Back to life, back to reality

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Firstly I must apologise for not blogging for a while. The main reason for my absence was our much-anticipated trip to Florida, the other reason being that upon our return I immediately decided to swap the Boy’s bedroom with my office in the attic which left me without a workspace or computer for a while.

Our trip was fantastic but unfortunately over all too soon. There are however a few lessons that we have learnt from our holiday that we hope to incorporate into our everyday lives.

1. We don’t need lots of stuff to have a good time.

Each of us travelled with only one small suitcase each (each one weighing less than half the 23kg allowance – how did that happen!). The contents were actually more than adequate for our trip, in fact if we had been staying longer we wouldn’t have needed anything else.

2. Play more.

Ok, so compared with home Florida is like one big playground ūüôā Seriously though sometimes we forget to have fun and forget about the carefree side of us. In an attempt to not get bogged down by life we have declared Sundays as our Fundays!

3. Go walkabout.

Walking is a great way of discovering. Even if you think you know your neighbourhood by taking a stroll you never know who you might bump into or what you might see, I aim to get out and stroll more often!

4. It’s ok to chill out.

Life is busy and its hard not to be doing so I’m going to ditch the guilt and¬†try to make time to do nothing in particular – letting¬†my thoughts wonder and pottering around aimlessly.

5. Be happy to be home.

It’s hard not to get the back from holiday blues but home is where the real stuff happens, besides if we hadn’t come home¬†then we wouldn’t be able to go back again!

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Swan Song

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There are big changes coming in the Simplicity household. I’m not 100% sure what form they will take or even when they will happen, but the changes will happen, at the moment they are like shadows waiting to be thrown into focus.

For almost two years now we have been planning a trip to take our Son to Florida. One thing we know is that our time is limited when it comes to family holidays, in a few short years we will be redundant and his friends will take our place as his travelling companions.

So before he gets too old (and embarrassed!) to want to go on holiday with his folks we wanted to take a trip to give him lasting memories of family holidays and very soon we shall be embarking on our journey.

But the title of this post doesn’t refer to this as I’m sure there will still be many more chances for us to holiday together, albeit on a smaller scale, it refers to what comes next.

To us this holiday is symbolic of a lifestyle that we are leaving behind, it will be our own personal swan song.

Enjoying life’s simple pleasures in Norfolk

Last week Summer finally arrived in the UK and by perfect coincidence we had planned to spend the week in our caravan. I love spending time in the caravan, the time we spend in it gives us the opportunity to get back to basics – life seems much easier when we only have room for essentials and aren’t distracted by the rest of our belongings.

Our destination this time was the heart of the Norfolk Broads, in my opinion the perfect place for us to embrace some of life’s simple pleasures…….

Sitting on deserted beaches and spotting seals watching us amongst the waves.

Preparing and eating simple but delicious meals ‘al fresco’

Enjoying the solitude of the Broads at dusk from our canoe.

Watching kingfishers skirt above the water, their iridescence catching in the sunshine.

Sitting, appreciating the warmth of the sun on our faces just watching the world go by.

The feeling of bare toes in soft warm sand.

Lazy unhurried mornings……..and afternoons and evenings.

 

These were some of the simple pleasures that we enjoyed last week. How about you? What are your favourite simple pleasures?

A Weekend In Wensleydale

School was closed for the day on Friday so this meant one thing Рa long weekend away in the caravan. We try to keep the journeys short on weekends away so that we can set off  as soon as the boy returns home from school and hopefully arrive at our destination in time for tea.

With this in mind we decided to stay within our home county of Yorkshire and visit one of our favourite areas  РWensleydale.

Wensleydale

This is such a lovely part of Yorkshire, most people will have heard of it because of the  famous cheese that is produced here but there is so much more to this area. The scenery is typically English, rolling hills and dry-stone walls, picture perfect market towns and centuries old farms.

Our reason for visiting this weekend was that we had booked tickets for an intriguing attraction called “The Forbidden Corner“, billed as the strangest place in the world ¬†– who could resist!

The place can only be described as part eccentric folly, part labyrinth. You enter through the gaping mouth of a stone giant and are plunged into an Alice in Wonderland world of puzzles and riddles. Around every corner you are faced with a surprise, it just gets curiouser and curiouser……..

The entrance to the underworld…..

If you go down to the woods today…….

…..be sure of a nice surprise!

I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil any surprises for future¬†explorers¬†however in our opinion this has to be the best attraction we have visited in the UK. We all agreed that without a¬†doubt¬†it most definitely lived up to its claim of being the strangest place in the world!

A Tale of Two Campsites – The Mawddach Estuary

As much as we had enjoyed our time at Bala and the challenge of climbing Snowdon I was looking forwarded to moving on to our next stop. This was the place of childhood memories, I was returning to my special place.

The sun shone as we set up (thankfully we had the foresight to make the most of this) and our pitch offered us the most amazing views over the estuary.

A quick lunch and we were off on our bikes to explore the Mawddach trail and cross the bridge across the estuary into Barmouth.

The Mawddach Trail is a stunning multi-use path following the old disused railway line along the edge of the beautiful Mawddach estuary in Southern Snowdonia. The trail stretches for fifteen kilometres (nine and a half miles) between the towns of Dolgellau and Barmouth and is traffic free making it ideal for walkers and cyclists

Unfortunately this was to be the last of the sunshine as the weather took a turn for the worse during the week. This meant that we had to review our plans and in doing so I was able to revisit a few of my childhood holiday haunts. This is the beach that I spent many a warm summer day exploring, as you can see we were the only ones to brave it that day!

Although the weather stopped us from doing a lot of the outdoor activities that we had planned (if anyone saw the news from last week you’ll have seen just how bad the weather was, luckily our campsite wasn’t one of the ones that flooded!) we still had a fantastic time and made the most of it by keeping dry in various tea shops enjoying Welsh cakes and Bara brith.

A Tale of Two Campsites – Bala Lake

Our first stop in Wales was at a campsite right on the edge of Bala Lake, or to give it its proper name, Llyn Tegid. It was a change to be actually staying by Bala as in the past this had always been a place for a quick stretch of the legs and a picnic before carrying on to our intended holiday destination on the coast.

The campsite that we had booked for the first four nights was larger than the campsites that we usually chose and with our arrival coinciding with the Jubilee weekend it meant that it was full to capacity. The reason for us chosing this site though was that it was situated right on the shore of the lake and had its own launching beach – perfect for a bit of paddling in our canoe.

The main event that we had planned for this leg of our stay was to climb Mount Snowdon (number 2 on the bucket list – that’s one thing that I can now tick off!). ¬†Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa to give it its Welsh name is the highest peak in Wales and England only topped in the British Isles by Ben Nevis in Scotland.

We’d planned our route before hand and had chosen the Pyg track for our ascent and the Miners track for the descent.

The PYG track is both the shortest way up Snowdon, and the one that involves the least amount of ascent. Despite this, it‚Äôs not the easiest path up as it can be steep and rocky in places but the paths are reasonably straightforward to follow.¬† It is 5.5km in length and involves around 800m of ascent. It’s said that the views of Snowdon are among the best of any route up.

We set off in light rain and were amazed by the sheer number of people who had also planned a bank holiday climb.

The gradient soon picked up and the path got rockier.

Soon we were rewarded with our fist view of the summit.

At the summit we were rewarded with one of the best mountain views in Britain, it was truly awe-inspiring and made even better as the cloud lifted offering us a panoramic view of North Wales.

The descent along the Miners Path started off as a steep scramble downwards towards the lake but soon the path widened and levelled out to make an enjoyable walk back to where we had begun.

We made our way back wearily with a quick stop in Bala to pick up fish and chips then time for a relaxing paddle on the lake to finish the day.

Our Trip to Wales (or a Tale of Two Campsites)

Before I begin let me tell you that there is an area in Wales that makes my heart sing. ¬†It’s a place of endless golden beaches, majestic mountains, slate roofed stone cottages grown from the surrounding land, castles cloaked in legend and happy childhood memories.

This is the place that I spent my school holidays staying in my Grandparents caravan with its ancient popping gas lights and the sound of the waves lulling me to sleep. This is the place that I almost moved to with my family when I was 10 years old, a place of what might of been. This is the place we chose to take our Son for his first holiday as a baby and have returned many times since. This is a place that will stay with me all my life.

This is the place that we are travelling to tomorrow……….

A Weekend Away

This bank holiday weekend saw us taking a short trip with the caravan to a little site not far from the West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge.

Hebden Bridge is a lovely place to spend a weekend, a hub of crafts and creativity it is full of independent shops and is situated on the Rochdale Canal and close to the Pennine Way.

Here are some highlights of our weekend.

Walking along the Rochdale Canal we passed some interesting communities living onboard canal boats and making the most of self sufficient living on the banks.

We passed many other families along the way who were also enjoying the canal.

And a trip on a canal boat took us to a lovely pub serving homemade food and real cider.

The next day we visited Hardcastle Crags, a beautiful wooded Pennine valley. After a quick call to the farmers market to buy handmade pasties and puddings for a picnic lunch we set off on our way. Donning our walking boots we explored rivers, rocks and waterfalls.

It was a great opportunity to see creatures in their natural enviroment.

Not only did we have a wonderful weekend it was also a chance to enjoy¬†life’s¬†simple pleasures.¬†

Proud to be Carafans!

Our Home From Home

One of the best decisions we have made as a family was to buy a caravan. Whilst caravanning may not be as cool as its close cousin camping, having a caravan has allowed us to explore the length and breadth of Great Britain.

This, our current caravan is actually the third caravan we have owned. We bought our first one in 2004. It was a lot smaller, older and more basic but as novice caravanners with a 4-year-old son it suited us perfectly. After a couple of years of owning it a local farmer wanted rid of the one he used whilst visiting agricultural shows. As he needed the space in his barn where it was stored in a hurry he so sold it to us cheaply and so for a short time we owned two caravans!

Last Easter in the Lake District

We have been fortunate to own our current caravan now for the past 4 years and with its mod cons it has enabled us to extend our caravanning to an all year round activity (we have even caravanned in the snow!). It has allowed us to explore the length and breadth of Great Britain – from the tip of Cornwall to the wild coast of Scotland and introduced us to some wonderful family activities, canoeing, boating, cycling and geocaching are just some that we now enjoy.

Stunning Derwent Water

Even after 8 years of caravanning we still have an endless list of places we want to visit. So far this year we have planned four trips, the first of them being next week staying within our own county of Yorkshire. The following trip is one that I am very excited about 4 days on the shores of Lake Bala in Wales followed by 4 days staying on the Mawddach Estuary.  Plenty of time to canoe, walk and cycle Рwe even have set Mount Snowdon in our sights!

Later in the year we then have a couple of trips to the lakes planned, one on the shore of Coniston Water and the other on Derwent Water.

So next time you are stuck in traffic behind a caravan please don’t get angry, smile and wave – it could be us!