New Year’s Eve

Got up late today, nearly 10am, but did go to bed late last night, well after 1pm. Had breakfast round the table with Becki, Juergen and Lisa. Then it was out for a dog walk, Archie as usual was filthy, the woods were very muddy and dark and broody as its Winter, but it was very mild.

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In the afternoon Juergen turned on his sauna, this will be my first time I have been in it. He spent time preparing the area, lighting candles and a fire in a brazier and created a wonderful atmospheric and calming scene. As the sauna is quite small (for two really lying down or six sitting!) we took turns with the girls going in first. They didn’t spend too long in there, particularly since Lisa forgot to take off her jewellery and burnt herself – all we heard was a lot of screaming! Needless to say the girls didn’t avail themselves to the cold shower either which Juergen has installed the garden, they just sat around the brazier with their glasses of wine dressed in dressing gowns & flip flops!

After the girls it was our turn in the sauna. It was perfect in there. The sauna is circular and made of Canadian Cedar. Juergen made the sauna himself out of a kit shipped from Canada – he is a dab hand at such things. The hardest part was removing the tree roots from the place where the sauna now resides.

We got ready for dinner which was an evening of meats cooked on a hot stone with steak, chicken, potatoes and salad. Juergen marinated the chicken with spiced curry and it was tastier than the steak. I provided two bottles of very good Claret and we had way too much too drink, specially me. We had a good laugh and at midnight went out to watch the fireworks. I was surprised by how many fireworks there were, given the small number of houses but the Germans always celebrate New Year at mid-night with fireworks.

I could not finish my Champagne and had to retire to bed at about 1am – party pooper!  Lisa and the others retired at 3am apparently!

Europe

We left Barlie’s in the semi-dark at around 7:30 and picked up some provisions and fuel at Tesco’s.  We headed for the tunnel and the journey was easy as there was little traffic and we sailed over the Dartford crossing, having made sure we had pre-paid the day before so as not to get caught with a stinging fine. We stopped at the Maidstone services on the M20 for a poo run (for the dog!) and coffee. Then I noticed the time and we didn’t have much leeway before our checkin at Eurotunnel. Our train was departing at 11:36 and it was 10:40 – we sped up and went at 70mph for the last stretch down to the tunnel.

Going through was easy, they did a gas check on us, and then it was pretty much straight on after a short wait in a queue. Our train left just before midday. We were in France by 13:35.

Then we headed towards Brussels making the most of the daylight, the traffic was still light and we made good progress at a steady 60mph. We stopped for another poo run just inside the Belgian border and had a coffee and sandwich. We wanted to drive in the dark as little as possible so we quickly set-off. We made Brussels just as the day was fading into night and carried on into Germany. Before long we could see the lights of Cologne in the distance.

The van on the drive – a tight fit

We arrived at Wiehl at 19:30 and made our way to the Nohl’s house from the top of Bremig, we had to ask some of the neighbours to move one of their cars to be able to get our van past. Then getting the van in the drive was an event, one of the wheels got stuck in the mud and grass, but with our rubber mats and some of Juergen’s gravel we got out and backed into the drive, it was a surprisingly good fit.

Juergen had made Goulash and we had a lovely dinner, I fell asleep on the sofa by 10:30pm, I could not stay awake.

Riding the New Forest

Since Lisa wants to ride here bike the road I found this perfect ride starting at Hawkhill Inclosure just East of Brockenhurst. It’s a mostly flat 9 mile ride all on forest tracks. There is a lot of pfaffing when we arrive because my bike has to be taken off the carrier, Lisa’s bike needs to be taken out of the garage and the pedals installed. The dog carrier needs to be mounted on the bike and the dog inserted into it. We need to get kitted out with helmets, and any gear we need to take. After about 30minutes we are ready to go!

We took the ride steady for Lisa to get accustomed to her electric bike, she found the ride easy, although I was struggling to keep up with her on the uphill stretches, even though they were not very steep, she was not even out of breath! Archie was on the back my bike, and although he has ridden there before he kept whining because he could see Lisa, but could not be with her. When we were well in the forest we let him out and he ran and ran besides the bikes and tired himself out – which is a really useful trick.

Towards the end Lisa was finding the saddle hard and she managed to drop her bike (and herself) just before we got back.

Milford to Keyhaven

After Mottisfont Hall we headed to our next certified location site in Pennington just outside Lymington, here we were due to spend four nights. The site was a field behind a welding shop, the hardstanding was quite cramped and there were another two units on site. The view was of the field with a high hedge at the end. This was not a good fit for Lisa’s Feng Shui. Anyway we stayed here and the following day the weather improved, it was windy, but sunny. So we thought cycling would not work, not only because of the wind but because Lisa does not feel confident enough to ride her bike on the road, she wants some off road riding.

I tried to go to Keyhaven, but the road had a with restriction so we ended up in Milford-on-Sea, a small village on the coast. There was a nice big carpark here with no spaces for motorhomes, but since there were so few cars we parked right by the front in a couple of car spaces, from where we could see the Needles and the lighthouse.

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Archie was ready for a walk and we walked along the estuary from Milford to Keyhaven. This is a lovely walk and even better as the tide was out there was a wide variety of wading birds many of which we had not seen before, so we added to our tally of bird types seen so far on our adventures. We returned to Cosy just before the hail started, but it soon passed and we spent the next couple of hours in the van drinking coffee, watching the sea and the setting sun before heading back for the night.

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Winchester and Mottisfont Hall

On our way down to the New Forest we spent two cold and bright days in and around Winchester. Winchester is a lovely medieval city with a long history, a beautiful cathedral and plenty to see. There are a range of walks you can do around the centre.

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At this time of year they have the loveliest Christmas market around the cathedral close. Its expensive, but the quality is top notch and there are many artisanal stands. We had lunch at the Black Boy an unusual and eclectic place we can certainly recommend.

Rivermead

Our campsite was a Certified Location just outside Winchester at called Rivermead, it is difficult to get to because of width restricted roads which go on for several miles, after a couple of abortive attempts we finally got there, but by this time it was dark.

The following days we could see that it is just by a water meadow, pretty and tranquil and quiet specially since we were the only unit on site, mind you we felt it was expensive at £20/night, this is what we normally pay at a full-service campsite rather than a CL. The site did have a small shed as a toilet which was heated, something we tend not to use as we have our facilities in Cosy, unfortunately because the night was so cold (-6 Celsius) the water pipes had frozen and we had to make do with the water we had in the van, fortunately this was enough. I have been impressed at how well the van copes with cold weather, although we do get through a lot of gas.

Orion

There were Egrets on the water meadow, but we only saw one, I also spent some time trying to work out how to take pictures of the night sky with my SLR camera, as it was particularly dark here. I only managed one picture which is shown here – a slightly blurry Orion.

After Winchester our next port of call was Lymington in the New Forest, since this was not very far away I thought we could visit Mottisfont Hall, a NT property which was on the way, Lisa was not too keen, the weather had turned and it was raining and miserable. We arrived and had lunch, then took Archie for a walk around the gardens, we saw some old trees (of some type I had not really seen before) and wandering up the side of the stream we caught a dazzling blue glimpse of a Kingfisher. After Archie’s walk we showered him and dropped him off for a sleep and went back to visit the house. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas, with all the rooms being decorated some with multiple trees, in some of the rooms they had simulated fires, even with the crackle sound of wood burning – very effective. The featured image on this post shows the main downstairs corridor.

They we also holding an exhibition of work by a renowned artist called Kaffe Fassett, whose work Lisa was very fond of (I’m sure she’ll be writing a post about that). At the end Lisa was so pleased that we had made the effort to come here.