sit with the birds. They are very tame will come and land on your hands for the food. It’s a great experience that kids and adults will love. The site is quite large and well maintained. There is plenty of free parking, again no height restrictions, available for the whole Prinknash site.

There’s a lovely cafe which sells salads and hot meals. A children’s menu is available, soft drinks and of course locally made ice creams. If you’re looking for a gift with a difference then I’m sure you will find one in the gift shop adjoining the ticket office. You do have to pay for entrance into the Bird and Deer park. You can book online and save 10% with an email ticket sent direct to you.

There are so many different Gloucestershire campsite and attractions so you

Click here to see other locations we have visited.


Visit Pembrey Country Park

In our last post we left you at Kidwelly Castle, South Wales and had been travelling down from Whitemill. We were aiming to work our way along the Welsh coast to be in Somerset in 10 days time. Looking on the map, we found a large green area with what looked like a country park. We decided to visit Pembrey Country Park to see what it had to offer. As you can see on the map, it’s not far from Kidwelly, just 5 miles!

Map of South Wales visit pembrey country park


We secured our stuff and took a slow drive. When you turn off of the A484 you go over a railway bridge which is a single track and governed by traffic lights. You will then see a small car park on the left called Penybeed car park. There are some lovely walks from here. If you follow the road down a bit further you will then arrive at the entrance to visit Pembrey Country Park and a beach site. It is one of Wales’ top visitor attractions.

A park warden greeted us in the toll booth at the entrance to the park. It is £5 entrance/parking all day and they are open until 10pm. We didn’t realise there was an entrance fee and didn’t have cash on us at the time. Luckily they allowed us to drive on through and pay at the visitor centre with a card.  

With over 500 acres of land and beaches, we had lots to discover! Find out more below!

Visit Pembrey Country Park Munitions ruins

Pembrey country park Bunkers

WW1

Although the park, is today a stunning, green and lush parkland, it wasn’t always this way. The park has had many uses over the years and there’s still evidence for you to explore today!

The sand dunes provided an excellent location for the manufacturing of explosives during both World Wars. It was the site of Pembrey’s Royal Ordnance Factory. The earliest munitions were produced here as early as 1882. Using it’s remote location, the dunes would greatly reduce the impact of any accidental explosions. The factory, employed mainly by women as the men were at war fighting, has as many as 6000 employees producing Dynamite and TNT.

USE AFTER WW1

After the First World War the factory closed in the 1920’s, the administration building was then used to house the children of unemployed miners. They were put to work in the factories to produce a component of printing ink, Carbon black.

WW2

At the start of the Second World War the factory re-opened and covered over 200 hectares of land. This mainly covered the sand dunes. The nitration and other dangerous buildings were located here a safe distance away from the admin buildings such as surgery, canteen, police barracks, central office and library.

Railway tracks used in the movement of the explosives can still be seen today. They are especially prevalent around the children’s play area.

Production continued at a low level after the war. It was again was relied upon to produce more around the time of the Korean war in the 1950’s. After the war, the factory was mainly involved in the decommissioning of bombs by breaking them down. The factory closed its doors in March 1965.

SHIPWRECKS

Pembrey country park Shipwreck

Pembrey’s beach, Cefn Sidan, is the resting place of a large number of shipwrecks – many can be seen on google maps! Some of these wrecks have been dated back as far as 1668 and show how important the shipping route was with the movement of timber and coal along the Welsh coast. There are over 300 shipwrecks on this coast line that they know of. Many more are still waiting to be discovered. It’s not just the boats that have been discovered here! Anchors, now placed by the beach car park were discovered within 200 meters of each other. Found near the low water mark with a chain between them. These are the heavyweight anchors from a vessel of at least 1000 tonnes!

BEACH AND SAND DUNES

Visit Pembrey country park Sand Dunes

The sand here is a very fine sand and the dunes are constantly changing and shifting. Reports indicate that the beach can raise or fall by over 6 ft depending on the storms and the tides either burying the beach, or exposing the wrecks underneath and is proof of just how difficult this stretch of coast line was for the boats to navigate the ever changing sand banks.

The sand dunes can be very dangerous due to the type of sand and constant shifts. There are signs up warning not to dig in the sand dunes as they easily collapse.

The beach is an excellent spot for treasure hunting. Aside from the occasional new discovery from the shipwrecks you can find a lot of shells here for your DIY projects. It is great to visit after the high tide and sift through all the debris washed up. Do be cautious though – the beach also has some dead jellyfish wash up and some are huge! For reference, I am a size 8!

The beach is 8 miles long and full of golden sand. It is one of the few places where you can watch the sunset over the sea and the red sky shining on the exposed rib cages of the ship wrecks are a sight you won’t forget!

ACTIVITIES

Pembrey has lots of activities on offer. You can treat the family to an adventure filled week away there and do something different every single day! Why not have a go at the following activities;

Dry ski slope

Tobogganing

Cycle Hire

Archery

Laser tag

Orienteering

Pitch and Putt

Miniture railway

Adventure play area

Equestrian centre

Nature trails (coastal path and woodland options)

Cafe

Award winning beaches

Whether you want to have an adventure or just relax on the grass or the stunning golden award winning beaches that have been compared to the carribean minus the palm trees, there is something you will fall in love with!

CAMPING

visit Pembrey country park and  Campsite
We had most of the non electric field to ourselves!

There are 2 campsites at Pembrey. A camping and caravan club site just on the edge of the park or Pembrey campsite within the park featuring 320 pitches. They cater for all with non electric, electric and fully serviced pitches.

They have 2 toilet and shower blocks with a family shower room as well as washing up rooms for your dirty cups and plates. The wardens are very helpful and are only too happy to tell you about the area and where to visit as well as its history!

If you are looking for a season pitch for your motorhome you will be glad to know that Pembrey do offer either a season pitch or just a summer pitch where you can hook up all of your gear and visit as often as you like through the season. Everything you need will be here when you visit Pembrey Country Park.

WALKING

Pembrey forest and Pill Box
Pill box used to fire machine guns at aircraft attacking the munition factory.

Pembrey Country Park has beautiful walks, nature trails and coastline views. A mapped walk took us on a 4 mile hike through woodland and via the historical relics of the munition factory.

If you are brave you can try and make your own path but do be aware, these woods are large and you can easily get lost!

CYCLING

We hired two bicycles for an afternoon. You are not limited to staying on the site. There is a coastal path that runs from Chepstow to Queenferry. We decided to cycle to Burry Port and have a well deserved bag of chips and back. Sadly for us the weather turned rather wet and windy so we had to cut short our adventure and good job too as we had rather tender bits for a few days afterwards!

GHOSTS

As with many places, there is nothing quite like a good ghost story. Pembrey has its own collection. It is reported that everything from ghost ships and sailors walking along the beach to bears in the woods have been reported. The ships would sometimes be carrying exotic animals, such as dancing bears, for entertainment. When they were ship wrecked it is believed that some of these animals found their way to shore and lived in the woods. It had so many reported sightings around the site that the UK television show Most Haunted spent a night here to investigate!

Believe what you may but there is no denying that the beach and woods in the dark do take on an eerie feel when the mist starts to roll in! If you go down to the woods today, you are sure of a big surprise!!!

Visit Pembrey Country Park Woods
Haunted Woodland

VISIT PEMBREY COUNTRY PARK

There is so much here that we didn’t have time to explore and we are looking to visit again with a group of friends. It was a wonderful place to visit and off peak for a non electric pitch cost us £17 a night. That meant that we didn’t have to pay for parking in the park as we were already there as paying campers.

We saw many a family there with the children playing and having fun outdoors. Whether for a day, a week or for a season pass we recommend you visit Pembrey Country Park.

If you have enjoyed reading about Pembrey, you can check out our other locations here!

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Explore South Wales – Whitemill, Ferryside and Kidwelly.

Our week started out with us needing to find a campsite to empty the toilet cassette and have a shower. It had been a busy few days with us doing some volunteering work clearing some land. After the manual work we were pretty stinky plus the smell of bonfire filled our van and wardrobe! We decided to explore South Wales in more depth as we still had some time to kill before needing to be in Devon for a family holiday at the end of the month.

Previously we have explored West Wales from Cardigan to Aberystwyth and North Wales but haven’t had time to explore South Wales coast. 

View from welsh mountain Lou meeting the local horses

cooking on the campfire

sunset in the valley  heating water for a wash vanlifediary

Explore South Wales – Let the journey begin!

On Sunday morning we left our volunteering site and ventured in to Swansea to have a well earned carvery and a pint of cider with a friend.  We met on one of the many Facebook groups we belong to. It was so lovely to see her again and have a proper nose about in her camper. She’s got round windows in her van. They look really good but she said they were very authentic of a submarine and leak from time to time! When it comes to Camper windows, whose don’t?

Quarry Lodge Campsite

After our massive roast dinner we made our way to a campsite we had seen on pitchup.com. Beautiful location to explore South Wales from. Just off of the A40 at Felinwen (Carmarthen) and up a narrow road with plenty of passing places. You will find Quarry Lodge campsite on your right. As you pull in the electric pitches are on the right hand field. The non electric and tent pitches are to the left and beyond.

As it’s name suggests the campsite is situated on an old Quarry so it is on a few different levels – the pitches however have been nicely levelled so don’t worry about sleeping on a tilt! They have landscaped the site fantastically to allow for a natural toilet soak-away. This has provided a wild life area rich in plants and animals. From here paths take you down to multi levelled clearings in the woodland. One of these has almost a balcony feel with a hedgerow surrounding the edge.  It was here, that I proposed to Louise.

Luckily, she said yes! There will be more info on the proposal in the future.

The facilities were very clean and well maintained. Several toilet blocks situated on the site make life easy in peak season. A washing up area with information board was a real help. There were fresh chicken and duck eggs for sale with an honesty box as well as a herb box where you could snip your own and herbs for sale courtesy of the owners daughter – 50p for a planted pot of herbs! I also got a push on the tire swing by Rob, one of the owners!

Quarry Lodge is part of the camping and caravan club, and had we known this before booking it likely would have put us off altogether. (Don’t hate us but we have found they can be a little selective and our self build sticks out like a sore thumb!). However we are both very glad that we stayed here. It is a small but welcoming site with very calm energy and amazing views. You cant ask for more from your hosts. Honestly cant wait to visit there again and see Rob and Linda. They were the most amazing hosts and are so lucky to have such an amazing small but cosy site. If you only go to one campsite in Wales, make it this one!

Ferryside

Once we left Quarry Lodge with tears in our eyes, we continued to explore South Wales by heading south to a place just shy of 15 miles away. Ferryside is a village on the opposite side of the estuary to Llansteffan. Strangely enough there used to be a ferry from one side to the other. Although the original Ferry stopped running in the 1950’s a new service run by an amphibious boat has operated since 2018. Trivia fact – Ferryside was the first village in the UK to switch from analogue to digital TV!

As you drive along the road, you can’t imagen the little gem that awaits you! The houses are on one side of the road and their garages are on the other. When you see the railway station crossing you will also see a small turning. It is there you will find the car park for the lifeboat station and the sailing club.

Ferryside Beach

A lovely little beach, mostly sand at low tide but some stones higher up the beach. The life boat station on the right hand side of the car park but plenty of spaces with a low walled sea defence. As you look over the estuary you can see LLansteffan. Whilst walking we met a lovely gentleman who said “lovely isn’t it…. The other side looks like the finest place on earth until you get there, then you look back and this side looks like the finest place on earth too”. Was this a ‘grass is always greener’ comment or the truth that these two locations are among the best of South Wales hidden gems?

We reversed the van up to the wall and opened the back doors to overlook the estuary. It is the closest we will get to those Instagram photos – you know the ones I mean.

No Overnighting!

We had hoped to sleep near here for the night. We were approached by a gentleman from the sailing club who made it quite clear that campers were not welcome to overnight (but they had to tolerate us during the day).

Not wanting to outstay our welcome we decided to then head along a narrow mostly single track coastal road in the the hope we may spot somewhere to sleep en route to Kidwelly. Sadly we didn’t find anywhere and that was including a wrong turn that took us in a massive circle around a farm. There is another road to Kidwelly that may be more suitable for you if you are feint of heart!

Kidwelly

Kidwelly is situated in Carmarthenshire, South Wales. It is 7 miles north west of Llanelli. Perhaps its most attractive tourism pull is the Castle. Kidwelly Castle is a site to behold. We arrived in the evening and pulled into the car park to look at her. She was glowing in the low evening sun all golden and majestic. We knew we had to come back to see her properly in the morning so we found a place on search for sites near the canal. A large car park with stunning walks popular with local dog walkers. Just a warning – you are next to a small sewage works although the wind was in our favour and we didn’t have any nasty smells. We didn’t have any trouble here and cooked our dinner before snuggling up in bed.

Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we headed back to the castle. Its part of CADW so we used our passes to get in for free. If you are not a member, it is worth thinking about. You get free entrance to all the Welsh sites and half price off of English and Scottish heritage sites. On renewal I believe it’s then free access to all 3.

The castle is a motte and bailey Castle and there current works date from around 1114. It is a double walled fortress. This means that they have an outer wall and an inner wall to protect the castles occupants. An army would have to breech both walls to get inside. The Castle has several towers on the perimeter as well as the remains of chapels, kitchens and a tale of a very lucky magical cat.

Mythical black cat

The information boards around the site tell you of the legend of the magical black cat. legend claims that the cat was the first thing to appear from the castle after the great plague, and there are also myths about her surviving a huge fire. The cat is on the official coat of arms for the town so do keep your eyes open. Legend has it that she still has 6 lives left, and is a magical cat that is still sometimes seen!

The castle is very maternal in its history and the woman that lived here, fought here and died here. The wildlife was in abundance with swallows and crows nesting in the towers and the wagtails patrolling the picnic benches for scraps.

We have added lots of photos for you but we really think this is a castle you need to visit for yourself without too may spoilers! Oh just one spoiler, the one way system that takes you to the castle and out through the remains of the walled town, has an 11ft 3 height restriction that they don’t tell you about at the start of the one way system. We changed our pants after. Close call for our van!

Where did we go next? From Kidwelly we travelled to Pembrey Country Park and Beach. It’s not far from Kidwelly and was so amazing.

We are going to write our next post about this location. We love to explore South Wales and it is getting better every day.

Don’t forget to comment below with any other recommendations for that areas we travel to. We want to know where you have visited too!

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Norfolk Road Trip. Kings Lynn to Norwich – Scenic route

Norfolk is a very special place. It is an important historical county as well as a wildlife haven and it is very easy to enjoy both. It’s known for its flat land and iconic ‘Big Sky’. Familiar pictures of windmills and marshland. You can easily lose track of time and feel as if you are in a different country all together! The best way to see Norfolk is slowly, so lets take you on a Norfolk road trip covering towns, beaches, marshes and much more!

Communities have existed in Norfolk since the last Ice Age. The Iceni tribe inhabited the region prior to the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD. After which the Romans built roads, forts, villas and towns.

With ports on the coast, Norfolk was a main trading location with North West Europe. Consequently it has seen many settlers from Romans to Vikings throughout history. It has been farmed extensively. Not just for its animals or woodland, but perhaps more famously, its Peat. It is the Peat farming that helped to create the Norfolk Broads as we know them today with their intricate network of rivers and waterways. 7 rivers and 63 broads are the result of the sea flooding the peat works in the 14th century.

Protected wildlife and AONB sites on the Norfolk road trip .

The Broads are home to a quarter of Britain’s rarest wildlife including the Teal, Wigeon, Reed and Sedge Warblers. The Marsh Harrier has made a comeback and Bittern numbers have also increased in recent years. It’s not just birds that are thriving here, the rare Norfolk Hawker dragonfly and the Fen Raft spider (which can grow to palm size!) are also amongst the protected species. The fens alone have more than 250 different plants. These include the nationally protected fen orchid and the rare crested buckler fern. Thankfully we didn’t see the Fen Raft Spider or this post would have been very short and consisted of hello Norfolk, goodbye Norfolk!

It’s not all marshland and windmills. There are plenty of attractions for families, great restaurants and beautiful towns and villages to explore too.

We are going to take you on a 120 mile Norfolk road trip that will show you the variety Norfolk has to offer!

Kings Lynn

Kings Lynn
Kings Lynn warehouses

Start here for your Norfolk road trip. On the northern coast of Norfolk you will find a charming city, 98 miles north of London. This is a great location to begin your adventure with it’s vibrant mix of history, shopping and entertainment. Although not on the coast itself, Kings Lynn was one if the counties most important ports in the 12th century. The great River Ouse feed the town with vessels for trade. It was as important to the UK in the 12th century as Liverpool’s docks were during the industrial revolution.

In present times, you can still see remnants of the old Kings Lynn with warehouses and cobbled streets. There are a whole host of attractions here from museums, churches and parks to visit. Or if that’s not your thing,’ sit by the harbour and relax after some retail therapy. It’s a great place to start your Norfolk road trip and maybe worth a day or two here alone.

Salthouse Via Hunstanton

Take the 45 miles route on the A149 coastal road to Salthouse. This road will take you on a stunning route past Castle Rising and the Royal Sandringham estate. There are plenty of places you could stop including the seaside town of Hunstanton. Hunstanton faces west across the wash and is one of the few places that the sun can be seen setting over the sea. The picturesque seaside town also houses the Sea Life Sanctuary and a ship wreck of the steam trawler Sheraton!

Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier

The villages of Cley and Salthouse are within walking distance of each other on the coast path. The Norfolk Coast Path is a long distance footpath in Norfolk, running 83 miles from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea. Opened in 1986 it covers the North Norfolk Coast AONB. There are so many ways to see the sights that is a Norfolk road trip isn’t your thing, you can always walk it with a backpack! We met a lovely lady on our walk who was doing just that and stopped to have lunch with us.

These small parish villages are located on the salt marshes where it is not uncommon to see Marsh Harriers and Lapwings.

Cley Marsh

Cley Marsh WIndmill
Windmill at Cley Marsh

Cley is stunning with an 18th century windmill, delicatessen, famous smoke house, craft gallery and tea shops. The Cley Marshes Visitor Centre is a great place to start. It will help you get to understand the area of outstanding natural beauty. There is an education centre featuring films about the birds and nature reserve. It teaches you about its unique structure. Not being too hot on my bird breeds I found that I came away with the ability to identify some of the rarer birds. Although there are plenty of ‘twitchers’ around it is also a place for artists, poets and photographers. The natural landscape is inspiring to see.

As far as shops go there are very few in Salthouse. Little village shops and local pubs will see you through but do be warned, if you visit the Salthouse church you will see the museum dedicated to the savage floods that have occurred here over the years and killed many local residents. There is parking right down by the sea defences and it doesn’t state that you cant overnight here. Do be warned that in bad weather these sea defences have been severely breached!

We read one story of a lady who was sat on her stairs watching as her house had flooded. She commented that she had seen the water rise so had lifted what she could up stairs and rolled up the carpets. She then watched in disbelief as a hoover floated past her that she hadn’t seen in years!

Next Stop – Cromer!

Cromer Crab
Cromer Crab

10 miles from Salthouse on the same coastal road will return you to civilisation! Possibly the 2nd most popular seaside destination in Norfolk after Great Yarmouth and famous for its local crab and Seals. This is certainly a must on your great Norfolk road trip.

This popular tourist destination has plenty to offer including a good selection of car parks and on road parking options. The walk to the beach, in some places, is a little steep. From one of the car parks it is down a cliff path but it isn’t too bad from the town itself. The beach is shingle and sand when the tide is out. It is a great destination for a day of lounging about near ice cream stalls and sea food vendors. We were lucky enough to see some buskers too adding to the atmosphere of the sea front.

With rock pools to satisfy the little ones, and surf schools for the slightly older and more adventurous, there was something for everyone to enjoy here. Now I’ve mentioned the seals and I know you are waiting eagerly for this section so here goes!

See the Seals

Blakeney point is a nature reserve. The National Trust have owned this land since 1912 and it has become home to both common and grey seals. There are over 2,700 pups born each year. This makes Blakeney Point the largest colony in England. Between June and August, Common seals have their young, while the Grey seals have their pups between November and January.

Seals Blakeney point
Blakeney Seals

The best way to see them is via a boat trip from either Blakeney harbour or Morston quay. Usually lasting about an hour you’re taken to the natural habitat of the seals around the ‘Spit’. There are several boat operators that you can arrange trips with but we do advise to book in advance – especially in peak pup season!

There are also trips aboard amphibious boats from Hunstanton to the Wash. The Wash is an area of shallow tidal sandbanks, fed by four tributaries.

At Horsey, you will find a large colony of Seals. Please admire from a distance and keep dogs on leads. You may be lucky to also see seals in the water or basking on the beach at Wells Harbour, on the sandbanks at Holkham and at Sea Palling.  

Great Yarmouth

33 miles south of Cromer you will find a bustling town and seaside resort with a long promenade full of arcades, rides and attractions. It is more suited to young families with the pleasure beach and donkey rides. Teens and adults can take refuge from the weather in the abundance of arcades.

The Pleasure beach is free to enter and rides are paid for by tokens. You can enter or leave as you please. It can be quite expensive for rides, after a few, according to reviews.

Great Yarmouth Norfolk road trip
Great Yarmouth

The buildings along the front are very Victorian and some are now derelict which is a real shame. Some have been converted to Night clubs and adult entertainment lounges. You can have a bet on the racing – horse racing and greyhound tracks can be found here if you are into that type of thing. Sadly for us we felt Great Yarmouth was a little dated and much preferred Cromer. It was very difficult to park our large van in Great Yarmouth.

Back into the Wild!

River Bure norfolk road trip
River Bure

After your trip to Great Yarmouth, head 20 miles in-land for some rest and recuperation in Wroxham and Hoveton. Knows as the ‘capital of the Norfolk Broads’ these 2 connecting villages situated on the river Bure provides tourists with the chance to see the broads by boat.

You can also experience a trip back in time with the villages largest department store chain- Roys! Mr Roy started his chain with a department store, a DIY shop, a toy store and supermarket.

You can park behind Roys department store for free for 4 hours but I have been told there are other free spots. There is a large car park by the marina but this can be pricey for all day parking!

Wroxham contains many visitor attractions including a riverside park, the Bure Valley steam railway and nearby Hoveton Hallgardens and Wroxham Barns craft centre. The village certainly is a busy spot in high season, but is open all year round and is well worth a visit at any time of the year.

Lou on the Broads
Norfolk Road trip takes a boat trip
Louise on the Broads

Do make sure you take a boat trip on the broads! You can either opt for a guided trip on a passenger boat or hire a small boat and go on an adventure yourself! Just pop over to BroadsTours for more information and for an unforgettable experience on your Norfolk Road Trip. We took a trip along the river Bure on a guided tour and learnt all about the area including some special local boats and also the local wildlife. We didn’t see any otters on our trip but the guide said they are there and can sometimes be spotted so take your binoculars!

Final Destination – Norwich

It is just under 10 miles from the stunning village of Wroxham to the city of Norwich. It is worth trying to aim for a weekday for this trip as we encountered long queues.

This medieval city houses museums and historical buildings including 2 Cathedrals. Norwich Cathedral is a medieval Cathedral with its Romanesque design and ornate cloisters. Across the city lies the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, said to be one of the finest examples of great Victorian Gothic Revival Architecture in the UK. It is complete with beautiful stained glass windows and stonework.

There is so much to see and do here that I would really recommend either the guided tour or hop on sight seeing bus. Even just to familiarise yourself with the layout of the city. It would be a good idea to treat yourself to a few days here to really learn about the city and relax. There are plenty of places for retail therapy and good food! You can’t beat a bit of people watching whist enjoying a drink after a bit of shopping!

Camping

Mobile office on Norfolk road trip
Not bad for a days office!

Norfolk is popular with camping enthusiasts so there is a great deal of choice in where you can pitch up. We tend to wild camp where we can but can recommend Reedham Ferry campsite where we stayed for a night. The campsite is right next to a ferry where you pay a small charge to cross. The site is very clean with lovely hot showers and plenty of space to work in. I found this a good spot to do some admin – accompanied of course by a nice glass of cider!

Other areas to investigate…

Salhouse Woods
Woodland at Salhouse

If you have time, check out Salhouse Broad. A lovely car park leads you to a woodland footpath before taking you to the broad. There is a little campsite where you can borrow a wheelbarrow to move your camping gear. A small marina with a beach awaits you and a woodland that was filled with Bluebells when we visited. She laid out a carpet of wonderful lilac and blue hues.

Bacton Wood is also a lovely spot

Working in Bacton Woods

for a stop over. Nestled in woodland a sheltered car park leads to trails and footpaths where we spotted a muntjack deer, owls and over 30 species of trees. There are bird and bat boxes, open spaces and a tumbling woodland with mixed terain that can attract the bmx bikers but we didnt have any problems when we visited! its perfect for dog walks and nature spotting.

Thetford – Just about within the Norfolk border to Suffolk, this is where the Iceni tribe and Boudicca called called home. Now it is a market town with the remains of a castle on Castle Hill and close to Thetford Forest this location has many hidden treasures to still reveal to archaeologists.

Norfolk Rocks

Norfolk Rock
Norfolk Rocks

It was in Bacton woods that we found our very first painted rock. Norfolk Rocks are a facebook group with lots of members. Many of whom take great pleasure in decorating rocks and hiding them in different locations all across the county. People find the, take a picture and then rehide them. The photos are uploaded onto the group so they can track how far they have travelled. It’s great for the kids but also fun for us! We hid ours around the Salhouse Broad – I wonder if it’s been found yet!!!

That concludes our Norfolk road trip and this is a nice route that can take you as long as you like to complete. We did this in around a week but could easily have spent longer investigating the villages and scenic spots.

If you have visited Norfolk and know of good places to go, drop the details in the comments box below! Don’t forget to subscribe for monthly emails about the behind the scenes information and share us on social media.

Check out our other posts here!

Wolf Howl!

The UK Wolf Conservation Trust is home to around 10 wolves living very happily in 4 packs on the conservation site. These include North American and Arctic wolves, as well as a European/North American cross.

They are situated just 10 minutes from the motorway, between Newbury and Reading on a large farm affording large enclosures, paddock areas, an education barn and main entrance with small shop.

The trust run talks and workshops to raise funds and educate the public on the misconception of wolves, the trust’s principles and the worldwide work they are involved in.

UK Wolf Conservation Trust aims to help raise awareness of wolves, raise money for worldwide wolf conservation projects, to provide ethical opportunities to research (and improve the lives of) both captive and wild wolves and provide wolf related conservation programs for adults and young people.

The site has been here for many years and I had previously sponsored one of the wolves (Torak) for a year or two.

Although only a small ‘attraction’ the site offered wolf walks as well as talks and events that could be attended.

Sadly, due to the age of the wolves, the owners have decided that they are going to close the site to visitors although they are going to continue to care for the wolves at the site with a small team of dedicated volunteers and staff.

I was lucky enough to attend one of their final wolf-howl nights and was a magical evening that I will never forget.

Arriving at the farm an hour before we were due because we were so excited, we had hoped to hear the wolves in the distance but it was very quiet. When allowed to enter, we checked in as this was a ticketed event. We were due to have a talk by an external charity on anti poaching dogs however they had broken down en route and the evenings talk was quickly changed to one on wolf communication.

Whilst we were waiting for people to arrive we were able to have a little look around at the first enclosure of wolves. In reception you could watch a video of media clips taken at the UKWCT. You could also purchase items from the shop including the obligatory key chains and T-shirts.

The staff guided us to a purpose built education barn down the hill a little way. It was here that a staff member delivered a facinating talk on wolf vocalisations and body language. Having worked with dogs for 13 years I was surprised and excited about how in some respects they were so similar, but also very different in how they communicated.

Whilst the talk was happening, the air was charged with excitement. It had been a hot day and the cool evening air mixed with the anticipation of what was to follow.

The wolves, however, felt they were being ignored and decided to get our attention. One wolf started to howl, then another replied and another, until all the wolves were singing to us.

Not one to be rude, our speaker allowed the wolves to continue, the visitors were all awestruck. The sound so encompassing and magical that we were all simply stunned into silence. Some of us were very emotional and shed a tear of joy.

We continued our talk with intermittent interruptions by the wolves and once finished we were lead by two other members of the team who escourted us around the enclosures.

THE WOLVES

As I introduce the wolves I will link to their official pages on the UKWCT website. All the pictures of the wolves on this page are from the official website and do not belong to me.

Torak and Mosi

First up, Torak and his companion Mosi. These two share a large enclosure at the front of the park and although Torak can be a little shy, Mosi loves a bum scratch by her human friends to get the fluff out of her coat! Mosi’s sister Mai is also here however when Mosi came of age, she decided she was the dominant female and pushed Mai out of the pack.

Mosi and Motomo

Mai now lives with Motomo, an under socialised wolf from Devon. These two lovebirds hit it off straight away and Mai subsequently give birth to Nuka, Tala and Tundra in May 2011.

The Beenham cubs.

These three rascals have grown up in Beenham and have been a delight for the handlers to watch grow up from day one. Now 7, they became the ambassador’s of the conservation centre.

The three have very different personalities and roles within the pack. Tundra likes to be the dominant female and will tell Tala off if she receives too much attention. Brothers are sometimes hard to live with too and Nuka will spoil the fun ensuring all squabbles are ended. He is the Peace keeper of the group. We saw this in action on the howl night when Nuka had to get in between his sisters and keep them apart.

Arctic Wolves

Born during a storm in Canada, the cubs suffered from hypothermia before they could be dug out from the snow. The mother wolf had 5 cubs in total, sadly one died and the other remained with its mother after the three cubs were transported to the UK. They were the first Arctic wolves in the UK and caused quite a lot of excitement whilst in quarantine!

Sikko is the only female of the pack. Massak and Pukak, her brothers, are larger than her. She is a very smart wolf and can outwit her brothers quite easily. Massak is in charge of the trio but Pukak likes to have fun and rebel when he thinks his brother isn’t watching.

END OF AN ERA

We had an absolutely amazing time visiting the UK Wolf Conservation Trust and learnt so much about the wolves. The team were very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. They were constantly watching the wolves body language and seemed to be able to communicate well with them.

I feel so lucky that I got to experience this before they closed.

Do take a look at their website as they may still have the occasional talk or event running to help fund the wolves retirement. The staff were unsure how much they would be open for but thought it was possible that future events could be advertised.

You can still sponsor the wolves and donate to the Wolf Conservation Trust to enable this work to continue, not just in the UK but worldwide.

CareerBreakKate Q+A

We are often asked lots of questions about why we travel and how we do it.

We were approached by CareerBreakKate, a blogger who runs a website dedicated to travel and career break inspiration. Taking a career break to travel the world transformed her life and she wants to inspire you to do the same.

Career Break Kate on her travels

We were honoured and over the moon that she reached out to us after hearing about our story. Kate’s website offers lots of helpful hints and tips about sabbaticals, career breaks, TEFL (teaching English abroad) and volunteering abroad as well as anything else you need to know. She also covers her travels and adds reviews of her experiences.

We decided to take part because a lot of people want to know why we do what we do. What drove us to both quitting jobs we loved and move into a van. Kate asked us questions that a lot of people ask us so it seemed only natural to do the interview with her.

We would love to share that interview with you now and if you are thinking about taking a career break or sabbatical, have a read through her site for some information.

So here it is!

Couple quit their jobs and pack up to embark on a vanlife

vanlifediary
emma and louise

If you have any questions for us please leave them in the comments and we will answer them! Don’t forget you can tweet us @vanlifediary facebook or email us contactvanlifediary@gmail.com

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How to Transition to Full Time van life

Have you taken the first steps to full time van life and now wondering what you need to do?

Whether this transition is one you have been dreaming about for years or perhaps a sudden impulse to live in your vehicle, we are here to help you out and ensure you have covered all of your bases. Full time van life is often a cheaper option than living in a house but it isn’t for everyone.

By now, you likely have the van already and are almost finished with the conversation. (I say that but a van conversion is never really finished!). You have made the decision and thought about how wonderful your new life will be. A simpler, more minimalist life. You look around your home and all you can see is ‘STUFF!’

Fret not. Here is a list of what you need to do.

glenn-carstens-peters-190592-unsplash.jpg

CANCEL EVERYTHING YOU CAN.

1 Cancel your council tax. This could take a month to arrange and new bills/refunds to calculate. You need every penny so make sure you do the boring council tax bit! Some councils allow you to do this notification online so you don’t even have to talk to anyone. A cheque may be sent to your address so it’s helpful to be there or have your post redirected! (More on that later).

2 Cancel TV licence. It can be tempting to just cancelled your direct debit however you can be paid up to 6 months ahead. You may be entitled to a refund. Whilst we are talking about the TV licence, by UK law even if you have no fixed abode but a TV in your motor-caravan (or tablet /phone where you can stream the TV) you should still have a TV licence – if you have a home with a TV licence and that TV is not being used at the same time you can technically use your home TV licence to cover you. There is a lot of talk about how anyone would know and whether you could get away without having a licence. Please do your own research and make your own decision, I’m just here to tell you the facts associated with full time van life transition!

3 TV/phone/internet cancel all of these again giving your last day at the address. Be prepared for some charges, depending on your contract.

4 Gas, electric and water. Make sure you get the meter readings and report these to the utility companies. Take a picture if you need proof but don’t end up paying for someone else’s use!

5 Extra bin collection. We pay extra at our address for a garden waste bin. This needs to be cancelled or again, someone else will benefit financially. These are often on auto renewal set ups so cancel that direct debit!

6 Home and contents insurance. So easy to overlook when packing but anything related to the house needs to be notified of your exit from the property.

7 Mail. Options include leaving a forwarding address, redirecting your mail, a company such as boatmail who will scan and email or forward your mail to a destination as required. You may wish to also change you address with as many places as possible as you may not want your Dr’s letters being opened by the next occupant.

WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL MY STUFF?

1 Sort out what you NEED first. Space is an issue in a van. Make a list of the bare necessities, essential items and keepsakes. Once you have those items sorted you can start to look at what room you have left.

2 Sell some stuff! More money and less hoarding. You can use apps such as ebay, gumtree and shpock to sell things without leaving the house or hold a car boot sale. This will enable you to convert belongings to travel funds and boost your finances.

3 Recycle or upcycle. Upcycling is big at the moment and bulky furniture can be a blank canvas for a facelift. Why not try to find a local furniture upcycling group who may take that old chest of draws off your hands. We found a recycling waste company that delivered a skip and will recycle our items for us. This means less waste to landfill.

4 Storage is another option. Whether you have a friend with an empty garage or look at renting a unit, this option means your belongings should be safe in case you need them again.

WHAT YOU NEED TO ARRANGE

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1 Photocopy documents. Take photos/ scans of important documents such as driving licence, bank cards and passports. This way you have all the details should they get lost or stolen.

2 Breakdown cover. If you haven’t already organised it you need to sort out cover. Don’t forget that you may need to confirm with the company that they can take the size of your vehicle. You don’t want to have a break down and then find out that the company you are paying wont help you due to size. Often this needs to be in place for 24-48 hours before it is active so give yourself time..

3 Emergency back up plans. Should something go wrong with the van you need to ensure that you have a back up plan, financially and with regards to accommodation.

4 Spare parts. Bulbs, fuses and fuel filters are a good idea to carry as well as using YouTube, Haynes manuals and ask on forums to see if you can fix a job yourself. Get recommendations from the van life community on trusted tradespeople.

5 Bright torch. either for dodging the frogs by the lake or being able to see under the vehicle, you need a really bright and reliable torch!

6 Always have a bag of change ready for car parking or public toilets!

THE FIRST 24 HOURS – WHAT TO EXPECT

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Emotions will be high. you will be anxious and excited. You know that this isn’t going to be a walk in the park but you feel you have everything sorted out. Then you realise you still have possessions in the house that you haven’t decided what to do with. You have no choice but to throw them in the van. THIS ISNT PINTEREST. This is the reality of van life. It gets messy quickly. You are constantly battling for space and shifting things from one place to another.

It took us a full week of packing and unpacking, re-boxing, re-evaluating and ultimately getting rid of loads of stuff that we brought along with us.

1 It’s not uncommon to get ratty with each other when living in a confined space.

2 You will be busier than when you were at work and wonder where all of your time is going.

3 Plan ahead for water refills and toilet cassette emptying points.

4 If one of you is not feeling comfortable about sleeping in a certain location, you need to move. Listen to each other and respect their opinions. It is too small a space to argue!

5 Get comfortable with different smells, and quickly. Bodily functions happen, even if they are all glitter and sparkles! Respect when someone needs to use the toilet and go for a walk!

6 Top up your fuel tank when you pass somewhere with cheaper fuel. it may not be much that you add, but the money you could save will add up over the month! See how you could save money when travelling

7 Dry shampoo – buy it in bulk! Use it outside as it makes the van dusty however if you don’t have access to a daily shower it will be your best friend.

Rib Ride Boat Trip- Anglesey

Anglesey is well known for its stunning beaches. After a day on the sand, why not go to the other extreme. Try a high speed boat trip down the Menai Strait! Rib Ride offer several different types of boat trip depending on your thrill seeking level. Their newest boats are capable of doing 73 miles an hour on the water!

When we booked the ticket they did say that parking could be problematic. They recommended getting there about 30 mins before your trip. Having seen the parking situation I would recommend getting there much earlier – especially if you are in a larger vehicle. We had the VW at the time so not too bad however the Iveco would be much harder to park.

Rib Ride Boat

We met up with Matt, our captain for the Velocity boat trip. He took us through a very extensive health and safety briefing and ensured that we were all harnessed up correctly. There was plenty of room on the jetty for all of us to get into our harnesses. The captain ensured that the boat was balanced as we made our way onto the seating area.

The boats are incredible and resemble a roller-coaster and that’s exactly what the ride is, without the rails. You must hold on to the handles at all times through this ride as sudden turns or waves could hit you hard. It does require a certain level of physical fitness.

White Knuckle Rollercoaster

The adrenaline is flowing as you power through the water past all the little sail boats! Zoom under the two bridges from the mainland and back again and feeling the G force on your face. Try and remember to breathe! This ride gives you a thrill for sure but also give you a great view. Not only of the wild life but the tiny beach houses situated at the waters edge. You can’t see these from the road, they are well sheltered. A little bit of envy perhaps at these gorgeous properties and their views!

Our captain was lucky that there were not many boats on the strait that day so he could show us how the boat handled. With loops and quick turns he put her through her paces! It was a real treat to feel the wind on our faces and pass the small boats as if they were motionless.

Our Rib Ride captain was very knowledgeable about the boat and the water he was taking us on. He stopped when he needed to around other boats and ensuring our safety at all times. The team were great fun and tried to take footage of us on the trip. This is because you do need to have both hands on the handle bars and it would have been far too dangerous to use a camera. There would be a good chance that you would knock your captain out as the device would fly straight at his head. Unfortunately, on our trip the camera failed so we don’t have any pictures to share with you. I guess we will have to go and do it again…

Rib Ride Anglesey

Great value for money and other trips available

This boat trip is not very expensive for what it is, £35 each when we experienced it and a really fun mini adventure. Only negative comment is that it doesn’t last long enough! 30 minutes sail time is all you get on the Velocity ride but there are other boat trips available at a slower speed.

Rib Ride also offer rides out to see the seals and puffins, as well as castles and islands. A 2nd office in Hollyhead also offers trips out to South Stack, Gogarth and the Skerries.

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