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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

North York National Park, UK – Mar. 10-12, 2012

(For “Practicalities” jump to the end.)

Having no plan for where to visit in England, we thought we would start by visiting some National Parks; figuring those areas must be something special to have garnered the designation.  Interesting fact, though, is that England’s National Parks all sit on privately owned land.  It sounds odd and it is a little odd to those of us thinking national parks are wide open expanses void of houses and villages (not to mention sheep, herding dogs and chickens.)  However, once you get used to the English idea of a national park, it’s really quite nice.  Perhaps the best part is you are never very far from a pint!

Incidentally, I think this is where a lot of misconception comes in around camping in the U.K.:  People in the U.S. often comment that, in England, you can just drive onto a farmer’s land and ask permission to camp in their field.   When you camp in the national parks, you are indeed camping on farmer’s land—land they have set aside to host caravans (at a fee, naturally, although the cost is very low) and I wonder if this is how that belief got started.  Indeed, it is quite frowned upon to camp anywhere other than a designated campsite particularly when in a caravan or motorhome.

But my favorite part of the British plan is the “public footpaths” winding their way from village to village.  Yes, they too cross farms and you quite often see signs to “please latch the gate” as you cross from one pasture to another.  We saw one yesterday that encouraged you to “beware of bull.”  There is actually literature published to help you understand what to do if you are charged by an angry cow:  You are supposed to let your dog off leash as the cow will chase the dog and your dog can outrun a cow.  Obviously, they did not intend this advice for terrier owners; you can all guess what The Noses would do with a cow.  Running for sure – just not away from the cow.

We learned all this and more with our three days in the North York Moors.   It all started with us following our GPS directions, up a gorgeous, winding road right to a sign that warned, “Vehicle clearance 10’3”."  Not knowing how tall we were, we got out and (ahem, making use of one of the many tools that I gave Alan a bad time for bringing along) measured the Curry which came to roughly 10’4”.  Time to turn around.  So utilizing good old-fashioned maps, we routed ourselves through the lower portion of the moors to Robin’s Hood Bay.  This heavenly little spot is #1 on my Do Not Miss List.  Hook’s Farm, the caravan park at which we stopped (a farmer’s field but it did have electric hook-ups!) sat atop a hill with a stunning view down to the bay.  Such a treat after our longest drive day in Curry; over 200 miles.

We enjoyed a quick sundowner before leashing up The Noses and walking into the cute old town, about a mile from the campsite.  (There is a “new” portion of town at half a mile but it doesn’t hold the charm of the lower, old portion.)  Hungry after our long and stressful drive, we stopped in at The Dolphin, a local pub for dinner.  Rosco immediately curled up next to the blazing fire while River claimed a spot under the table and Alan fetched us two pints of the local bitter from the bar.  Everyone is adapting so well to this lifestyle!

The food was English pub-y and we enjoyed a Curry Chicken dish (Alan) and the Homemade Pie of the Day (me) which turned out to be steak and kidney encrusted with the richest, most delicious crust I have tasted since Granny’s.  Undoubtedly they probably share the same secret:  Lard.

The next day we set off on the Cleveland Way Trail from Robin Hood’s Bay to Ravenscar, hoping to only hike one way on the cliff-side walk and bus back.  Alas, it was a Sunday so the buses were not running from Ravenscar and we were forced to do the return hike.  Unfortunately, Rosco had taken sick (we are still not sure what is wrong with him) and he began to pant heavily and drag behind.  So we took turns holding him in our arms (for those of you who know him, you know he isn’t one for dramatics nor for being sick, so we took this quite seriously) until, tired of our aching arms, we emptied Alan’s backpack (into my hands) and stuffed The Scrunch inside.  He was only too happy to ride in there, a further indication of his illness.  It was during the loading of Scrunch into the backpack that he yelped (another experience rarely heard from him—the last one was when a skunk blasted him right between the eyes) and we knew something was really wrong.

Alan hiked the remaining way home, about four miles, with Rosco in his pack, much to the delight of the townsfolk.  Tired and hot (we have had wonderful weather, up to the low 70’s!), we stopped back in at town and dropped the packs for an ice-cream.  Rosco opted to stay right where he was and we gently laid the backpack on the sidewalk where he continued to sleep.  (Pictures of all of this are in the link above.)

We had planned to stay three nights and hike the next day too, but with Rosco sick and us needing a laundry, we opted to drive through the moors to the other side, gathering all our nerve and venturing down a “B” road.  (“A” Roads are larger, a full two lanes most of the time whereas “B” roads are mostly single lane although the traffic remains two-way.)  Alan did a masterful job of navigating the roads and utilizing every inch of the pull-outs.  We stopped about mid-way and had a picnic lunch at the top of a hill overlooking the moors, farms and grazing sheep.

We spent the night at Cote Ghyll, a full service caravan site in Osmotherley, simply because it advertised a laundry facility.  The view isn’t nearly as wonderful as Robin Hood’s Bay, but our clothes sure smell better!

Next we are heading to Scotland.  We received the news today that Salt & Pepper are expected to arrive March 27th, and I can hardly wait!  It is difficult having one vehicle; you get tired of driving so you want to just get into your pitch and relax.  But then you realize you are (mon dieu!) out of wine and to remedy that you would have to drive the entire rig out.  So we go without.  Sad but true.  (Maybe more likely is, “unbelievable but true”!)

A shout out to Chris who suggested we purchase a trailer and tow vehicle rather than a motorhome last year.  Priceless advice!   And the wine country of France will be indebted to you.


-        Having seen two now, we can confirm that at “full service pitch” is indeed what most Americans would look for as far as hook-ups.  Two in-ground exit pipes (one for grey, one for black) and water and electric at the pitch.
-        Health food!  Great selection and even better prices at Holland & Barrett.

PS:  On The Scrunch:  He is moving better every day.  We have thoroughly searched him cannot find anything intrusive.  We think he is having an arthritic flare-up or maybe got bit by some kind of spider while sleeping at lunch during our hike.  I’ll keep you posted.  He is still eating and drinking like normal, so that is a good sign.  (Plus River doesn’t kick him out of the good bed anymore . . . a plus for Rosco.)