Half term came around and we planned a cheeky campout for 4 nights to get away. As usual we had no clear plan until the week before, and after googling and checking out many places online the length and breadth of the land, it was clear that lots of places are charging a fortune and either offering not a lot, or ramping up the extras.
It’s been said before, but sites that charge per vehicle, unit, adult, child, dog, awning etc with extras for ehu, WiFi, showers etc are really not appealing, ones that at first sight look good wind up wanting the most part of 40 quid a night and are definitely not worth it.
Some of the sites remaining open in October are the mobile home village, evening cabaret kind of thing which are deffo not our bag so it’s not really surprising that the CS sites from the C&CC club tend to be more up our street. As long as they are open, and given the inclemency of this October’s weather, have hard standing parking, there’s a chance they are what we are looking for.
It would be nice if the info on the app showed pictures for all of them, and had an individual description instead of the generic message about being privately operated, because it’s a bit pot luck.
Double checking a couple of possibles led me to the website for Colman’s of Aysgarth, and the description on their home page was talking my language.
I booked online with no hassle, admittedly 32 quid a night was still on the steep side, but it was less than a week away, and with hindsight it was money well spent.
We showed up after a couple of hours on the road and were intercepted by the owner Matt on the driveway. We paid him and moved in to our spacious, level hardstanding pitch, labelled by a carved raccoon/bear and in the top corner of the site.
5 hardstanding pitches of ample size, good wide driveways, a level camping field for another 5 or so tents, a cabin/shop and deck with free WiFi by the facilities block. Free bikes for the kids to play on, a playground/climbing frame scenario and some free ranging choox with feathery feet. And we got good 4G on site too so no lack of Internet based entertainment.
We, perhaps foolishly, took the awning for an airing, in the hope that we would benefit from extra space to sit and eat. The last, and only time we have used it previously was at Ken Bridge in beautiful Scottish Easter weather. We trialled the very spacious sleeping pod, which actually makes it as big as the air tent we stopped using when we got the van, but put it away again without anyone ever sleeping in it!)
A bit different to October in North Yorkshire of course. You’d think that would occur. We’ve had loads of van trips in cold and wet weather without any problem or hassle. Bringing the awning was a reminder of the problems and hassle which made us move into a van in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, that awning is great. Good size, easy to deal with (generally speaking), very versatile with lots of doors and windows. Sturdy and well built. However, setting it up in the right spot, manoeuvring the van into the right spot after going out and coming back in again, and dealing with strong wind when the van is not there for bracing against, are all drawbacks. Drawbacks which wouldn’t exist if we had left it at home!! (I feel an ebay scenario coming on…)
Putting the awning up, well, we were clearly out of practice because it took slightly longer than it should. Each time we came back after a day out it had taken a bit of a battering from the wind and was leaning at a bit of a wonky angle, even when we pegged out extra guys after the first round.
The weather was forecast to remain windy and rainy so we decided to cut our losses and take it down a day early when it was relatively calm, which was a good shout as it would have been much less fun dismantling it in whipping rain and wind before going home. Of course that left us with the distasteful necessity of putting it up in the garden to dry off when we got home. It’s still there as it hasn’t yet been dry enough to put the blessed thing away.
Matt told us about the walking path out of the back gate to get down to the falls, so we made that our first excursion. We were hoping to get an afternoon tea from the nearby Mill Race tea shop, after a recommendation, but when we found it, they were closed due to covid.
We walked up alongside the upper falls and then took the path along to the Visitor’s Centre for an ice cream and a walk down to the lower falls, enjoying some planetary tomfoolery along the way.
Unfortunately, I need to admit to a failure of the packing list 😔
Despite having a seemingly bombproof packing list, I neglected to check that the items that are normally already in the van are still in the van. On the #BigOrkneyAdventure2021 I neglected to pack any socks. Only for me mind, everyone else was fine. This time, despite replacing the delicious Orkney coffee beans which I had decanted into the house when we had an indoor shortage, I never replaced the camping coffee grinder to its rightful place.
On the first morning, emergency measures were needed, so a zip lock bag and mallet were employed to grind the beans for a morning brew.
Gritty, weak, and in need of the addition of whisky to make it palatable. Very poor indeed.
We got around the need to repeat the experience on subsequent mornings by taking morning coffee elsewhere. Mainly at the Wensleydale Ice Cream Parlour, which was exceedingly acceptable. The infants and juniors were more than satisfied with the ice creams on offer, which to be fair, were nicer than the cakes we had on our second visit. The herd of cows outside, and the woodburner inside made it all very pleasant.
The little mester, who asked us what we were up to, suggested a trip to Castle Bolton, so we followed his adwice.
It was 3 quid to park, with 2 of those refunded against entry, which was about 30 for the 4 of us (not a family ticket mind, that is more expensive!) Part ruin, part medieval living area, part museum, with Halloween decorations, tea room, gardens, birds of prey, a maze, and surprisingly, a vineyard. All very diverting, as was the discovery of a pen of wild boar on the way back to the van. The maze was particularly auspicious, as we dealt with it much more successfully than the previous day’s labyrinth experience at the Forbidden Corner. We had to book a time slot and the earliest we could get in was 3.30pm, so we idled in Leyburn and had sausage rolls by a scenic pond.
48 quidsworth of outdoor meandering and surprising water jets amongst random and horror themed items was the order of entertainment for the afternoon. Many witches, skeletons, stepping stones, secret passageways, tunnels, sneaky gateways and statues were laid out for our enjoyment. The only fly in the ointment was the youngest being too much of a wuss to go in one building, which meant me supervising him whilst the mistress and her father enjoyed the tunnels which led to a wine cellar!!! Of course they came out somewhere totally different so it took half an hour for us all to be reunited. To be fair he was consoled by the burping monkey building, so it’s not all walking.
Once the relevant gift shop had been navigated we returned to camp and braved the local public house for an actual meal out.
It’s a bit weird, whether it was the feeling of being in the middle of the country in the fresh air or what I don’t know, but going out for a meal and being around other people doing the same didn’t feel weird or worrying at all, and it’s probably the first time I’ve felt this way since before lockdown, but what was clear was that the children have forgotten how to behave in public. As Magnus from Boss Baby shouted “I LOST MY INDOOR VOICE IN AN ACCIDENT!!! I did more shushing in that pub than in 15 years of teaching 😳
Food was nice enough, and puddings were dispensed to 3/4 of the congregation, the remainder preferring another pint. It was a leisurely walk back to camp in the dark that rounded off a most pleasant day.
On our final morning we had a nice chat to Matt in the cabin, turns out they’re about to sell up, buy a camper and head off to Europe (jel) where they are going to do some troubleshooting/wardening for the club. He made us a brace of very satisfactory coffees before we hit the road.
At this juncture it is apparent that I haven’t appraised the facilities, mother will be on the edge of her seat. To pre-empt any interrogation on this point I prepared a small videoclip as follows:
Shower curtain was the only thumbs down.
Obviously the windy weather had an impact on the sleeping arrangements. Harking back to blustery South Uist, the pop top was buffeted and creaking, and a certain small boy wailed like a banshee every time he “heard a big noise”. This time, instead of suffering the wriggler in a bed that’s barely made for two, I had the ingenious idea of installing him on the floor.
Since Madame complained previously that the roof mattress was insufficient in the area of comfort, we added the 3/4 length thermarests for extra snug. She is happy as Big Larry, and the boy had a mat to install under the overhang of our bed. He had his cuddly Stormtrooper and pillow, with the reassuring whirr of the fridge in his ear and slept soundly. Result.
So, North Yorkshire was most enjoyable, and we left lots more to explore on a future outing. Next time without the awning and hopefully in a bigger van 🤭