Barnard Castle – Day Four

While sitting outside last night, catching the sun’s rays and possibly the last of the summer (only joking I hope), Daughter and I commented that nobody else was doing the same. All our neighbours had holed themselves up in their caravans, some with doors shut tight! It’s so weird. That’s what camping is all about – being outside as much as you can, but everybody here had gone inside. Strange.

The next morning was our last day of the trip and also it seemed to be our immediate neighbours too, who were busy packing away as we rose. We watched them for a while before putting our bed away and having some breakfast. It was a beautiful sunny warm morning- typical, the last day of our break and it’s the best day. After demolishing the last of the crumpets and bagels, we packed up our final bits. We had a plan.

We had initially agreed on going to Raby Castle, a 20 minute drive up the road, but discovered that the House part was closed and only the deer park was open. We didn’t fancy driving or paying just to wander a deer park, so we knocked that on the head and decided to go to the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle itself. We didn’t want to take The Van into town, so asked the campsite if we could leave it in their visitor car park as we had to vacate our pitch. They were happy with that, so with a final check of everything, we moved The Van some 100 yards, parked and set off down our track to the equestrian centre.

Boy, it was warm. There was still a breeze, but instead of moaning that it was chilly, we were delighted in its cooling effects. What a day makes. We patted a couple of the horses as we passed and finally dropped into the woodland, along the path til we reached the bridge over the River Tees. We trotted up to the High Street and turned left at the end, heading out of town. About 1/2 mile up the road, was the Bowes Museum.

It’s set behind a magnificent set of gates and you expect some municipal square heap, but as we turned the corner we gasped. Set back across lawns, landscaped gardens and a pond, was a palatial building more suited in the middle of the countryside as a stately home. It was stunning. We wandered in through the box hedges and pond (alas shallow and no fish) to the gravel apron, admiring the architecture. Turning around the way we came, it actually overlooked countryside. We were impressed.

We went inside and paid our entrance fee. It was full of tall ceilings and wide staircases. Wow, this was some pad. We went upstairs to the first room where it’s history was explained. Our first thoughts was it was originally a stately home of some super wealthy coal mine owner that got passed down the generations until deep debt and huge bills made the last owner sell it to the council. The council then turned it into a Museum, but we were totally wrong. John Bowes, the illegitimate son of the titled landowner, though stripped of the title, inherited his dad’s wealth. In turn he married a French woman called Josephine and together, they purposed built the Bowes Museum as a museum for the people of Barnard Castle and spent years stuffing it with artefacts from all over the world. John and Josephine had designed the building along the lines of a French chateau which was now obvious – we couldn’t quite work it out when we first arrived. We wandered around each room – one was dedicated to fashion through the years, another full of silverware. Crockery, toys, three magnificent galleries of paintings, bedrooms and dining rooms set up for show. We came across The Swan, a beautiful creature made of silver that was one of the very first automatons ever made. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working after a recent overhaul – it’s delicate workings seemingly too fragile to continue moving. The experts were pondering what to do next with it. We watched a film about it instead. Considering it’s 250 years old, the mechanics were unbelievable- the neck moved, the swan swallows a fish and even the water moved (a series of glass rods rotated giving the impression of moving water). What a genius to even think that one up, let alone make it reality. We wouldn’t even create one like that today – the cost would be a major stumbling block!

We carried on, investigating every nook and cranny before heading to the cafe for a well deserved coffee and scones, overlooking the gardens. We decided to have a walk around the grounds after our refreshments and popped out into the glorious sunshine again. The grounds were big, but not extensive, now hemmed in by modern buildings abutting the high wall. A sliver of woodland hugged the wall as we wandered the periphery, coming across a children’s play area, a bowling green and tennis courts. We found the memorials to the Queen Elizabeth, The Queen’s Mother who was a direct descendant of the Bowes and the local regiment. It also mentioned the graves of John and Josephine so we went to look for them. We searched the area of the grounds on the map, but only found small plaques against trees dedicated to other people until it dawned on us that over the wall was the Catholic Church. The path went past the back of the church here and conveniently there were railings so we could peer in. The back of the church was literally a small triangle of shingle and tufty grass and abutting the back of the church, a low granite tomb with John and Josephine’s names and dates. We looked at it with some disappointment for them both. It looked like there had been no room for them elsewhere in the graveyard and they had been unceremoniously put here as an afterthought, squashed between the hulking church and their garden wall. There was a faded inscription that gave the impression they had been moved here and on more reflection, perhaps they asked to be buried here, only a few feet from their beloved purpose built museum, the closest they could get to it. It all kind of made sense.

Feeling happier and on that note, we wandered back to the road and into town. Our adventure was nearing its end, but we weren’t quite finished. We found a takeaway cafe, bought paninis and crisps and wandered to the Castle where we ate them in the sunshine, enjoying the fine weather and people watching. Reluctantly we packed up after a while and strolled the 1.5 miles back to the campsite to pick up The Van. From here we meandered down to Richmond and along Wensleydale back to our home in the North West. It had been a brilliant few days away together and vowed that we would do it again.

Barnard Castle – Day Three

Peering out of the window after a lovely sleep, we discover heavy clouds. Mmm. Not good.

We had a rather long lay in, gradually getting up and pottering around. We are in no rush. The sun poked its head out of the clouds and it warmed up considerably. We make sandwiches, pack a rucksack and have breakfast, while the skies darken yet again. Half an hour later, the sun’s back out. We add raincoats to our pack.

Finally about 11, we shut The Van door and head off for a walk. We head to the far corner to the campsite’s entrance intending to find a small track leading to the main road. Alas, once there, we discovered we couldn’t go that way (it wasn’t an official footpath) so after a little deliberation, decided to reverse the walk and go in the opposite direction. So we followed a track that turned into sheep fields until we came to the disused railway with its derelict junction box and turned left, plunging us into woodland again. We had to go the long way, passing a huge wall of stone, the remnants of the viaduct crossing the steep sided valley. We dropped down before turning right and following the well marked path. We were hoping to see the Falls marked on the OS map. We passed the stumps of the viaduct’s supporting pillars and figured where we were – under the railway. We carried on, eyes peeled for an elusive deer. The path twisted and turned, steep pulls up before dropping down. Consulting the map we noticed we were off the footpath, but we hadn’t seen any signs or forks in the path taking us lower. We ploughed on, some parts a little tricky – narrow sections, muddy parts, fallen trees taken in recent high winds blocking the path. There were “Private Property – Keep Off” signs nailed to trees at regular intervals. We checked our map again and to our dismay, we had overshot the Falls!! How annoying. We toyed with the idea of retracing our steps to find the missed junction, but looking we realised there wasn’t really a path to the Falls after all – only a little unofficial track that stopped short of them. Perhaps the landowner didn’t want us down there, hence the signs and had actually redirected the path we were on, deliberately. We didn’t fancy going back and then thinking about it, there had been hardly any rain recently so they wouldn’t exactly be gushing and exciting. We decided to give them a miss and carried on.

The forgotten Junction Box CD
Remnants of the viaduct
What’s left of the pillars supporting the viaduct!

We climbed steadily until we popped out onto a wide gravel track and followed that out onto sheep pasture. In the woods, it had got stifling hot and we had shedded our jumpers. Now the wind raced across the fields, cooling us down, the jumpers went back on. We dropped into a small conifer wood before climbing out up to a quiet country lane. About 50 yards further along, a signpost pointed us into a meadow, full of buttercups, trefoils and other flora. We entered a small woodland, the path zig zagging down towards a small stream and a wooden bridge. We decided to stop here to eat our sarnies, crisps and drinks, perching on the stone steps of the bridge. It was a lovely little woodland opening up further downstream and not so hot to invite flying insects to join in with our lunch. Topped up, we tackled the startling steep hill on the other side which flattened out and took us towards a farmyard.

We walked through the farmyard, setting off the farm dog barking frantically behind a gate, thank goodness and picked up a road, passing the huge sewage treatment works that dominated the area. As we walked we noticed a lot of roadkill – baby rabbits mainly. It was a road to a farm with hardly any traffic so how did these creatures die? We presumed that birds of prey had caught them or maybe a fox – they weren’t squashed. We counted at least 6 in a small stretch of road – had there had been a bunnicide? It was all very odd.

Eventually we came up to the main road, still musing the cause of mass bunny death when we realised we had overshot yet again. There had been a footpath on our right that dropped down to a bridge that crossed a stream (we had even commented on the bridge and why it was there) but there had been electric fencing all the way along the track – there seemed no way to this bridge apart from straddling the fencing and hoping not to receive a hefty shock in areas where one shouldn’t receive them. Luckily there was another footpath on the other side of the road (we didn’t fancy walking along the main road which was busy and with no path – we would end up like one of those bunnies). Looking at the map, we worked out we could do a loop behind the hamlet of Lartington which would hopefully have a pavement which would get us to the next footpath safely – a bit of loop, but hey, we weren’t in a rush.

Well, it turned out to be a bit of a bonus. We came across yet another part of the railway, this time just the pillars of a missing bridge taking the railway over our path. We clambered up onto the railway and there was a path on it, probably used by the locals. We dropped back down, noticing a yellow sign telling us that “these animals bite”. There was a broken down wire fencing on the edge of adjacent woodland, so we wondered what animals lurked that regularly nibbled passing walkers. With our senses heightened, our pace picked up slightly as we expected a herd of hungry velociraptors to burst out behind a tree and give our backside a nip. It was a bit unnerving, to be honest.

We eventually dropped down onto a paved driveway leading to Lartington Hall and its associated lodges and buildings. We wandered to the main road, distracted for about 20 minutes by a rather stunning graveyard. Not exactly heaving with headstones, it was impressive. The entrance was adorned with tall pillars with statues on top, a clutch of elegant and detailed gravestones and a large building at the end with a glasshouse on top. We read a couple of the stones before looking at this building which turned out to be the chapel. Unable to go inside, we peered through a slit to see inside. It seemed large chunks of carved stonework had collapsed onto the altar, but it looked in good condition overall. It was quite wonderful and hoped that wasn’t being neglected. We wandered around respectfully, both noting that we loved wandering around graveyards and churches – they are so full of history, local stories and just fascinating. We wandered out down to the village, delighted that our hunch of a pavement was realised and strolled along the village with our necks at right angles as we goggled at the beautiful old cottages and houses, well kept gardens and so typically English and timeless. We agreed we liked Lartington.

Entrance and chapel at Lartington

We found our footpath and wandered through knee high grass to a sheep field, before rejoining the disused railway. We noted that it must of been a substantial line as it was wide enough for two tracks side by side. The tracks were no longer, covered by dusty grey gravel as it crunched under our feet. We had come full circle. We picked up the path and fields that took us back to the campsite, stopping briefly to pat and feed a handsome brown horse some grass that he seems to appreciate. Back at the campsite we rewarded ourselves two Magnum ice creams from the campsite shop and sat on The Van steps, watching a recently arrival set up home. We had done a respectable 7 miles to add to the 6 miles of yesterday. The sun tried to peek through the cloud – there were breaks of blue sky.

Later as we settled down for tea the weather did what it had been threatening to do the last two days. The cloud dissipated and the sun had the full sky to itself. We parked ourselves in its full glare, soaking its warmth properly before the sun went to bed for the night. Really nice to sit outside and not feel cold. We clinked wine glasses to celebrate the sun making a welcomed appearance and the final evening of a great, but too short road trip. Tomorrow we would go to the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle before slowly heading home. 😞

The old railway line now disused.

Barnard Castle Day Two

Well, had a decent night sleep and it looked sunny. We rose slowly, had a cuppa and a chocolate biscuit(s) before getting ready. Then breakfast of croissants and jam and finally a plan. We would walk to Barnard Castle itself and check out the town centre.

The weather forecast said it would be 14 degrees so jumpers and a coat were adorned as we set off down the track we came up yesterday. As we walked down, we got shelter from the cooling winds and then sun came out and we were soon shedding clothing. We followed the distinct footpath signs provided by the equestrian centre, scooting around the edge of it and following a grassy path between two horse fields before plunging into the woodland. Here we discovered an information board declaring it to be a nature reserve. We followed the path, checking on the app when paths forked in various directions and dropped down to the stream and across a bridge. The path continued along, the woodland thick with trees in full leaf. Distance squeals of children and yapping dogs broke the silence – it was just enchanting.

Finally we were burped out onto a main road which we scuttled across to some steps and a bridge spanning the River Tees. A covered pipeline went down the middle and at the end were two Victorian turrets on either side. It was obviously the remnants of a stone bridge, now replaced by a sturdy metal structure which had been there itself for sometime with rust and many layers of paint. The river was reasonably wide and majestic, lined with the woodland. We branched right and headed to the Castle and town centre, stopping briefly at an ornate seating area declaring a Roman road and past industry. We carried on past the vast ugly utilitarian concrete weir and towards the Castle. We were soon on the grassy apron in front of the castle with good views. It’s owned by English Heritage and had an entrance fee. We erred on that and just poked our noses through the entrance. It’s now a ruin but still very impressive. We headed towards the High Street a few yards away and wandered around the shops.

We walked down one side and then the other. It’s in a L shape. We peered in shops as it started to feel quite warm and we started to regret the jumpers. There were lots of independent shops and the main drag was quite handsome with the odd national chain burdening Barnard with their ugly corporate signage. There should be a law that shop signage should be fit into their surroundings and not cause offence. One particular shop was particularly garish and really needed a stick of dynamite, but overall it was quite charming. Of course, the traffic was appalling and cars parked everywhere, but we wandered around happily. We stopped at a lovely cafe and sat outside to people watch and Daughter could watch a bride getting married in the church opposite. We decided to get some tea and hunted down a little deli just on the edge of the High Street. A brief visit to a supermarket (urgh) to get the last bits and then we decided to head home.

We found another route home and headed down a side road lined with stone terrace houses which led to the cricket ground. On the far side was a grand house with floor to ceiling windows and we remarked how many times a stray cricket ball came close to smashing one of those! We walked up a path to this house which had long range views across the cricket ground, the town and the distance hills beyond. We watched the cricket match for a little while, even toying with the idea of going back down and having a drink in the pavilion, but we changed our minds walking briefly through suburbia before plunging back into the woodland. I was beginning to really love Barnard just for its endless woods! It was just gorgeous. We followed well defined paths under a canopy of leaves meeting the odd person. It was so quiet to such an extent that we looked down a side path and saw a beautiful deer staring back at us in as much surprise as we were. Daughter scrabbled for her phone camera, but he was publicity shy and disappeared into the undergrowth before she was ready. But it was lovely to see the deer properly and not just his white backside.

We carried on, finally popping out by the main road again and crossing over. We retraced our steps through the woods, bobbing back by the horse fields. We found a shortcut to the campsite – peeling off the track to a stile which dropped us at the back of the campsite so we had a good chance to check out our fellow campers. The wind had got up and it was feeling cool again. We had taken our awning down this morning fearing that with the strong gusts, it would get damaged, so on our return we decided to put up the windbreak instead. For years we had a colourful stripey affair with four posts that you whacked with a hammer and it was erected. We upgraded last year with one a bit more technical with a manual to match. Today was its third outing. We amused our neighbours for at least an hour as we figured out the various poles, straps and clips, but with a flourish and only a couple of collapses, we had it up! Feeling accomplished we opened up a bottle of wine to celebrate and huddled behind our newly erected shield. It was distinctly chilly (it’s only June). Finally we headed into The Van to make tea, drink more wine and chill. It had been a lovely day and Barnard Castle a rather pleasant place to visit seemingly surrounded by endless woodland. Perfect.

Barnard Castle Day One

Second daughter and I decided to hang out together and planned a road trip in The Van for a few days, basing ourselves near Barnard Castle.

So straight after work on a warm Friday afternoon, we headed north and east, arriving at the Caravan and Camping site about a mile outside Barnard. We were met by a cheerful chap who used his bicycle to escort us to our pitch. We parked up and began to nest – roof popped up, electric plugged in and a well earned celebratory cuppa. We wrestled with our new awning – we briefly got it the wrong way round and hoped our fellow campers weren’t watching in amusement. The sunny day of this morning had now clouded over and threatened rain (it had rained on the way up), but was still relatively warm. We decided to go for a walk before tea and consulting our Ordnance Survey app, deduced a circular route in the nearby woods. So off we strolled, out of the campsite and down the track. Soon we was taking a left down a farm track towards a farmhouse, when a big bouncy brown hound came across the large lawn, barking at us. As we wandered further down, he came over towards us though stopping at a polite distance to continue his barking. It was almost he was a big brave dog, but not brave enough to get really close which we appreciated. As we worked our way through the yard, he followed us still barking as if he was escorting us off his property and making sure we did. There was no vicious about him, just a dog doing his duty which he did rather well.

We crossed a field of buttercups and thistles (ouch), over a stile and dropped down onto a steep valley full of trees. It seemed quite ancient and timeless, dropping down to a large pebble strewn stream. We followed the narrow path between the undergrowth, admiring this pretty woodland. It was so quiet. The path went up and down, contouring the edge of the steep slope, with benches dotted here and there so you could stop to catch your breath and admire the trees, fauna and flora. A large tree had fallen across the valley and looked like a bridge. Daughter decided to traverse it, but only got so far before she chickened out as it got narrower and the ground dropped away. We carried on walking, across little bridges, little ridges, the path twisting and turning. It was almost Lord of the Rings territory, a mystical beauty.

We pulled up a particularly steep bit, when there was a loud crashing sound and the Daughter yelped in surprise before giggling. A squirrel scampered up through the undergrowth as Daughter explained that it had literally fallen out of the tree and hit the ground with a heavy thump before running off in deepest embarrassment. It was Squirrel Central here so no doubt there was a large group of his mates have a good laugh at his misfortune and would rib him for days about it.

The path bent round so we could head back to the campsite. It was riddled with footpaths here. Again we wandered along before coming to stepping stones across the stream. As we paused, there was a rustle in the undergrowth which wasn’t our accident prone squirrel, but a deer. We caught its back end as it scampered further into the woodland – we kept our eyes peeled, but we never saw it. We walked up the steep hill and popped out into a field with horses. It seemed to be Horse City with all the nearby fields having horses grazing. We followed the signs and headed towards another farmyard which was in fact the local equestrian centre. We negotiated our way around here (they had diverted the route, evidently fed up with people wandering through the centre of their yard) and found the long straight tarmacked road back to the campsite. Dark, brooding clouds gathered in the distance as we opened a celebratory bottle of wine and prepared a simple tea. We sat under our new awning, people watching fellow campers, as we ate and planned the following day. Maybe a waddle to Barnard town. It tried to gently rain and with it cooling off, we retreated inside, made the bed and watched a film. A perfect start to our stay!

Powburn, Northumbria – Day 5

Our last full day in Northumbria and we had a vague plan. We were meeting up with our friend but hadn’t really organised anything. A few quick texts and we arranged to meet her and her dogs at Boulmer with a plan to eat at the Running Fox Bakery at nearby Longhoughton afterwards.

So with an hour to kill, we sat in the courtyard and sunned ourselves in the warm sunshine. There was a bit of a breeze as well which had actually blown away the haze that had lingered all Easter and the nearby Cheviots were clear and showing off their beauty. And we were going to head in the opposite direction – pah!

We jumped into the car and headed east again. At Boulmer, the car park was already heaving, but we managed to snitch one of the last spots and met up with our friend. The day was beautiful and we sauntered up the beach, chatting and catching up, the dogs sniffing and exploring. We briefly left the beach and walked on a path just above, which gave us views of the sea and inland. We came up to a field with a scattering of static caravans and huts, a sort of private site rather than a commercial one. Some of the huts were quite fancy, others seeing better days – there were a couple of shepherd huts which were lovely. The ones right on the edge had a splendid view of the coastline and surrounded by dunes and grass, they looked quite snug. I really wanted to stay in one, especially on a really stormy day!

The little village of Boulmer

We dropped back onto the beach and sauntered back to the cars, the tide was coming in and the boats were starting to refloat. It was the most gorgeous day with big fluffy clouds in the sky. We got back to the cars and headed to Longhoughton as planned, following our friend, looking forward to a pub lunch. So imagine our disappointment when we pulled up to a 1960’s style village hall with the Running Fox logo. We thought we were going to a pub, we spluttered to our friend, who just chuckled. She explained that The Running Fox was actually just a small chain of bakeries with one of them based at the Shilbottle pub hence our confusion and expectation that they were all pub based. We felt rather daft as well as slightly disappointed as we were hoping to sink some alcoholic beverage with our lunch. But saying that, The Running Fox, Longhoughton, despite its unusual premises, did not disappoint as we ordered huge sandwiches and coffees in rather trendy surroundings. Afterwards, we fatally wandered to the cake counter and bought two slices of cake, some Easter nests (sophisticated chocolate Rice Krispies and mini eggs), honey and the chap threw in some cheese straws. Perfect.

Northumbrian countryside

We said goodbye to our friend and drove back to the little holiday cottage and relaxed. The evening was cool, but the sky clear and there was a lovely sunset. The Dog was broken from all her walks and slept deeply in her basket. We were tempted to go for a walk ourselves, but didn’t quite make it. Instead we just did some packing and organising, then curled up reading.

The next morning, we got up slowly and pootled about. I wandered up the road to post a letter and admired the Cheviots Hills, not that far in the distance. Reluctantly, we packed the car, put The Dog in the boot and said goodbye to the lovely little cottage in Powburn. It had been a fantastic few days here and we would be back!

Powburn, Northumbria – Day 4

The day started brighter this morning, with the sun hazily shining through the windows. We had a bit of a lazy morning before heading out to Alnwick where lunch was booked and did our usual meandering along the back lanes to get there. It was a different route with the long distance views still hampered by haze – high pressure is dominating our weather and nothing’s moving. Just outside Alnwick, a high stone wall appeared on the right and carried on for miles. It was a substantial wall too – high, built of stone and with symmetry. how many men and weeks that took to build, goodness knows. On the map, it’s marked Hulne Park and Priory, originally owned by the Percy family. It’s usually open to the public, but currently closed due to repair work after Storm Arwen.

The wall led us into Alnwick, the main town in the area. Just before the castle, the streets were lined with impressive 18th/19th century buildings, which made this part of Alnwick very attractive. We found a car park, just off the main shopping area and noticed it was free. Northumbria County Council doesn’t seem to charge at any of its car parks which is unusual – you expect to pay something, so it’s been a refreshing change to be able to park and not have to scurry around for loose change. We walked out of the car park and opposite was a grassy area surrounded by beautiful red brick almshouses, with little dormer windows and pitched apexes. It was quite charming until we looked on the other side of the road to be met by a shoddy heap of bricks that just needed a demolition ball. It was more than an affront – it was beyond ugly, an absolute abomination and we wondered which 1970’s town planning committee had passed that one. It was of watery brown brick, three storeys high with brick stairwells leading up to the top floor. You would see this type of archectural disaster in a inner city sink estate, not lovely Alnwick. Appalled we turned right and discovered “Harry Hotspur”, a 12th century knight and his statue.

It was while we were reading about Harry and surveying the local area, that I spotted our lunch venue. Our eldest had recommended to us to visit The Dirty Bottles pub if we ever in Alnwick and so we had booked lunch there. We were expecting to see a pub with a big swinging sign out front, but this was quite non descript and could be easily missed. We were glad to have spotted it!

The Dirty Bottles – well worth a visit!

Alnwick High Street

It was decidedly warmer today as we walked around Alnwick. A few shops were opening up despite it being Easter Sunday. We walked down one side of the High Street and back up the other side, peering into shop windows, before sitting in the market square and having an al fresco coffee. With an hour to kill before our lunch, we waddled down to the river past the Castle and over a bridge. Here was a footpath that followed the river and offered excellent views of the Castle, perched on the hill. It was a pleasant stroll, despite sharing it with cows grazing – they didn’t seem bothered by us and kept their distance. We were on the edge of town with countryside all around us. We came up to one of the main roads back into town and followed that, passing Alnwick Gardens and Castle entrance reminiscing when we took the kids there many years ago. Soon we were back into the High Street and with perfect timing, arrived at The Dirty Bottles.

We went inside to low ceilings, beams, stone walls and a place stuffed with character. We were impressed. We sat down and spent many minutes trying to choose a meal – the menu was varied and had many options. Finally we ordered and enjoyed a excellent meal, which was huge that we declined pudding and sort of waddled out, feeling rather full.

Having exhausted Alnwick and in dire need to walk off some calories, we drove over to Alnmouth on the coast. Again, it was a place we had visited before, but only the beach. It also been featured on a BBC tv programme so we were intrigued. We drove down to the beach, paying £3.50 to park, opened the boot and let The Dog launch straight onto the beach. Today, there was no sea fret and we could see the sea, Alnmouth and it was pleasantly warm into the bargain too. We walked down the beach towards the groynes, The Dog venturing into the surf to retrieve sticks of seaweed or to check out a stumpy piece of wood. We went so far and then turned around back towards Alnmouth, the beach was busy with people, dogs, kids making sandcastles and a couple of teenagers jumping the waves. Brrr! We found a path into the dunes and popped out by the golf club, then followed the road around the headland where the River Aln meets the sea. There were some grand houses here overlooking the estuary with balconies and bi-folding doors – how lovely. We had been given a leaflet for a Sunday Market in the village hall, so we went and checked that out – mainly artisan craftwork, but I managed to buy an indoor plant to replace the one I had inadvertently killed within days of getting it. We carried on, following the curve of the road with the bend of the river. Here we were distracted by a loud horn being blown and went to investigate – it was the local sailing club hosting some yacht racing, so we interrogated the organisers to find out what was happening. It was basically three blokes operating out of a tiny wooden hut, rather than an exclusive yacht club, but there were five sail boats fighting the oncoming tide and the winds to get round the first buoy. They all struggled as there was a method to it, but eventually after many attempts they all got round and headed off into the far distance.

We followed the road which led us into the High Street – we had done a loop as we spotted the hall where the market was. We stopped outside a tearooms with a table on the pavement and decided it was a good place for a cup of tea. The sun shone down behind a hazy cloud and it was pleasantly warm – we sat and people watched and enjoyed the charms of Alnmouth. Opposite was a lovely delicatessen, full of cakes, pies and cheeses amongst other things. We got some food, wishing that there was a shop like this back home. We strolled up the High Street, admiring the attractive buildings, the little alleyways, the handsome church and the whole ambience. We could live here.

Where’s my beach gone?

We found a little alleyway which eventually led us back to the Golf Club. The wind had picked up and there was a stiff breeze. We went back through the dunes and discovered that the tide had come in and there was just a slither beach left, the dog walkers, sandcastle building kids and picnicking parents heading elsewhere. We waddled back to the car along the little bit of beach available to us, dodging the incoming waves before heading into the car park, The Dog reluctantly leaping into the boot and looking wistfully at the sea. We decided to follow our noses – we can never go from A to B and back again – and headed up to Boulmer just up the road. We passed some fabulous “Grand Design” houses perched on a ridge so they had seaviews on one side and endless countryside on t’other. They were stunning. We came across Boulmer, a straggly hotch potch village of low buildings overlooking the sea. There was another car park and we was going to sit and watch three boats just offshore, but as we turned off down the track, two cars were gingerly reversing out, so we took that as a sign of the car park being full and abandoned the plan. so we meandered back to our cottage, across the beautiful Northumbrian countryside, down single track roads, past woodlands, fields and down steep hills. We stopped briefly to look the Brizlee Radar station and Brizlee Tower in the distance with our binoculars. The Radar Station is known locally as the Golf Ball and can be seen for miles.

We finally pick up the main road to Powburn and head back to the cottage. It’s been a lovely day of following our noses and discovering allsorts – our kind of day. We were still stuffed from lunch, the day had been very pleasant weatherwise (nice to feel some warmth) and we had seen more of Northumbria. Tomorrow we hoped to see our friend who owned the cottage to give her feedback and spend time with her. We snuggled down, tired, but happy.

Powburn, Northumbria – Day 3

A good night’s sleep. We awake about 6.30 and relax in bed, before taking The Dog to the toilet – there’s only a small paved courtyard and our hound likes a piece of grass – so we have to take her round the small block for her ablutions.

We have breakfast and decide to go for a walk up into the Breamish Valley, just west of Powburn. So we get ready and take the car, heading up the main road. I was driving again and Hubby resumed navigational duties, this time with his Apps on the phone. He tells me to turn left and we head down this narrow lane, with sheep fields either side. It’s very pleasant, though quite hazy and the sun is struggling to get out behind the clouds. We came to the lovely little hamlet of Branton with the traditional stone built single storey houses, joined as a terrace with a farmhouse and yard. It looks so peaceful, tranquil and idyllic until we spot the iron legs of a pylon in the next field and see them disappearing into the distance. What a blot on the landscape – I have a real hatred for them, especially in areas of natural beauty, but they are, alas, a necessary evil. We carried onto through the hamlet until the road split – one a dead end, the other with national speed limit signs, so I head down there. We hadn’t gone far when Hubby declared that it was classed as a green lane and had a ford at the bottom. Green lanes are usually only negotiable by 4×4 vehicles, not a little Yaris. The road surface was tarmacked to certain degree and was something to be desired, with badly repaired potholes, that I feared bits would drop off the car and I would be in the garage with a broken suspension. It gave the car a good workout. We went round a corner, where the road became more of a dirt track and stoppped. We had arrived at the ford, which was basically the wide, free flowing River Breamish and there was no chance that my little car would get through it. Hubby was quite excited as it would be great crossing for the Land Rover which wasn’t helpful, so we turned around and retraced our steps all the way back to the main road. Sigh.

Our walk today

We turned left again at the next turning which was marked “Ingram”, the place where we were heading. The road followed the valley bottom, a classic flood plain, flat and wide with cows grazing the pasture. Bright yellow gorse was flowering and the first hints of the vivid lime green of the hawthorn were showing. The hazy cloud hung low on the hills, hiding the Cheviot fells in the distance. We came across Ingram, another small hamlet where there was parking, a cafe and walks, but our spot was further up. As we drove through, we were alarmed at the devastation of Storm Arwen late last year. It tore through the county of Northumbria, ripping up trees and here there was a long line of mature trees lying on their sides, their root plates 90 degrees to the ground and leaving a deep crater. We had seen lots of this since we had arrived and hadn’t really appreciated how much damage the storm had caused. It was a real eye opener.

We parked in a small car park next door to the National Parks Visitor Centre at Bulby’s Wood and got ready. It was quite quiet but there were several cars here already. We got ourselves sorted and started our walk, crossing the road onto the fell and immediately had to deal with a steep track. It got the heart going. Soon it levelled out and we walked along a relatively flat section – now we had some height and got good views, though the clouds could lift a bit more. There was more climbing to do until we reached the derelict hill fort of Brough Law. There was nothing left but heaps and heaps of stone, but you could see the outline of the foundations and a wall. The fort had an almost 360 degree view, so there was no excuse for not seeing someone sneaking up on you. All around us, were high remote fells and peering into the haze, you could just about see even more higher moors in the distance. We followed the well marked grassy path towards Ewe Hill, feeling very isolated. Even though we were quite close to civilisation, we felt we were on a high remote fellside with miles of undulating moorland and peaks. The sun tried hard to beat the cloud and we could feel the extra warmth. It wasn’t particularly cold – we had no coats on – but it was lovely when the sun briefly bobbed out. We turned left at Ewe Hill, and the path began to drop back down. The area was scattered with cairns, enclosures and old settlements, there was a lot of history here. We stopped briefly to admire the view down the valley, Ingram nestling in the trees. We carried on, meeting a group of people hauling themselves up the incline. The walk was only about 2.5 miles, but we are aware of our hound’s limited capabilities and that was just enough for her. We dropped down back onto the tarmac road and headed back to the car park. On the way, we acknowledged a passing walker with a huge rucksack and wearing full waterproofs, despite the warm weather and no hint of rain. The next thing we knew, he had stopped and started chatting to us which was nice, but we had a feeling, after he had mentioned he was a long distance walk, that he was missing human company and was keen to engage with anyone willing to listen. He was a nice enough chap and finally we said our goodbyes, noting that he was also wearing numerous layers underneath his waterproofs. We were hot with just a base layer and a walking hoodie, so he must of been melting.

The remains of the hill fort

The car park and surrounding area had got significantly busier – we could see a straggle of panting walkers trudging up where we had first started, several cars at a time were squeezing past each other on the single track road and as we reached the car park, the large grassy area next door had large family groups, picnic blankets sprawled on the grass, food and drink spread out, the children shrieking in the river as they paddled and the adults sat in garden chairs. And this was on a warmish Saturday over Easter – imagine the height of summer. A converted horse box had set up a pop up food stall and we hoped for a coffee and a piece of cake before we moved on, but on closer inspection, it specialised in burgers of all descriptions and had a small gaggle of customers. It kind of summed it all up. Where was the candy floss and inflatables. It was kind of jarring against the beauty of the area along with the steady stream of vehicles. It wasn’t really our cup of tea today, so a quick visit to the river where The Dog reluctantly dipped her paws and took a mouthful of water – she usually loves a good paddle, but think she was in the same frame of mind as us – we jumped into the car and headed to Ingram’s cafe just up the road.

Uprooted trees from Storm Arwen

This was a far better experience, a proper cafe with a wide ranging menu, located in a lovely old building opposite the church. We ordered sandwiches and a coffee and sat in their little enclosed garden. The sun had disappeared again and the clouds were heavy. We spotted our waterproofed walker again and hoped that he didn’t strike up conversation again, but he was enjoying his lunch. We decided to check out Wooler, further north and meandered through the back roads, getting shaken by the potholes and staring in disbelief at woodlands decimated by fallen trees. It was amazing no houses were damaged – trees had been broken in half or just keeled over, taking neighbours with them. It was incredible. We dropped down into Wooler, a small town with a pretty high street, but it was a quiet Saturday afternoon and suddenly we didn’t fancy wandering around a High Street. Sorry Wooler. So we decided to go on a tour and take in more of Northumbria and so with Hubby in charge of navigating, we kind of ran alongside the Devils Causeway, an old Roman Road, passing hamlets, fields of cows, sheep and newborn lambs, admiring long distance views. We came up to the village of Eglingham, not far from our cottage and decided to have a pint as the sun had reappeared and it was pleasantly warm. A pint in the beer garden, sunning ourselves sounded a good idea. Of course, by the time we got our beer and got outside, a big black cloud had gobbled up the sun and we had lost that extra heat. Hubby challenged me to a game of swingball tennis and we started a game. The Dog decided to disown us at this point and took herself off while I tried to hit the ball back without losing the paddle over the wall or get clonked on the head by the returning ball. We had a good 10 minutes of silliness before we exhausted ourselves and jumped back into the car. We fancied heading back and sitting in the little courtyard, reading books or writing this blog with a cuppa. So we piled back into the car and drove back to Powburn via an antiques showroom on the outer edge of the village – we are easily distracted. We wandered around, wondering how much junk we humans create and continue to create. We are a wasteful species, but hey enough of that. We got back to the cottage, noting that next door to the antiques place was a petrol station, a convenience store and a post office, all a short walk from where we were staying. Useful. So we put the kettle on, made a cuppa and sat on the outside chairs, listening to the birdsong and relaxing before tea. This is the life.

Powburn, Northumbria – Day Two

It was a bit of a first night. I always have an unsettled first night due to it being a strange bed, though holiday beds always seem cosier and more comfortable than your own bed, so why I struggle I don’t know. I finally nodded off and slept to 6am.

We got up slowly, making a cup of tea and relaxing. After a shower and breakfast we decided to head out in the car and aimed for a little town of Warkworth near the coast. A few months ago we had visited the same friend and we had whizzed through this charming town on the way to somewhere else and felt it warranted more of our attention, rather than a blur from a car window. Also we owed The Dog big style after she had holidayed with our daughter and we dog sat a friend’s dog. The Dog was not impressed to come home to find the scent of a strange dog everywhere and had worn a peeved expression ever since . So to make it up to her we promised her a beach.

So The Hubby jumped into the passenger seat and declared himself the navigator for the day which frankly is disturbing at the best of times as he has a habit of finding the narrowest roads possible to send me down, usually with a crop of grass running down the middle. Today, he had dug out a 20 year old+ OS map and decided he was going to navigate his way to Warkworth by this method rather than by satnav. Almost immediately he plunged me down a single track road, which rose up to a ruined tower at Crawley Farm, a rather grand edifice with a splendid viewpoint, overlooking misty valleys and high hills, so he was kind of let off the hook. We continued with lots of lefts and rights, weaving around deep potholes and hoping that we wouldn’t meet a farmer and his tractor, though Hubby found me a ford to traverse in my little car. It was at this point I wondered where my air intake was located before I gunned it. It wasn’t deep (thanks to a roadside depth stick) and we crossed it with ease – but a little bit of excitement! It was a lovely route – we saw hares darting into the hedgerows and unnerving passings of pheasants, an unpredictable bird who has a tendency to dither whether to fly into the safety of adjacent field or play chicken and do a last minute dash across your path. Not fancying a large pheasant embedded into my car’s grille, I crept past them and thankfully, all of them chose the more sensible option. There were signs for red squirrels too, these elusive natives of our islands, warning drivers to take care. It’s on my bucket list to see one of these creatures in the wild. We carried on down uncategorised back lanes, finally reaching Alnwick, a delightful little town full of independent shops. We didn’t stop – that was another day’s adventure – and popped out the other side. After a brief and unexpected visit to the A1 finding ourselves heading inadvertently towards Scotland, we got back on track at the next exit and finally reached the outskirts of Warkworth with its impressive castle sitting high on top of a hill at the end of the village. We pulled off down a single track lane heading towards the golf course and the beach. A large gravelly car park with free toilets and free parking greeted us. We piled out, got organised and headed down the path. A sea mist which had enveloped us for the last 5/6 miles of our trip, remained persistent and as the path turned into sand, seeped between the dunes.

Finally the beach opened up. The mist was thick here – you could hear the sea, but couldn’t see it. We unleashed The Dog and suddenly the 14 year old hound who had walked slowly with us, gambolled across the sands like a puppy, the biggest smile on her face. She is at her happiest on the beach and her face showed her delight. We just laughed at her antics – I think we are forgiven. We walked along as the sun tried its hardest to poke its head through the mist and burn it off. The mist lifted letting us see the sand dunes on one side and the surf on the other. Other people were on the beach too, every one accompanied by a hound of some description. It was Dog City. The beach was wonderful – you cannot beat a Northumbrian beach – wide with beautiful soft sand scattered with shells, stones and lumps of coal. We strolled for about a kilometre before turning around and retracing our steps, the mist dropping back down again. We decided to walk into town, leaving the car in the car park and walking along a footpath. We bobbed out by the main road and the River Coquet, crossed over the bridge and started the long pull uphill, along the main street up to the Castle, keeping a beady eye for a cafe. Warkworth is a handsome little town, full of stone cottages huddled in a small valley and quite delightful. There was a small cluster of shops which we peered into as we walked up to the Castle, perched high on the hill, overlooking miles of surrounding countryside. Its quite imposing. We wandered around the periphery – it’s in the ownership of English Heritage – as we weren’t in the mood for going inside. A group of children were egg rolling down the hill, it being Eastertime, screaming in delight. We admired the castle surrounded by a mass of daffodils (oh for a sunny spring day to really bring out the colours) as we went round and headed back to the High Road and waddled back down. Cars were parked on either side of the street and there was a constant stream of traffic roaring through, spoiling the beautiful stone weathered cottages lining the street. It was a real shame. It’s so full of character.,_Northumberland

We started earnestly looking for a coffee, and found Bertrams in a handsome building. We sat down, The Dog settling under the table and ordered coffees, an Egg Royale, a bacon sarnie and an extra sausage for The Dog, like you do. It was very busy, we had to wait for a table, but it was very ambient inside and we enjoyed our brunch. We decided to head to Amble down the road, where on our last visit we had enjoyed a splendid evening meal at a fish restaurant. We fancied some fresh fish for tea. So we wandered back to the car, stopping briefly at a viewpoint overlooking the town, its lovely houses huddled together, a jumble of roofs and chimneys in between the river and a wooded hillside. We drove through Warkworth’s decidedly busy main street, weaving in and out of cars, heading to Amble just a few miles down the road.

Amble hugs the coastline, a sizeable community with a docks, a harbour with a sea wall and a large industrial area. As we found our way to the docks, we passed street after street of long terraces of stone cottages, a reminder of Amble’s history of hardworking fishermen. Unsympathetic town planning had burdened Amble with ugly and cheap looking buildings that now looked shabby and even uglier and it looked like a town down on its luck, another seaside community struggling like so many others. But as we arrived by the docks, it was bustling with people wandering around. We joined the throngs and strolled past fishing boats unloading and sorting out their nets.. We walked past the The Fish Shack, a well known restaurant that was featured on The Hairy Bikers TV programme and was now heaving with people tucking into various dishes. Fancy new buildings were dotted around. We found a fishmonger’s and bought a bag of mussels and some crab before looking at their large containers full of water a few feet from the fish counter, one full of live lobsters and the other with tiny tiny infant lobsters. I felt quite sorry for them – their lives and ultimately their destiny. I don’t know how these people can go up to a tank full of crustaceans or fish to point and say “I’ll have that one” and find the marked creature lying on their plate 20 minutes later (though I am a pescatarian and happily orders fish from my local fishmonger’s, I just can’t pick them out individually knowing their fate and then spending my entire meal apologising and feeling guilty). We carried on investigating this area, a mixture of upmarket eating places and little wooden cabins selling upmarket gifts and street food, sitting easily beside the nitty gritty environment of a shrunken fishing industry. We found the restaurant we visited a few months ago, where we enjoyed a splendid fish platter which was reasonably expensive and that was full of people too. Tall trendy clapboarded apartment buildings lined the edge giving the docks a gentrified feel, smart cafes in their basements, but again, abutting little neglected tatty areas. We wandered to the town centre and main shopping centre, the street lined on both sides with shops which looked interesting. We walked down one side and up the other and again it was a town at odds with itself. It was busy. There were smart independent shops sitting alongside tattoo studios, betting shops and charity shops. Some shops were empty and boarded up, paint peeling and looking shabby, a bit of a blot while others looking like they hadn’t seen a paintbrush in the last twenty years. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of hairdressers, nail bars and outlets for the high maintenance woman, but with a background air of economic hardship. Apart from a small Tescos and a Co-op at each end of the street, every shop was an independent which was brilliant. Our friend had told us that Amble was up and coming and you could see that happening with the new buildings in the dock area and the trendy and tasteful shop fronts on the High Street. We hoped that the transformation continued, Amble certainly needed an upturn on its fortunes, but not to the detriment of the locals, their little self sufficient town turned into a tourist trap. It was just lovely to see it bustling and being supported. I love finding little places like this, ordinary, a little down at heel, but are actually thriving communities and bucking the trends. We happily did our own bit of supporting by visiting the local greengrocer and bakery and sauntered back, past the town square with fancy cobbles, herring bone brickwork and embellished stones. We watched a trawler upload and discovered a small beach by the harbour before finding the car again.

We were also on a mission today. We had a coffee and cake voucher for the Running Fox bakery and were determined to try them out. There are apparently four branches scattered around the area, so we chose the Shilbottle premises and with Hubby using his trusted paper map, we threaded our way through Amble’s many endless streets of terraced housing, past those ugly corporation buildings that begged for a stick of dynamite, managed to avoid the horrendous tail back we past on the way in and headed out into the country. The mist had lifted, but cloud had taken over and it was overcast. We pondered Amble’s history and existence and wondered if coal mining was a factor too – did coalmining come this far north? To answer our question, we passed a couple of communities with the word “coal” in their names and we decided that coal, fishing and docks were intrinsically linked. We drove over Northumbria’s gentle rolling hills, past woodlands, stately homes and little hamlets. We despaired at horrible little housing estates stuck unceremoniously on the end of charming villages with no effort to blend the carbuncles with the existing cottages (no chimneys to start with – one of my bug bears) and the devastation of woodlands after Storm Arwen late last year. The sun made another attempt to poke its head out as we arrived in Shilbottle and we found the Running Fox. We parked in the car park at the rear and waddled to the front where there were picnic tables, but nobody was sitting outside. We toyed with the idea of sitting outside too and so I was sent in, clutching the voucher and with an order of coffee and a scone. Well, I went in and was greeted with a chill cabinet full of the most delicious looking cakes and bakes. I just stopped and stared, and possibly dribbled, knowing that Hubby would divorce me if I ordered just a scone and not show him this venerable display of gooeyness. So I explained that I had to drag Hubby in, but we had a dog, but they happily invited us all in and offered us a table for two. So I called in both man and dog and Hubby’s eyes lit up when he saw so many flapjacks, sponges and cakes – we spent many minutes agonising which cake to order. Finally, we sat a high table with coffee, our chosen slab of deliciousness and made very satisfied noises as we sank our teeth into rather large slices of desserts. Even The Dog was looked after with a bowl of water and a chew. We were very happy and even happier knowing that the voucher allowed us a second visit – we would recover from this one first though!

Feeling rather podgy, but immensely satisfied (hell, we’re on holiday) we waddled back to the car and snaked our way cross country back to our little cottage. It’s very rural around here with a scattering of small villages and tiny hamlets. We dropped down back into Powburn, realising how dinky this community was and happily slumped on the sofa, lit the wood burning fire and snuggled down with our mussels, crab and bread we had bought in Amble and a glass of wine. The Dog curled up in the dog basket and slept soundly, after gobbling up her dinner. Tomorrow there were more adventures to look forward to!

Powburn, Northumbria – Day One

We have a lovely friend who has recently moved to Northumbria and purchased a small holiday let. She had diligently decorated it and got it all ready, but needed a pair of guinea pigs to give it a final once over before it goes public, so she gave us a call.

So on a warmish, but overcast late Thursday afternoon in April, once we had finished work, we piled our luggage and a surprised Dog into the car and set off in a north easterly direction. We seemed to have packed for a month’s trekking in the Himalayas rather than just 5 days in northern England, with an assortment of bags piled high on the back seat of Newcastle, but this being England, you have to pack for every weather condition imaginable, knowing that you will get at least two of them in one day!

We drove on back roads for some reason (flipping Satnavs) and then finally found ourselves on the M6 motorway heading towards Carlisle. We picked up the A69 which abruptly sent us eastwards, managed to miss a couple of turnings, so ended up skirting the west of Newcastle, ploughed up the A1 before forking off and heading towards the little village of Powburn. We arrived around 7.30, managing to miss the entrance as we hadn’t looked at the instructions and after doing a nifty U turn, parked outside, feeling rather excited.

I love the feeling of opening the door of your holiday home and seeing it in real time. We walked into a large kitchen diner and did a quick investigation of the rooms before emptying the car of the many bags and hunger started to take hold. The cottage is small, compact and beautiful with exposed stone walls and beams, it oozes charm and cosiness. It’s lovely. While pizzas and garlic bread cooked gently in the oven we nested, opened a bottle of wine and toasted the start of a long overdue break .This was perfect. We snuggled down in the lounge and relaxed for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow we begin our holiday cottage road test and start to think where we can go and explore.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day 14

We woke up on the last day of our holiday to another bright sunny day. We ate the last of the biscuits and made our morning cuppa. We were getting sloppy and we’re now just chucking stuff back in The Van, as we headed off to our friend’s holiday cottage, parking up outside. We were going on a walk up Wansfell.

Looking down on Ambleside

We put on our walking boots and rucksacks, heading up the road via footpaths, with a brief diversion to a waterfall. We all clambered over a stile to be faced with stone steps leading all the way to the summit of Wansfell. It was a steady pull with quite a few stops to admire the expanding view, of course. (rather than the sadder excuse of gasping for breath and needing many minutes to recover). Finally the summit hoved into view and gave us an outstanding 360 degree view including Kirkstone Pass, Lake Windermere and in the far distance, Morecambe Bay. We huddled down behind some rocks to have a drink and nibble cake, it was quite windy and cool here when Hubby discovered that it wasn’t actually a Wainwright hill and headed off to another nearby hill which was the official one, to bag it. We declined to follow him and so after a little while, packed away our food and started down the steady path towards Troutbeck. A steady stream of people were walking up here too. We met Hubby by the green lane further down, one happy man who had crossed another Wainwright off his list and together we walked down to the village.

Wainwrights are the 214 hills in the Lake District described by Alfred Wainwright in seven books.

The tearoom was shut on a Monday, so there was only one option – head to the pub. It was really warm and we found a large table in the beer garden, ordered alcohol and food and bathed in the warm sunshine. The Dog crashed under the table – she had walked 7 miles yesterday and now she was on a 6 mile walk. She was really tired. We enjoyed a lovely plate of food and then waddled off, hoping the walk might burn off those extra calories! We walked through the pretty village, full of classic stone built Lakeland homes – that dark slate colour. We peeled off up a track and contoured along, overlooking Lake Windermere. There were some beautiful views to be had. Finally we dropped into a wood and onto a tarmacked road, where gradually more and more houses appeared and we were on the edge of Ambleside again. We pulled ourselves up that long hill to the cottage and finally pulled off our walking boots and had a cuppa. We had done 7 miles.

We headed off home – only an hour’s drive away – and unpacked the Van of our holiday detritus. Tomorrow would be a day of heaps of washing and back to work, but we had had a fabulous time. It had seemed we had been away forever, we had no arguments, everything worked, nothing got broken, the weather had been good (considering it was Scotland in October) and even The Dog was happy. We had seen many rainbows, otters, seals and the most amazing scenery. It had been a very successful trip and we could of carried on.

We know it won’t be long before we’re off in our little Van for another fun adventure and we just can’t wait.