Twixtmas and New Years

Plans over the Christmas break were to spend New Year’s Eve with very good friends. Last year, we were too lackadaisical to book anything for a stopover, so this year we decided we wanted to get out for a few adventures.

First stop was a bit of seal observation. Due caution was observed to protect the dental work and we headed east to Donna Nook Seal Sanctuary

Donna Nook

Lincolnshire is one of those places where you can’t be in any rush, cos it takes aaages to get anywhere – it was the best part of 2 hours to approach the coast.

The RAF base is right next to it, and the seals themselves are on MoD land, so it’s a bit surreal. The carpark is small to medium-sized and was surprisingly busy. It wasn’t really ideal in the Big Red Van, but eventually we found a space that backed on to a grass verge, so we didn’t stick out and create an obstruction. We didn’t have to pay, whether that was the time of year I don’t know.

There seemed to be walking paths in different directions; there was a butty wagon and portaloos for them that aren’t self-contained and a short hop over the dunes, then suddenly the seals are right there. The walking path is fenced off, so you can’t disturb the beasts, and it’s very long. Being Lincolnshire, it’s very flat, open, and about a mile to the sea.

Lazy seals

Despite being bright and sunny, it was absolutely arctic. We admired the baby seals and walked out and back for about half an hour without reaching the end of the track, and then retreated to put the heating on and have a van picnic.

Girl child’s second favourite animal

As we were in the vicinity we thought we’d find a beach we could walk on, so we followed the coast road, which turned into a minnow track in places and ended up at Crook Bank Car Park on the edge of a nature reserve at Theddlethorpe Beach. It’s worth noting that you really don’t want to meet owt coming the other way as it’s a narrow single track on top of deep ditches on either side on the final approach.

Crook Bank

Clearly, it’s a spot that folks use for stopovers as there were a couple of house buses parked up with wood burners going. There was no parking charge and lots of walking trails around.

The beach was massively open and flat, and the tide was so far out that you could barely see it. East coast wind was in evidence, and cobwebs were blown away.


It was mid-afternoon, and we weren’t ready to head for home yet, so we took the frankly startling decision to head a bit further south and investigate Mablethorpe.

I googled appropriate parking without a height barrier, and we ended up at Queens Park Car park which was paid, but not very busy on a late December afternoon.

We walked along the seafront with its shut up cafes and toy shops, and to be fair, it was OK. But that was the best bit.

Last trip to Mablethorpe

We took a left turn and moved away from the front to see what there was to see. Most places were shut, boarded up, or otherwise equally desolate. The anklebiterz homed in on the only open toy shop in a 20-mile radius, and we spent a good half hour looking at overpriced tat before they would settle on something so we could leave.

The drive home was interminable as we edged back across Lincolnshire in the dark. I don’t think we’ll be rushing back.

The New-Year-A-Thon began with a lunch stop in Matlock Bath, drawing 2022 to a close where we began.

Matlock Bath

Learning from our previous parking dramas, where we struggled to even park the T6, we headed straight for the station car park. Surprised to see that most of it had been taken over by travellers who had set up their caravans, dog crates, and gas bottles, it wasn’t a very auspicious start.

We needed food, so headed down the main street in search of a fish and a chip. We had a sit down in a fish and chip caff, reasonably priced and edible if not overly delicious and decided to leave for the campsite.

Heading into deepest Derbyshire

I’d booked us in at Upper Hurst Farm near Buxton for the rather steep price of 41 quid including EHU on hard standing.

The site is slightly sloping with very boggy clay/grass and odd gravel/grass arrangements for some of the pitches. We had to use levellers, but we were tucked against a tree lined fence, which protected us from some of the gusting wind.

Upper Hurst Farm. Pricey but nicey

We were greeted by Mrs Woman, who claimed to be the mobile reception and gave us a beautiful, glossy postcard with all the necessary information. Our pitch was a super pitch with our own electric, fresh water and drainage, and we had a QR code to access the website and etc

Mother would be delighted with the facilities that were immaculate, and there was even a camp kitchen, ponies, and a play area.

Mother take note

Excitement was provided when KB had to extinguish a rogue bin fire, and the mistress had to put her horse-wrangling skills into action to round up the escaped Shetlands.

Next stop was a picnic lunch and meander at Carsington Water reservoir. We had tried to visit here previously and couldn’t get near, but on a wet NYE the car park was almost empty. Good thing, as the spaces were only car-sized.

Parking was reasonably priced, and you pay at the pay station before exiting, which was novel. There were some cheesy Christmas installations along the walking trails and a visitor building with a shop, caff and Johns. It was exceedingly pleasant.


We had one more excursión in us before settling down to Vodka and Blinis, steak and Beringer Howell Mountain Merlot and a cheeseboard with Ramos Pinto 1991, in the form of the “Luminate” light trail at Shugborough Hall.

Slots had been pre-booked and paid and we bumped down some very bone-shakey roads in the dark to find it.

The youth on parking duty tried to get us to pull on to the grass, but with the best part of 4 tons on squidgy ground we were taking no chances. We acquired some mulled wines and set off.


The paths were easy to follow and the lights and sounds were entertaining – the talking tree, the Barny owl, the rabbit-themed drum kit etc and it’s clearly a hit with the farm animals …


We did manage to go wrong at one point and ended up going against the flow of traffic, but never mind.

Son et lumière

Another rickety ride down country lanes and then the Hootenannying began in earnest.

2023 began with sunshine for all and a hangover for some. We took off for fresh air at Fradley junction to come around a bit.

Happy 2023 ✨️

Small friends held hands, larger friends enjoyed nature, leaves were kicked, and mud was squelched. Much fresh air was imbibed.


The parking was pretty good, on a good, open, gravelly area, if the access was a bit narrow. We paid a couple of quid and could have stayed all day. The Laughing Duck caff was open, but we had a van picnic instead after our walk, and eventually wended our way back to the South Yorkshire Technology Corridor to let the New Ear in at home.

So far, January 2023 is challenging. But we have each other, and plans are underway to get out in the van on some more adventures. Let’s make them good ones 🤞

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