Friday, 18th August 2017 – How Time Flies!

The last week of July saw Kim formally made redundant and the company put into liquidation. So no redundancy pay and no notice period. Fortunately the government covers this eventuality with statutory payments. They are, however, capped and we now wait to see how much Kim actually gets. It won’t be very much but it might be enough to live on. The problem is that Kim can’t look for another job down in Kent because we may be moving in a matter of weeks.

So to the move. Things have progressed; there have been delays with solicitors being on holiday, people being off sick and various things not happening as fast as we would have liked. But it does appear to be back on track. We are now starting to get some of the searches back and the solicitors are now going through the process of asking each other ridiculous questions in order to justify their fees! If we are lucky we might get exchange of contract in two weeks time and completion two weeks thereafter.

Kim is using his time off to start packing and the library is now complete, we have over the last month or so taken quite a bit of unwanted stuff either to the charity shop or the council tip. Because Kim has the time off, we have elected to do all the packing ourselves. The house is now starting to fill up with boxes, both full and flat unused ones.

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Kim did get himself a replacement car, a VW Tiguan automatic 4x4. He had said he didn’t want another VW as it would remind him of the “lost” Passat! But in the end a two year old one presented itself at a good price, so he went for it. It should make a more accomplished tow car than the Passat as it weighs more and can tow more. 4x4 should be useful in the winter as Fenton is a bit off the beaten track.

We are hoping to give the Tiguan its first outing with the caravan on Monday when we go down to a site at Tenterden for a couple of nights. This is by way of a shake down before the Bank Holiday when we are going up to Warwickshire for a “family camp” near Edgehill.


Saturday, 22nd July 2017 – The Ups & Downs of Life At Present!

The loose thread for the vendor to tie up, as referred to in the previous blog entry, was to get their offer on their prospective purchase agreed. On Wednesday we got a call from the agent in Grantham to say they had failed to get an agreement and neither side would budge. This put our “dream house” at risk. We immediately started searching RightMove for a “Plan B”. This is when we started to get quite disheartened; we couldn’t see anything remotely suitable. We started to think we might have to go into rented in Grantham or – heaven forbid – the caravan. There is no way we want to lose our purchaser.

We now had to wait to see what the people in the house in Fenton did next. Hopefully they would stick with the sale side of it and, if necessary, they would go into rented. This now became a state of limbo and not knowing how it would turn out was very unsettling. As you will see in a minute this state of affairs was short lived, but not without more accompanying grief!

When Kim did the handover of Kate last weekend, he was not able to take the tender (rowing boat) up to the marina as it was too big for the roof rack, so he agreed with Kate’s new owner, who lives near the office Kim works at, to deliver the boat. This was to be done by borrowing a large Transit van from work on Thursday night, delivering the boat Friday morning and dropping the van back at work before returning home in his car which he had left overnight at work.

So far, so good, but when Kim arrived at the office late on Friday morning, he was greeted with the news that the company was going under, his company car had been sold and everyone would probably be out of a job by next week! He had to remove all our personal effects from the car and Wendy had to drive up to Northfleet and bring him home! It is all very sad really, as the company has been struggling for some time and whilst financially they could have pulled through, the rumour mill was in full torrent and that was destroying client/supplier confidence. When your suppliers desert you and your clients lose faith, you are doomed!

So we drove back home with the prospect of Kim being unemployed by next week and having lost his pride & joy – his car, plus the all important free fuel allowance. This isn’t quite as bad as it might seem, because he was going to give these up when we moved. It’s just that we hadn’t quite planned for it to happen so soon, especially as the mortgage will remain payable until we move.

There was a silver lining to Friday though, as on the way home the agent in Grantham called to say the people had submitted an increased offer and had it accepted. Oh joy! We are all back on track and hopefully, the sooner we can get moved, the sooner we can settle life back down again.

Today, Kim has been looking at cars, obviously he needs a car and we need something to tow the caravan with. Quite what next week will bring, we don’t know, but some respite from the roller-coaster ride of the last few days would be most welcome.


Sunday, 16th July 2017 – Update On The House Move & Kate.

Last Tuesday we had some people come back for a second viewing on our house. They had previously viewed it when it first went on the market at the beginning of June. At that time they did not have an offer on their house so couldn’t do anything but they came back for the second viewing because they now had an acceptable offer on their house!

Wednesday morning we waited in trepidation for their response. An offer slightly above our expectation, so we “bit their hand off”!

Now the pressure was on! Kim told work (John & Andy) of the situation and announced he needed the next two days off as we had to dash up to Grantham to “find somewhere”!

Thursday morning, we drove up to Grantham and started on our list of viewings. One house, nearer Newark than Grantham (Fenton) really took our fancy. Over dinner in the hotel that night, we “ummed & ahhed”. We had some more viewings for Friday, but the first job Friday morning was to book a second viewing on the house at Fenton. We had to wait till later in the afternoon to get the second viewing, but by 4 o’clock we were on the phone to the agent with our offer. Several calls later and after a bit of haggling, the deal was done!

We were already well on our way down the A1 by this time, but Friday night on the A1/A14/M11/M25/M20 turned into a nightmare. We finally got home at 10:00pm!

So this is the house on the edge of the village of Fenton, it is at the end of a small cul-de-sac (six houses) with views across the open countryside.

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There is one loose thread for the vendor to tie up on Tuesday with their purchase and then we should get the green light.

Saturday morning, Kim had arranged to do the hand over for Kate up at Swale Marina. The buyer had already transferred the money over at the beginning of last week and all that was left was to hand over the keys, paperwork and the numerous boxes of stuff we had in the garage. Everything went as planned and now that is the end of Kate. Well, as far as we are concerned. We are actually really pleased that she appears to have gone to someone who will cherish her and enjoy her as we would have done, if we had had the time.


STOP PRESS

Photo's return to the Blog!

We will store the photos on Flickr and as you can below, the first two are up. As said previously, the process of moving photo's to Flickr and embedding the correct link may take quite a time. We will work backwards in time from the current point.


Sunday, 9th July2017 – East Horsley.

Arranged with Kim's friend Neil from work and his wife Kay to have a weekend at East Horsley in Surrey. We were a bit apprehensive as whilst the site looked very picturesque, it is quite close to the M25/A3 interchange and close to Heathrow! As it turned out, we couldn't hear any motorway traffic and whilst one could see and hear the planes, they were not too intrusive.

The site is quite large and partly based around a large fishing lake. A bit like Sumner Ponds. Of course, on a blazing hot July weekend, it looked somewhat more picturesque than Sumner Ponds in January.

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We were able to sit outside eating & drinking till nearly 10:00 at night as the weather was scorching. On the Sunday morning, the weather station sensor, which admittedly was in the direct sunlight, recorded over 40 degrees C and that was at 09:20!

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We had a great weekend and returned home on Sunday. We dropped the caravan off at the storage yard and were home by 13:00. The M25 had not been too clever on the Friday, but was fin Sunday morning.

Now back to crossed fingers and where next with the house sale.


Monday, 3rd July 2017 – All the Blog Photos Are Down.

As you will all be aware, there are no photos appearing in any of the Blog entries. All the Blog photos are stored on Photobucket and hosted on the Emjaytoo website. This is what Photobucket call third party hosting. We have getting on for a thousand photos hosted that way and Photobucket have now said that our level of subscription (free) does not support that number so they have withdrawn the facility. We can upgrade the subscription to $400 a year! Certainly won't be doing that! All the photos are still on Photobucket and can be viewed, they just can't be embedded in the blog.

So we are going to have to find an alternative method. What ever the method, it will probably take many months to sort them all out as each photo will have to be moved individually.


Sunday, 2nd July 2017 - Last Minute Weekend in France!

With a trip away in the caravan planned for next weekend, Kim wanted to clean the caravan beforehand. With it parked a mile or so away it is very easy to just nip down the road. We had some people coming back for a second viewing on the Friday and whilst we usually clear off out and let the agent show them around, this time they wanted to talk to us about the area and the neighbours etc. Wendy didn't think it was a good idea for Kim to be around as he can be a real misery guts sometimes! So she suggested he went and cleaned the van whilst they came back for their second viewing. These were people who obviously were very interested, but didn't have a buyer for their own house yet. Possibly a waste of time, but you never know.

We also had a fresh viewing for Saturday and the house was in "show house" condition. So, laying in bed on the Friday night Wendy says "you know it would be a good idea if we went away for the weekend, that way, we won't make the house in a mess"!

Next thing is, we are sitting in bed booking a Shuttle for the next morning and looking for a suitable small hotel/B & B about a couple of hours' drive south of Calais.

Saturday morning, we got a Shuttle over at 07:50 and drove about 50 minutes down to the fortified town of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Wendy had read about the place and thought it sounded interesting so there we were, in the middle of their Saturday market. We had originally tried to book a hotel here but they were all full and we could see why. Such a pretty and interesting town with lots to do. After a quick coffee we set off on a wander round the fortificatations, leading us eventually to the Citadel where we learned more about the town's fascinating history. Originally a sea port (hence the -sur-Mer), the river had long since silted up and the town had played various roles in history, from the Hundred Years' War with England (1337 to 1453) to a vital training, garrison and hospital town during WWI.

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While we were visiting the Citadel, the sun came out and the temperature soared so we decided not to traipse round any further but to go and find our B&B in the village of Hucqueliers, stopping off on the way at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Etaples - or Eat Apples as the WWI British soldiers apparently used to call it. This was actually a far more moving experience than either of us had expected. Almost 11,000 graves in an immaculately kept location with a book at the entrance listing the names.

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Wendy was somewhat taken aback to find a Thomas Henry Wingham (her maiden name) of the Middlesex Regiment who had died in 1917. Although not aware of any relative who had died in WWI, the unusual name and the location make it likely that he was related in some way. A sobering thought.

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Our B&B turned out to be a little posher than your run of the mill joint - a whopping great chateau in fact!

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We had a beautiful and very comfortable room, with an excellent breakfast the next day all for just over £60.

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The village was very peaceful and archetypically French and we rather wished we were staying longer, especially as the village pub/restaurant was only a couple of hundred metres away and served typically good French food and wine - even if the owner turned out to have come from Chiswick 30+ years ago!

Sunday started off rather damp and drizzly and we were unsure what to do for the day. We eventually decided to head South and go to Le Treport, a seaside town just over the border into Normandy and beloved of the Impressionists. We arrived to find them in the midst of a pirate festival under steady drizzle, though at least it was warm. The rain came and went several times before eventually clearing to give us another scorcher. After the requisite mussels and chips we took the free lift up to the top of the cliffs, from where the view was spectacular.

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A chance look at the time by Wendy cut our visit rather short, however, and we had to hot foot it back to the car park, albeit with time to pick up some ice creams on the way.

Our trip back up to the Shuttle was uneventful and quick. The motorways in that part of France really are good. In less than 1.5 hours we were in the queue at the Shuttle - and there we sat for quite some time. It was the oh-too-familiar story of queues for passport controls followed by cancellations and delays. Thank goodness we no longer do this very often. It was a great weekend, though, and we did not regret taking advantage of our proximity to mainland Europe while we still can.


Wednesday, 28th June 2017 – Kate Is Sold!

A couple of weeks ago we got a call from a chap in Gravesend enquiring about Kate and last Saturday he came over to Swale Marina to view her. He wasn't put off by the trailer or outboard and subsequently made us an offer. It was a good bit below our asking price, but was an amount we had previously discussed as being acceptable. After a little bit of negotiation we settled on a slightly higher figure. So he is happy and so are we! He is going to keep her at Swale Marina and will take over the marina berth contract. All in all a good result. It will be a couple of weeks before it is all concluded.


Sunday, 18th June 2017 - A Quick Dash Up To Grantham

After a couple more viewings on the house, albeit, still with no offer, we decided that perhaps we should go up to Grantham and view some of the properties we have been following on RightMove. Kim has recently pushed his four day week out to every week and so we went up on Friday. It was too far to go there and back in a day so we decided, rather than stay in a B & B in Grantham as we had done previously, we would stop off at Kim's Mum and spend Friday night with her. We could only stay one night as Wendy's son Tom and his girlfriend Cat were calling in on the Saturday to drop their dog with us, on their way to Gatwick to go on holiday.

Wendy arranged six properties for us to view and with an early start from home, that occupied our whole day. We saw one property that almost fitted the bill, but otherwise it was a bit disappointing in some respects. On the other hand since we have no offer on ours at the moment, perhaps it was just as well!

On the Saturday afternoon Tom & Cat arrived with Ben. It was a flying visit as they had a flight to catch, but Tom did have time to show Kim his new toy, a quad-copter drone with a quality camera (video & stills). They are off to Iceland and we can't wait to see the photo's. Of course Kim now wants a drone! Well, he can't afford one and the quicker he gets used to the idea, the better!


Sunday, 11th June 2017 - Back Home.

Saturday's journey back home was uneventful. We cleared away from the campsite and whilst it was overcast and wet with a bit of drizzle, the rain mostly held off. Nevertheless, we were still glad we had packed the awning away the night before.

All in all it was a sucessful two weeks with the caravan with all systems working as expected and we settled into the caravan way of life really well. Two weeks is quite different from a long weekend. Having a two location holiday was definitely the right thing as after a week at each location we were ready to move on. We could have easily gone on to somwhere else for a third week, but work was hanging over both of us!

We had a couple of people view the house while we were away and whilst they said they were very interested, neither of them were in a position to make an offer as they had not sold their own properties. Still early days at the moment.


Friday, 9th June 2017 – Carrog & The Station.

Tomorrow we are packing up and going home and the forecast is for it to rain heavily! Today the forecast was for it to be dry, the evening bright & sunny. So, we set off in the morning to find a supermarket to get something for a barbecue and to also fill the car up with fuel ready for the trip home on Saturday.

We thought we had located a Tesco Superstore not too far away, but Kim had got it wrong and after about an hour’s drive we arrived at a Tesco which was not a “super store” and didn’t even have a filling station! We did our shopping at the “apology” Tesco and then found a filling station to fuel up for tomorrow’s trip home.

By the time we got back to the caravan site it was lunch time. In the afternoon we went over the road to the heritage steam railway station to look at the steam train coming in and out.

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When the locomotive was sat at the platform,

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we went to look into the cab and talk to the driver. He immediately said to Wendy “would you like to come up on to the foot plate?” Well, she was up like a shot! Beaming grin all over her face. Shame Kim didn’t manage a photo! She stood watching the driver shovel some coal into the boiler and marvelled at the grimy controls and grimy driver! It was certainly the high point of the day for Wendy, if not the week!

Once back at the caravan, we lit up the Cadac and had an excellent barbecue. Well, a gas fired outdoor grill really, but it does cook the food well without burning anything, so we are well pleased with it.

The last thing we did before moving inside the caravan, was to pack away the awning. Well, it was bone dry and the forecast for the morning was for rain.


Thursday, 8th June 2017 – Llandudno.

Today’s forecast was for sunny spells and showers so we decided to visit the seaside resort of Llandudno. Llandudno is famous as a classic seaside resort frequented by millions of people, mostly from the north west of England, throughout the 19th & 20th centuries. It is a typical Edwardian seaside town, but unlike a lot it had a real upmarket, well groomed feel to it.

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Sandwiched between the Little Orme and Great Orme it is set in a huge bay,

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We walked along the sea front and after an excellent and very reasonably priced fish & chips lunch in a café we went for a walk along the pier.

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As you can see it was still pretty overcast and whilst threatening to rain, it did manage to stay dry. Next it was time for ice cream and candy floss!

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By now it was starting to brighten up.

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We were now ready to leave, but decided before heading back to Carrog, to drive round the coast road of the Great Orme headland. It is a toll road and we had to pay £3.00, but it turned out to be three pound well spent; the coast line is spectacular.

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On Great Orme there is a small chapel in a disproportionately large cemetery.

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People from all over the north west of England seemed to be buried there.

Back at the caravan we had a light supper and watched another episode of Indian Summers.


Wednesday, 7th June 2017 – Portmeirion & The Ffestiniog Railway.

Today was forecast to be quite sunny, albeit deteriorating in the afternoon, so we decided to visit Portmeirion in the hopes that the sun would shine and show it off to its best. It certainly did that.

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After some lunch, we set off for Porthmadog with the intention of just having a look around. It has a port,

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but more particularly it is one end of the Ffestiniog Railway.

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It wasn't our intention to go on the railway but, well we ended up taking a return to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

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By the time we got back to Porthmadog it was raining and pretty manky. We drove straight back to the Grouse Inn in Carrog and settled in for a few pints and a bite to eat. The Grouse Inn is not quite on a par with the Hare & Hounds at Hebden Bridge and unfortunately, J W Lees ales don't quite come up to the same standard as Timothy Taylors. But it is within walking distance and the food was ok, so we were happy.


Tuesday, 6th June 2017 – More Rain.

Today really was forecast to be wet & windy and it certainly started that way. We decided to spend the day on the site (or should that be in the van). Late morning Kim noticed that a caravan over the far side of the site had had its awning ripped up by the wind. The poor people were salvaging what they could!

By lunch time we were beginning to suffer the first symptoms of cabin fever and decided to take a ride over to Llangollen. We set off in the rain, but by the time we got there, which was only 20 minutes away, the weather was starting to improve.

Langollen is on the River Dee and has one end of the Llangollen Railway. It also is more or less the end of the Llangollen Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. The river is particularly spectacular where it passes through the town.

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The railway station hangs over the side of the river

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and oozes heritage railway charm as they all do.

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Apart from the railway and the river (we didn't actually go and find the canal), the town is pretty nondescript, boring even.

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Well, the bridge is quite impressive.

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After that, we drove up to the Horseshoe Falls. This is a weir on the River Dee built in seventeen-something by Thomas Telford (who built the canal) as a means of diverting water to feed the canal.

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A few hundred meters away from the falls you see the point at which the canal starts, not that you would get any narrow boats this far up the canal.

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Just as we were heading back to the car, the heavens opened and we got absolutely soaked! Once back at the site and dried off, we had tuna, rice & sweetcorn (from reserve stocks) and watched another episode of the Indian Summers dvd we have been watching this holiday. It might not have been the most exciting day but we certainly made the best of it.


Monday, 5th June 2017 – Rain.

Why do the forecasters always seem to get it right when they forecast bad weather? As feared, it poured solidly all day today and is due to get even worse overnight! But nothing deters us so after a hearty breakfast we set off to explore Chirk Castle (NT).

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It wasn't as stunning as some we have visited but nevertheless very interesting and made for an enjoyable way to spend a very soggy day.

Spent the evening tucked up watching a video.


Sunday, 4th June 2017 – Pontcysyllte Viaduct.

The forecast for the coming week is not looking good and today was in line with the forecast – grey and raining. It was, however, forecast to clear up in the afternoon, so we decided to visit the aqueduct at Pontycysyllte.

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We were able to walk along some of the Shropshire Union Canal (Llangollen Branch) and the weather cleared up nicely.

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As it was lunchtime we then went on quite a roundabout route to find some lunch, eventually landing up at the Co-op in Ruthin. On the way we went over the Horseshoe Pass, which was a bit reminiscent of the Buttertubs Pass in Yorkshire, but greener. Back at the camp site it was scorching so we went for a walk along the River Dee.

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In the village of Carrog is a 17th century bridge.

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Carrog also has a railway station on the heritage Llangollen Railway.

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Today was a 1950's diesel railcar heritage event, so we found a trackside position to watch the train go by.

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Before returning to the campsite, we decided we better check out the local pub – The Grouse, just over the river from the campsite. We sat out on the terrace looking over the view of the valley, and what a view it was!

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As it turned out, today's weather was way better than forecast, but tomorrow's forecast does not look good – heavy rain all day!


Saturday, 3rd June 2017 – On The Move.

Time to move on to North Wales. The morning was bright and dry, so we were able to pack away without any issues and got away from the site just after 10:30. We got down the twisty steep road back into Hebden Bridge and then were on our way. A week in Hebden Bridge had been enough and we were both ready for a change of scenery.

As we were passing within a few miles of Kim's friend from Sheffield Poly days, Lewin, we had arranged to meet up in a lay-by just outside his village of Appleton Thorn. Lewin and Suzanne joined us for coffee and we sat in the van chatting for a very convivial couple of hours.

Back on the road, we headed for Carrog near Llangollen, arriving at the camp site around 4pm. In spite of Kim's misgivings, it appears to be a real winner in a stunning location

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As the weather was so glorious, we had a barbecue and sat out until well after 8pm. You have to take your chances while you can!


Friday, 2nd June 2017 – Heptonstall.

Today was a grey drizzly day, so we had a leisurely start and then went out to find a caravan shop so we could get some more chemical for the toilet. Exciting stuff eh? Having done that we decided to stop at Heptonstall, which is just outside Hebden Bridge on the other side of the valley from our camp site. Wendy had read about it as being a bit like Haworth without the Brontes. It was still grey and drizzly when we got there and we almost didn't bother, but we were glad we took the time. The village has a steep cobbled stone main street and was very grey!

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Interestingly, Heptonstall has two churches, one in ruins.

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It seems the original was destroyed in a storm in the 19th century and the local people decided to build a completely new church rather than repair the original medieval church.

Once back at the campsite, the weather improved so in the evening we walked down to the Hare and Hounds for a meal and a few last pints of Timothy Taylor's excellent ales.

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Thursday, 1st June 2017 – Gibson Mill.

After yesterday's lovely weather we were not expecting too much for today. We decided to visit the local National Trust property at Hardcastle Crags, just a couple of miles from the campsite. The weather started off grey but relatively warm and, to our surprise, proved the forecasters wrong by turning into a lovely day again. We took the supposedly easy path to Gibson Mill but went wrong somewhere and landed up on the more challenging route, clambering over tree roots and rocks, but it was a very pleasant walk.

Gibson Mill is the NT's flagship sustainability property, with h.e.p. turbines, a biomass plant and solar panels producing all its electricity. Even the waste from the loos is processed by worms!

The mill itself was actually a cotton mill in its day and still looks beautiful in its woodland setting.

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We returned to the campsite via the Co-op in Hebden Bridge with enough provisions for a few days. On the way back Wendy videoed the route as a record for Kim of what he had done with the caravan on Saturday!

The weather by now was really warm but it was a bit windy up at the campsite and we ummed and aahed about whether to have another barbecue. In the end, we decided to go down to the pub and think about it there. Unfortunately, “someone” had looked up the opening hours wrongly and we arrived an hour before it opened! Although the pub is only about 5 minute's walk away, it is down/up a very steep hill so in the end we came back and settled in for the evening here. The sun was shining and the wind had dropped, enabling Wendy to have a go with the new Cadac

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The results were every bit as good as last night's and we spent a lovely warm evening in the partially open awning, taking in the stunning views down the valley as the sun disappeared.

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