Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Easter at Stackstead Farm CL, Ingleton, North Yorkshire

After snow at Easter in 2008 and hasty last-minute rearrangements, a key priority for the Easter 2009 break was a site with hardstanding and electric hook-up. We are huge fans of the Caravan Club's Certificated Locations and the Camping and Caravanning Club's Certificated Sites, especially at Bank Holidays, because crowding just does not happen. Membership of the relevant Club is required to stay on one, however, this gives you access to thousands of small "5 van" sites across the UK, and affords far more flexible choices than the larger Club sites, which are often fully booked months in advance of peak periods.

Stackstead Farm is located about a mile out of the rugged Yorkshire Dales village of Ingleton, famous for the Three Peaks Challenge, Ingleborough Caves and a huge variety of walking opportunities. Wendy and Steve have owned the site for 10 years, which comprises a commercial caravan site (now all seasonal pitches), a bunkbarn sleeping up to 22 people in 4 bunk bed rooms, a small bunkbarn (The Stables) providing basic walkers' accommodation and a Caravan Club Certificated Location.

Caravans and motorhomes pitch in a circle (to keep the Indians out) around a central grassy area, with 5 fairly small hardstandings, but pitching is also allowed on the circular track. The site has spectacular views of Ingleborough mountain and is quiet and peaceful, being a fair distance from the road, however, the downside of the far-reaching view are that it is exposed to the cold northerly winds. There are free-range cockerals and hens pecking around the site, which whilst adding a nice rustic feel, mean that an early-morning lie-in is not possible, and they will stick nosey beaks into awnings and help themselves to any food which is lying around, given half a chance.

The weather was not very kind to us and the wind was gusting up to 30 mph - so strong that we had to take our awning down for safety's sake after the second night. The CL has a basic shower and loo block (shower 50p), which is stated to be heated, but unfortunately wasn't, making ablutions somewhat chilly in early April. The facilities are shared with the nearby seasonal site, but there was never a problem with queues or over-crowding - probably because it was so cold that people used their on-board facilities.

The small village of Ingleborough is about a 15 minute flat walk away and has a mix of traditional shops - butcher, newsagent, small supermarket, gift shop and the amazingly delightful Curlew Crafts and Tea Rooms, which outdoor seating for those of us with dogs - thank you! The food is traditional and homemade, cooked to order, with daily specials and the portions and extremely generous. Their Lemon Meringue Pie is just to die for. It was so good we nearly ordered another portion each. But that would have been plain greedy, wouldn't it?

Wikipedia says the following about Ingleborough: Ingleborough is the second highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales. It is one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, the other two being Whernside and Pen-y-ghent. Ingleborough is frequently climbed as part of the Three Peaks Challenge, which is a 24 mile (38 km) circular challenge walk starting and finishing in Horton in Ribblesdale.

There is so much to see in this area, and the famous Ingleborough Caves are a must-do activity, as is the Waterfall Trail. However, enough for now - more about these in the next blog .......

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Friday, 12 June 2009

The Doctor with a Wandering Mind

Spotted in last week's Sunday Times - Richard Hammond explains the origins of caravanning:

A long time ago, before Boeing invented the 747 jumbo jet, goods had to be transported on the backs of donkeys. And when you have people moving cargo around you have people called robbers who like pinching stuff. Very annoying when you've walked for several hundred miles across a desert with heavy bags of spaces strapped to your donkey and some bloke with a sword and an Errol Flynn moustache nicks it off you.

Eventually people got fed up with being robbed and some bright merchant came up with the idea that if traders travelled in groups it might put robbers off. Brilliant. Much of the trade when through Persia (now Iran) where the name "karwan" was given to the groups of travelling traders. And that's where the word "caravan" comes from.

The first caravans seen in Britain arrived in the 19th century and were lived in by Romany or gypsy people. Today Romanies and gypsies use more modern caravans often towed by Transit vans. The traditional Romany is not to be confused with the blokes "who have a bit of tarmac left over from another job" and offer to resurface your drive for six hundred quid.

An old Victorian gent by the name of Dr William Gordon Stables is the most important person in caravanning history because, in 1885, he built the first proper caravan. The doc called the finished vehicle "the Wanderer". Inside, the Wanderer had accommodation for the doctor, his coachman, John, his valet Foley and his dog Hurricane Bob. Oh, and a perch for his cockatoo. Foley was given the task of riding ahead on a tricycle to make sure the way was clear.

It is not known where the dog's name came from, but hopefully he was named Hurricane for his energy rather than for an ability to generate gusts of wind. As any caravan veteran knows, flatulence is the enemy of a happy caravan holiday".

Extracted from A Short History of Caravans by Richard Hammond, published by Orion at £12.99.

Above image courtesy of Orionbooks.co.uk

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Friday, 5 June 2009

Motorhoming Lessons Episode Two

Guest blogger Mrs Snail continues her story:

....... so having arrived at Bowkerstead Farm, we discovered the area we should have been camping on was out of bounds, however, we were welcome to stay where we were - parked among the farm machines, was that OK? No thanks, it wasn’t. We were out of there like snails on gravel.

We drove until we got a phone signal and consulted the site directories we keep on board. A few phone calls later, a site was found the other side of Lake Windermere. We gingerly retraced our steps along the narrow road then found ourselves on an even narrower and steeper one down to the Lake Windermere ferry. Now in fairness, there had been warning signs about length and weight of vehicles allowed on the ferry however we were within these so we thought we would be OK. As we approached the ferry, the road dipped down steeply to the loading ramp and, worryingly, there were lots of gouges on the road surface. Husband did an emergency stop as the man waved us on. “We’re going to ground the van” husband yelled. “They usually do!” replied the man cheerily. Husband inched forward whilst I watched the rear. “Stop” I bellowed as our rear overhang was about to acquaint itself with tarmac.

Have you guessed where this is leading yet? Yep, that’s right, we had to turn around again, unable to get to the intended site.

Wearily, we once more negotiated the steep narrow lane far enough to get a phone signal. Out came the site directories again – was there a site this side of Lake Windermere? Couldn’t see anything. Fortunately, a Tourist Information booklet hurridly grabbed the day before from Ambleside TIC came up trumps. On the first page was Skelwith Fold Caravan Park. “Any chance of a touring pitch tonight for two knackered motorhomers?” “No problem” were sweet words indeed.

Skelwith Fold Caravan Park was a little marvel. Mainly a static site, with a recently developed touring area. We liked it so much that we stayed more than the one emergency night. Husband particularly liked the grey water disposal area (isn’t it strange what blokes get excited about??) For a long time he’s said that that a long thin grate running side to side that the van could be driven over would be the best for motorhomes and this is exactly what they have there, a metal grate you drive over, open your release valve and bingo! That was him well happy.

So – lessons learned?

LESSON 1 – never believe what you read in the magazines. Always check when you make your booking exactly what facilities are available and what access is like.

LESSON 2 – if you have a motorhome with an overhang DO NOT attempt the Lake Windermere ferry.

LESSON 3 – always obtain as much information as possible in advance about anywhere, especially local information.

LESSON 4 – if you’ve longed for a dream grey water disposal area – go to Skelwith Fold!

The moral of this story? No matter how many times you do something there are always new things to be learnt.

Mrs Snail

Above image: Lake Windermere. Copyright AvailablePitch.com 2009

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