Discovering the Arts and Crafts Movement in the Lake District

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Beautiful Blackwell Arts and Crafts House above Windermere

In retirement our winter trips are being dictated by the weather forecast rather than the weekend and this freedom is liberating.  With some cold sunny weather forecast last week we baked a cake, packed some warm clothing and set off for the Lake District.  Windermere is easy to get to from Salford and we were soon soaking up the views along the lake from Orrest Head, pottered by the Windermere and seeking a cosy pub to warm up in.

In the afternoon we visited the lovely Blackwell Arts and Crafts House.  We had been here before many years ago and since then the staff and volunteers have been busy and many improvements have been made.  Built by M H Bailie Scott as a holiday home for Edward Holt, this is a beautiful example of an Arts and Crafts house that retains many of its original features that, in keeping with the movement, are both decorative and practical.  The door handles are leaf-shaped, the window catches are interesting.  There is attractive stained glass and plaster work too but just as important, the atmosphere is relaxed, rather than stuffy and visitors are encouraged to linger.

After being a holiday home the house became a school and then offices before being bought by a Trust in 1999 and it opened to the public in 2001.  The White Drawing Room has slender columns with decorative capitals, a sunny aspect over the lake and is a room where the sunlight dances around the room.

The Arts and Crafts Movement began in Britain in the 1880s and spread across Europe and America.  As the V&A writes:

‘It was a movement born of ideals. It grew out of a concern for the effects of industrialisation: on design, on traditional skills and on the lives of ordinary people. In response, it established a new set of principles for living and working. It advocated the reform of art at every level and across a broad social spectrum, and it turned the home into a work of art.’

The Arts and Crafts Movement has strong links with the Lake District.  The three founder members, William Morris, Edward Burne Jones and Phillip Webb were supported by  George Howard from Naworth Castle near Carlisle and he used William Morris’ wallpapers in many of his properties.  John Ruskin, a Lake District resident, strongly influenced the Arts and Crafts Movement.  He considered machine-made items to be dishonest and that craftmanship was linked to dignity.

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Tile detail from a fireplace at Blackwell

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Ready for any emergency?

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Our ’emergency’ kit

Emergency kit is a bit of a grand name for our tupperware box full of things we keep in the campervan.  This box contains items we think might be useful when we are out walking or cycling and ’emergency kit’ is what we call it when we are checking what to stuff in the rucksacks or pannier for a walk or bike ride.  We have recently reviewed what we carry in this kit.  We like to have these small essentials in one place so that we feel ready for almost anything and can head off for the day with some confidence.

We have used items in the ’emergency kit’ [for ourselves and other people] and we have added to it when we have had an ’emergency’ and realised there is something essential missing.  One summer we ended up on a path heavy with nettles, I was wearing shorts and emerged unable to see my legs under a tapestry of nettle stings and we spent much of the rest of the day looking for a chemist in Cotswold villages to get antihistamine tablets, now we carry these.  We use the tick lasso regularly as we are often in areas where these small insects are numerous [we also keep our tick-borne encephalitis jabs up-to-date].  The plasters get used regularly for small injuries but many of the other items are there for a serious emergency, such as the foil emergency blankets and whistle.  We previously carried just one small torch but now keep our two head torches in the ’emergency kit’ as if we are returning in the dusk or dark from a walk or cycle ride these are more useful for getting us home safely.

We think we are prepared for anything but what do you think is missing?  Our kit comprises:

  • Two head torches and batteries
  • Bandages [various]
  • Wipes
  • Towelettes
  • Lifeboat matches
  • Plasters, including blister plasters
  • Paper and pencil
  • Compass
  • String and spare lace
  • Scissors [fantastic neat folding scissors actually]
  • Bite and sting relief cream and bite and sting click-away
  • Insect repellent
  • Foil emergency blankets
  • Medications – antihistamine, ibuprofen, migraine tablets, paracetamol [we change these regularly so they are not out of date]
  • Sewing kit [not sure what emergency this is really for]
  • Swiss army knife with knife and corkscrew
  • Whistle
  • Tick lasso (for removing ticks)

In addition we also ensure we carry at least one charged mobile phone as well as a map and water on any walk or bike ride that is further than a trip to the shops.

The mountain safety advice is not to bother but should we carry a distress flare?  What do you always carry with you?

 

 

 

Spain & Portugal: What did a two months campervan trip cost?

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The river Tormes in Salamanca

We loved touring around Spain and Portugal and highly recommend it.  If you’re planning your own trip to these or many other European countries these costs might be a useful guide, although WARNING – everyone’s trip is their own and everyone’s spending is different.  We are not uber-frugal campers and anyone could do this trip cheaper [even we could if we tried] but this is our trip, it isn’t all about money and we set out to enjoy it in our own way.  So below are a few notes on our spending.

  1. Of the 66 nights we were away only seven of these were spent free-camping, the rest of the time we were on campsites [although we stayed on low-cost camperstops and ACSI sites].
  2. In Portugal we had coffee and cake in a cafe almost everyday because it is cheap enough and the cakes are fantastic [hence the €434 spent in cafes] but we are vegetarian and so had very few evening meals out in restaurants as Portugal isn’t always ready for vegetarians.
  3. We did drink wine or beer every night but we did try some very cheap [and very good] red wine [the lowest we tried was 1.89].
  4. As you can see, we paid to get in to some attractions as we travelled, budget travellers could skip these.
  5. Other spending includes an occasional washing machine, presents for loved ones at home, bike spares, some clothes and a few household replacement items.
  • Diesel – €523
  • Food [supermarkets etc] – €864
  • Cafes & restaurants – €434
  • Campsites – €931
  • Bus fares, taxis etc – €48
  • Entrance fees to attractions – €174
  • Other spending – €146
  • TOTAL SPENDING – €3,120

Interestingly, this amount is more or less the same as we would have spent had we stayed at home [and while away we’ve not been using gas, electric or water in the flat] so the only additional cost to our normal spending has been the ferry.  Portsmouth to Bilbao is an expensive route at £730 but it does take you straight to Spain and I feel that this amount represents better value when spread out over a two month trip.

We have been generous with our budget and expected higher spending than this on our trips away so our annual spending for our first year of retirement is still looking good at the moment despite additional spending following the incident.

 

Spain and Portugal campsites & overnights

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Evening light on a campsite

In the spirit of sharing for anyone who is planning their own trip to northern Spain and Portugal, during our two months trip around these two countries we stayed on some great campsites, a few indifferent ones and a few free camping places.  The full list with the low season cost and some comments are below:

Campsite name Comments Cost
Port at Portsmouth Edge of the lanes for checking in, facilities nearby open 05.00-23.30, some noise and 4 other vans  €           –
Casalarreina Aire near Haron, Spain On the edge of a small town, pleasantly situated by sports area, short walk in to Casalarreina and shops and cafes  €           –
Camping Fuente de la Treya, Soria Good hot showers, not the cleanest, main road above site so some noise, grassy and trees, okay for one night, electric €6/night  €    21.50
Camping Carion del Rio Lobos, Ucero, Spain Lots of shade under the trees, clean facilities, showers very fine spray and not quite warm enough  €    28.50
Camping El Acuedecto, Segovia, Spain On the edge of the city, marked pitches, buses to city, clean facilities & roomy showers, water not very warm, plenty of dishwashing and laundry sinks  €    26.00
Camping Gredos, Hoyos del Espino, Spain A sloping site in the pine trees, peaceful and walking & cycling in the natural park, excellent hot showers, wash up a bit grim, pitches a reasonable size  €    18.10
Camping Parque National Monfrague Malpartida de Plasencia, Spain A large site, ACSI, English spoken, some shade, uneven pitches, good hot showers, shop & bread  €    17.00
Camping Don Quijte, Salamanca, Spain Large, level and sandy pitches that are marked with hedges & have plenty of shade, good cycle route to the city and good hot showers with clean facilities, ACSI  €    17.00
Camping Sierra de la Culebra, Figueruela de Arriba, Spain A peaceful site in the countryside, some shade, sandy, facilities dated & have shower curtains but acceptable, ACSI  €    17.00
Active Lima, Entre Ambos-os-Rios, Portugal Site in pine trees, few definite pitches, facilities basic & no hot water at sinks, showers lukewarm, English spoken, ACSI  €    13.00
Parque de Campismo do Paco, Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal In eucalypus trees & oak, no marked pitches, popular site, facilities fine, hot showers & toilet paper, only lukewarm water for wash-up, ACSI  €    11.00
Parque de Campismo de Cerdeira, Campo do Geres, Portugal A large terraced level site under trees, organised & modern facilities, shop, showers, clean but lukewarm, wash up outdoors  €    23.00
Campismo Arco Unipessoal, Arco de Baulhe, Portugal Small terraced site, 300 m from a town, facilities open, clean & showers reasonably warm, open views to hills, wifi at bar, ACSI  €    17.00
Parque de Campismo Municipio de Meda, Portugal A neatly laid out small site by the swimming pool, good English spoken at reception, toilet paper, very hot showers, fully adjustable, clean facilities, good wifi on pitch, an excellent site by the town  €    11.00
Camping Quinta das Cegonhas, near Gouveia, Portugal Terraced site with views down the hillside, good information on walks, facilities clean & showers hot, English spoken, well organised, good wifi on pitch  €    19.10
Toca da Raposa, Meruge near Oliveira do Hospital, Portugal Small site with trees for shade, friendly welcome, walks information available, clean facilities & good hot showers, wifi at bar, ACSI  €    15.00
Coimbra Aire at Parque Verde / Piscinas, Portugal Car park near the town & river, popular & busy, road noise, toilets that are open in the day  €           –
Quinta do Pomarinho, Castelo de Vide, Portugal Sandy site with some trees but limited shade, lovely views of hills, good facilities, wifi by reception, 1 1/2 hr walk to town, hot showers, lots and lots of information about walks locally  €    20.00
Camping Alentejo, Evoramonte, Portugal By a busy road, flat site, some shade, pool, clean facilities, showers only warm  €    12.00
Costa do Vizir Camping, Porto Covo, Portugal Large site with many facilities near the village, showers fine & clean, paved roads, no views but peaceful  €    17.10
Foia Autocarravana parking near Monchique at 902 m, Portugal Car park with cafe, shops & antennae at top of hill, good views, traffic late at night & early morning  €           –
Vale a Carrasqueira Camperstop, Caldas de Monchique, Portugal 14 pitch camperstop with lovely views over a wooded valley, extra €2.50 to use pool, wifi, basic clean facilities, good hot showers  €    12.50
Camping Alvor, Alvor, Portugal large site with pool, shop & motorhome service pint, busy due to ACSI reduction, hot showers & clean facilities although a bit dated  €    13.00
Algarve Motorhome Park, Silves, Portugal Large gravel aire by the road, little shade, clean & tidy, 2 showers cost 50c each  €       8.50
Parque de Campismo Municipal de Serpa, Portugal Sandy site, some slope, some trees, good hot showers & clean facilities, Intermarche & cafes near & town only 10 mins away  €    10.05
Parque de Campismo Markadia, Odivelas, Portugal Beautiful & peaceful position on the reservoir with generous pitches, clean facilities, roomy & hot showers, bread  €    19.44
Orbitur Parque Campismo de Evora, Portugal Marked pitches, facilities dated but acceptable, showers hot, 2 kms from centre, large pitches  €    14.58
Elvas car park by Aqueduct, Portugal Large slightly sloping car park, beside the stunning aqueduct & 15 mins walk from the town, popular aire  €           –
Camping Os Anjos, Campo Maior, Portugal Small terraced site with open views, clean facilities, no toilet paper, water for wash up & showers not hot enough, information on walks, 1.5 kms from the lovely town  €    17.30
Camping Cuidad de Caceres, Spain Terraced site that is popular & large, each pitch with bathroom, some road noise, shower a bit feeble but hot & nice to have space, ACSI  €    17.00
Camping Parque National Monfrague, Malpartida de Pasencia, Spain Still busy but good welcome, wifi, roomy showers with hot water & good flow, good wash-up facilities, ACSI  €    17.00
Camino de Santiago Camping, Castrojeriz, Spain Peaceful site with marked out pitches & bread by small town, showers push button for short time but hot, only 1 hot tap for wash-up, ACSI  €    17.00
Camping de Haro, Spain Large site with shady marked pitches, well organised, heating in sanitary block & good hot showers, 10 mins walk from the town, ACSI  €    19.00
Bilbao Port for Britanny Ferries Flat & busy car park after check-in with toilets available, arrive between 16.00-19.00  €           –

Walking and camping around the Algarve

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The view from Foia, the highest point on the Algarve

We eventually reached the Algarve, the southern part of Portugal and although we did spend some time on the coast, we also explored the inland area of the Algarve and continued to find some good walking options, particularly in the Serra de Monchique, the wooded chain of hills in the south-western tip of Portugal.  The highest point of the Serra de Monchique is Foia at 902 metres above sea level.  This isn’t the prettiest summit, with telecommunication masts and a radar station dotted around the plateau but turn your back on the masts and it is a great viewpoint over the Algarve.  We wild camped here overnight and it is a peaceful spot once the cafe and gift shops have closed and we watched a spectacular sunset from our lofty spot.  At the summit there is an information board with details for the Trilho da Foia PR3 path which is 6.5 kms long and follows stone tracks beside well constructed terraces and ruined barns with shady stretches under chestnut and walnut trees.  The path winds steeply downhill, traverses along the road [and passes a couple of cafe stops] and ends with a knee-trembling climb back up to the summit.

The second highest summit in the Serra de Monchique is Picota at 774 metres high.  By contrast this is a more attractive summit than Foia with just a rickety look-out tower on the granite top.  The well-marked walk up to the hilltop is cool and shady through orange groves, cork oak and eucalyptus trees and is a perfect half-day excursion.  From the top the view across the town of Monchique to the wooded slopes of Foia is worth the climb.

We moved on to the lively and charming town of Silves, staying on one of the many aires in the town which has long been popular with motorhomers.  Here we followed a walk from the Sunflower Walking in the Algarve guide book that takes in the old windmill above the town.  This is an excellent view point back to Silves and its castle and over the green Arade river valley.

We don’t make repeat visits to many places when we are in continental Europe but we made an exception for Serpa and headed there as we moved back north away from the Algarve.  Serpa proved you can go back to places you love; I still think this small town in the Alentejo punches well above its weight.  The municipal campsite is very good, the local sheep’s cheese is sharp, fresh-tasting and excellent, the local pastries, Queijadas de Serpa are delicious and the pretty town has a relaxed atmosphere that easily detained us for a few days.

But our time in lovely Portugal is running out …

10.09 Sand sculptures and Silves (48)
The old windmill above Silves

Walking in central Portugal top tips

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Near the highest point of the Serra da Estrela at 1,993 metres

The Serra da Estrela are another of Portugal’s inland secrets, although no secret to the Portuguese as they are known for Torre, Portugal’s highest mainland point.  You can drive up to Torre and it isn’t the most stunning mountain top but there are plenty of places in the Serra da Estrela to find excellent and peaceful walking.  Our campsite near Gouveia on the western slopes of the natural park was an idyllic spot and also well organised with a folder of instructions in English for twelve local walks [more than enough even for us].  We had a perfect day’s walking, firstly to the top of Gravanho with a distinctive white trig point and then on to Folgosinho, the second highest village in Portugal, a sleepy place on a hot Monday afternoon where the most activity was at the newly renovated communal wash house.  We didn’t meet any other walkers all day on the sandy tracks and cobbled paths through pine and chestnut trees as well as fig, apple and walnut trees.  Descending from Folgosinho we passed the remains of a tungsten mine.  Mining and selling this rare metal bought prosperity to the area during the first and second world wars.

After a few days walking from a small and comfortable campsite near Meruge where the campsite dogs who accompanied us on a walk helped us spot a mole and a day of culture in Coimbra we crossed the river Tejo [or Tagus] and headed towards the border with Spain.  The scenery changed, to rolling plains, straighter roads, fields of cattle and olive groves as far as the eye can see.  We found a perfect campsite a few kilometres outside the lovely town of Castelo de Vide and were almost overwhelmed by the information on local walks and attractions that the helpful owner loaned us during our stay [campsite owners note, this meant we stayed longer than intended].  From the site we followed medieval paths over the hill to Castelo de Vide where we walked between some of the town’s many fountains, sampling the water from each one.  This was a great area for bird watching and we spotted a little owl, griffon vultures, fire crest, black cap, sardinian warblers, blue rock thrushes and many others.

Portugal is a land of castles and these Spanish border towns all have their own.  In Castelo de Vide the stone walls enclose the old town of white-washed houses and you can climb up to the tower for the view, walking along the apex of a roof and climbing steps with no handrails.  This is the beautiful Parque Natural da Serra de Sao Marmede  and there is plenty to see.  Another superb day out started with a taxi ride to the picture postcard lofty village of Marvao and after exploring the village and inevitable castle we walked back along the old lanes.

Near the interesting town of Evora is the Almendres stone circle with 95 standing stones in two circles, one inside the other.  The circle is in a woodland clearing on a hillside with a view of Evora in the distance.  The 4 kms track to the stone circle is a fairly well-made sandy track but we decided to cycle to the stone circle, rather than drive the ‘van up the track.  The cycling was hot and dusty in the lunchtime temperatures of over 30C but arriving in this way gave us a better sense of the landscape the stone circle sits in than if we had driven in our air-conditioned van there.

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Looking down on the winding streets of Castelo de Vide from the castle tower

Walking and cycling tips for northern Portugal

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The mountain village of Ermida

We started our tour of Portugal in the north with an intention to gradually move south.  The Peneda-Geres National Park is in the north-western corner of Portugal and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits.  We based ourselves in two places in the national park; firstly in Entre Ambos-os-Rios at Lima Escape, a shaded informal campsite by the river that was €13 a night and later in Parque Cerdeira in Campo de Geres, which at €23 a night was a tad expensive for us and much more regimented.  Both had good walks from the campsite and we also did some uphill cycling from Entre Ambos-os-Rios.  Lima Escape had good information about walking at reception.

On our walks we visited the granite villages of Sobredo, Germil and Ermida and we also travelled up to the picturesque hillside village of Sistelo.  In all of these villages the streets are narrow winding paved lanes and the old grey granite houses have small windows and often have steps up to the first floor with the newer houses built around the edges of the village hub.  These are agricultural villages and grapes and corn are the main crops grown on terraces lined with stone walls, the grapes often grown along pergolas over the road or around the field edges.  The corn cobs are dried in espigueiros, sheds sitting on stone legs to keep animals away, and the corn stalks are dried in stacks for animal feed.  The local horned caramel-coloured cows wander the lanes along with dogs and cats and small flocks of sheep.  We cycled to Ermida, only 8 kms along the road but the ride involves over 400 metres of ascent and some of this over 10%.  Weary and thirsty we searched out the village cafe finding it only because we noticed a couple of men chatting outside an open door.  There was no cafe name or sign, no tables with umbrellas, nothing to give it away as a cafe until we got inside and spotted the crates of beer and coffee machine.

From Campo de Geres we used a leaflet bought from the information centre for 10 cents and followed a 9 kms way-marked trail through the mountains and down to the reservoir where we had spectacular views and the route followed a Roman road that was busy with butterflies.  The information centre at Campo de Geres is well worth a visit as it has a number of self-guided walking leaflets available.

Away from the national park we stayed in the small town of Arco de Baulhe.  The campsite overlooks the river and terraces of vines and the work-a-day Portuguese town [that is no less pleasant for that] is just five minutes walk away.  For cyclists Arco de Baulhe is at the end of 40 kms long cycle route along an old railway line which provides excellent and scenic cycling along the river Tamega.  The tile below is one that decorates the public toilets next to the old railway station.  All of the old railway stations along the route have beautiful tiling and I had to stop and admire every one.

09.18 Walk around Arco de Bauhle (5)
Portuguese tiles are always worth stopping to look at