FrancePosted by normanbaker Sat, February 11, 2017 11:58:17 Escorted Motorhome Tour versus Independent Tour
We look at the cost of an escorted tour to Normandy with one of the main UK camping clubs and compare it with the alternatives.
Well you are the proud owner of your new motorhome and you want to make your first foreign venture, so do you choose an escorted trip with one of the main camping clubs or do you do your own thing. Or perhaps you are attracted to the added features of the escorted tour.
Well let’s have a look at what is on offer by one of the major UK camping clubs on its trip to Normandy.
Like all travel companies, it is in the marketing and bearing in mind that these are profit making organisations, you have to decide whether the added value excursions etc are worth the premium that you will have to pay. Gone are the days when these are organisations run by members for benefits of members, though this can still be found in events such as rallies and temporary meets, so I do not have to keep my cynical head on all of the time.
So what do you get for your 11 day escorted trip for just under £1000. For a starter you do not get your cross channel ferry fares.
You do get 10 days of campsite fees but given that you will struggle to pay over 20 euros a night, a total of £170 for the trip, this will be a small proportion of your £1000. The club makes virtues that it is using pre Brexit exchange rates but if you use a decent credit card, you can avoid fees and mitigate against these exchange rate movements, by getting the better exchange rates offered by Visa or Mastercard.
So let’s look at the added value trips, which in this case focuses on the Normandy battlefield tours.
The trip includes a shared tour of the battlefields which you should be able to pick up at about 110 euros each, total 220 euros or £187
If you want to do the British sector then try:
This will set you back about the same, 220 euros or £187
So for half the cost you can do it yourself. Sorry I forgot the welcome meal, well for 80 euros or £68 you can eat like a king.
Even more fun is to camp next to the landing beaches and do your own thing. Get hold of the ACSI guide from your camping club for about £13, which will give you a whole list of sites for under 19 euros a night. There is loads of information available without a guide and you will save nearly £400 for two.
Also France is motorhome friendly so for instance if you wanted to go to Pegasus Bridge there is loads of parking. You could stay at the campsites at Merville Franceville Plage and take the 30 minute off road cycle route to the bridge.
Or get it directly from www.campingcard.com
I get mine sent annually and it costs even less.
Campsite at Bayeux
This is a municipal site which often offer excellent value and good facilities and this one is no exception and the ideal base for the battlefield tours and of course a visit to the Bayeux Tapestry.
Campsite at Honfleur
Though this site is a little way from the centre it is a better site than the more centrally situated one and it is on a bus route to Honfleur. Moreover it is a low season ACSI discount site.
So the bottom line is do you want to pay £1000 for a trip you could do for half of that on a like for like basis or for £200 or less if you set out to explore yourself.
If you are still hell bent on an escorted tour check out the ACSI tours, which appear at first sight to offer better value than the main UK camping clubs.
Escorted or Independent Tour
The tour escorts will hold your hand
You will travel with fellow Brits, group camaraderie
All organised for you, campsites etc and added value trips and dinners
Coach trips possibly suitable for people with restricted mobility
Lack of flexibility, if you like somewhere or want to stay longer, you have to
move on with the itinerary.
Danger that you will not mix with other motorhomers outside of your group
EnglandPosted by normanbaker Mon, June 20, 2016 13:31:33
After a couple of visits to Bempton , we decided to walk to
Bridlington,along the cliffs, via Flamborough Head, a fairly lengthy walk but extremely enjoyable with some
fantastic cliff views, perhaps the highlights were before you reach Flamborough Head and this
seems to be the area dominated by the kittiwakes.
Kittiwake all 'tyred out'
We decided to have morning coffee at the Headlands, as we
were too early for lunch, though with hindsight, we wish we had, as we did not
arrive in Bridlington until 2.30.The Headlands looks a very nice place for
Bridlington is quite an interesting place, as you descend
from the genteel Sewerby , with its cricket pitch on the cliffs,six and not out
but the ball goes over the cliff, and you continue down the long esplanade you
get that Eastbourne feeling, very pleasant indeed. The pretence continues down
North Marine Drive and then you hit the central area, where your eardrums are
accosted by the entertainment establishments and your vision by the tackiness
of these establishments, but thankfully it is only for a short distance. Then
not everyone will get excited about a gannet colony.The interior of the town,
though perhaps with no obvious centre is not unpleasant.
As we were late for lunch, now mid afternoon, we had an
excellent takeaway, freshly cooked to order, from Wards, who also introduced me
to ‘sraps’, batter bits to us southerners.
A bus back to Flamborough was in order, with a short walk
from the village back to the Grange.
Other campsites in the area
Woldfarm, which is just up from the Grange, on the track
outside of the site and the added advantage that it is nearer to the cliffs and
with direct access from the campsite. We discounted this site, despite good
reviews, because it did not appear to have any hard -standings.
Caravan Club Site Bridlington
Suitable for caravan owners but too far from Bempton if you
have a motorhome.
EnglandPosted by normanbaker Mon, June 20, 2016 12:47:36
The RSPB reserve at Bempton has to be one of the best places
on mainland Britain to see seabirds with the largest onshore Gannet Colony but
also the largest Kittiwake Colony, add
in Guillemots and Razor Bills and also that cheeky chappy that steals the show,
the clown of the seaworld, the Puffin. The latter are not in the same numbers
as the others but a significant colony and distinquishable from a distance as
the only seabird on this coast which appears to have red wellies.
Add in the odd fulmars, shags to be seen just above the
crashing waves and if you are lucky a peregrine and you have one of the best
sea watching spots in the UK.
What strikes you about a seabird colony, other than the
cacophony of noise and of course the smell, is the precarious nature of the
birds’ existence and their nesting sites as they cling perilously to the near
vertical cliff faces .Also add in what appears to be a fair amount of
squabbling as the various species compete for valuable and what appears to be limited
nesting spaces. Yet despite this, there is a considerable co-existence between
the species and impressively you get the odd guillemot or razor bill nesting
within Gannet City.
Gannet & Guillemots
Entry to the reserve is Non-members: adults £3.50, children
(aged 5-17) £1.50, family (two adults and two children) £8.50, though if you
walk along the cliff then effectively entrance is free, though as we are
members then also entry is free. What is
impressive about Bempton, other than the birdlife is the efforts that the RSPB
has made to make birding accessible. There are disabled walkways together with
viewing platforms and a number of helpers who will patiently explain the
difference between the seabird species. The café is not bad either for a cuppa
and a snack.
Our base was Grange Holidays, which as well as offering a
campsite, also has farmhouse accommodation and cottages to let. We chose the
Grange as it had hard standings, as we had previously a few weeks before come
to grief on grass in Norfolk. The Grange is a well-kept site with a new toilet
block and showers, kept scrupulously clean and it also has a washing up
facility with lashings of hot water. Unfortunately it does not have a motorhome
service point. The welcome was first class and the site has a pleasant open rural
feel and less than a mile to the cliffs, with directions given by the wardens.
The reserve is probably another couple of miles but the big
advantage is that you do not have the crowds but still plenty of birdlife and
with the added advantage of meeting a local farmer, who photographs and studies
the bird behaviour and who was a wealth of knowledge. Additionally this is
where we had the best observations of puffins. Also do not forget to look
inland for corn bunting and linnets.
After an excellent lunch and a mosey around the RSPB shop
and a look at the cam shots of the Gannets we proceeded north in the direction
of Filey and again we lost the crowds and were rewarded with close up views of
the Gannets as they came to the clifftop to gather nesting material.
EnglandPosted by normanbaker Tue, June 07, 2016 22:03:55
Though there are campsites in Ripon, we decided to stay at
and take the bus from
Harrogate. The 36 bus which runs between Ripon and Leeds via Harrogate is an
absolutely superb service, with buses running every 15 minutes to late in the evening and with a luxurious
The same could not be quite said for the Dales bus number
139, which we took for our trip to Fountains Abbey. This is an infrequent
service not only on the times operated but also on the number of the days of
the week but we chose Monday, which is one of their operating days, though I
understand that a different company operates a Sunday service. The bus was half
an hour late and a quick telephone call confirmed that it was on its way. The
label on the driver’s shirt claiming ‘Luxury Coach Travel’ was a bit off the
mark for this workhorse but it did the trick, the driver was incredibly polite.
In fact the delay
worked in our favour as it allowed us to arrive at Fountains Abbey closer to
12.00 and time for an early lunch. We must confess we are fans of NT lunches;
they are well prepared, tasty and always have vegetables. The Abbey is about a
10 to 15 minute walk from the visitor centre and suitably fortified for a quick
appreciation of this magnificent building before joining a one and a half hour
The Abbey is nothing but imposing, its ruins magnificent and
on par with any cathedral in the country and this together with the not so
large but impressive Ripon cathedral indicates the wealth and power that the
church occupied. The guide gave us a superb insight into the history of the
Abbey up to dissolution and beyond.
What we did not know was that the reason that this is a
world heritage site is because of its magnificent water gardens and this
occupies two thirds of the tour, though a reasonable part of that time is
occupied by walking the extensive grounds. The water gardens which were part of
the Studley Royal Mansion were created by John Aislabie in 1718 is and is one
of the best surviving examples of a Georgian water garden in England. We cannot praise our guide highly enough he
was informative, kept us interested and was witty at the same time, in a very
quietly spoken manner.
The only thing that remains of the house, burnt down by a
fire in 1946, is the stable block, which is now a private residence. An
interesting yarn was told by our guide, that the fire brigade, on receiving a
call about the fire, proceeded to the pub with a similar name and then reported
that the pub was safe and in the meantime Studley Royal Manor burnt down. Glad
to see that the firefighters had their priorities right.
The tour finishes near the other entrance to the grounds and
afternoon teas was taken overlooking the lake. The plan was to take the walk
back through the grounds, taking the higher walk to gain a different
perspective but we decided to continue and walk to Ripon, about a couple a miles
from this gateway, passing through the deer meadow on route. In any case you have to have a reason to
We approached Ripon by taking a very pleasant river walk.
The town is dominated by its cathedral and associated historical buildings and
this is a very pleasant area of town or should I say city. It nevertheless has
an attractive market square as a reminder of its importance as a market centre.
Ripon was a fitting end to a great day out courtesy of the number 36 bus.
EnglandPosted by normanbaker Tue, June 07, 2016 21:25:48
Harrogate,Knaresborough & Ripley
My expectation was of a rural idyll on the outskirts of
Harrogate; it is strange how the name of the site did not translate into the
illusions that I had in mind. It is an open site with park homes on one side
and statics and permanently sited caravans on the other, with a field in the
middle, which I assume would be for tents and in front of the field were two
areas for tourers.
It is nevertheless a well-kept site and we had an excellent
reception. The toilet block was always clean but there was only one shower in
each of the ladies and gents with one other which doubled as a family room and
disabled facility, though there was no ramp into the block. We experienced no
problems re delays but it could be a different ball game in busier periods.
There is no motorhome service point but there are 4 fully serviced pitches and
hard standings are available.
The real plus of the site is its position, on a direct cycle
route to Knaresborough, about 2 miles, by turning left out of the site, along
Bilton Lane. The descent into Knaresborough is reasonably steep and the ascent
from the river to the town and the castle is very steep.
An alternative is to walk but rather than taking the
cycleway, turn right out of the site and take the first footpath on your right,
signposted to Nidd Gorge. You cross open farm land before the path descends to
the river and you turn right and follow it into Knaresborough.
Alternatively you can turn left and follow the river to the
Nidd Viaduct, which took the old railway over the river and is now a cycle
route into Ripley and Harrogate. If you turn left at the viaduct you have a
circular walk back to the campsite. In May the walk by the river was stunningly
beautiful, with bluebells, wood anemones and wild garlic.
With regard to Knaresborough, you will not be disappointed;
it is a gorgeously beautiful town with cafes running alongside the river where
you can choose to eat or take a drink or if you are feeling more energetic take
a boat out, though on a beautifully sunny Sunday it was a bit like ‘Piccadilly
Circus in the Rush Hour’ and it was great fun watching the rowers trying to
navigate their boats.
The town has everything you could ask for, a stunning river
location, an impressive railway viaduct over the river, a ruined castle,
dismantled in the ‘English Civil War’ and a pleasant market square and it even
has its own ravens. As a result,
understandably it proves to be very popular and more so at the weekends and on
this weekend there was a folk dancing festival.
Turn right out of the site and walk past the pub, ‘The
Gardeners Arms’ which looks like it was
an old agricultural pub and it looks like it has not been altered in years and
was very atmospheric. It also has a large garden which proves to be very
popular; it may have something to do with the fact that it is a Sam Smith’s pub
and the beer is cheap.
You pass the pub and pick up the cycle way into Harrogate,
it is only about a 40 minute walk from the campsite.
Harrogate is a pleasant enough town, though my expectations
were somewhat higher as everyone raves about it. There is an older area,
Montpelier, which is quite
atmospheric, and some other attractive buildings and some
pleasant open spaces. There are some fine examples of wrought iron work, of
which the bus station provides fine examples but other parts of the town are
like any other high street.
It is also famous for
Bettys the iconic Edwardian café with its very attractive frontage,
though we decided to give it a miss as we hit it at the weekend and we have since given up on queuing. We found a
lovely alternative overlooking the gardens.
We had a very pleasant lunch at Timberlakes in Montpelier.
If you turn right along the cycle way, after about 3 miles
you come to Ripley. The cycle way is very attractive and as it follows an old
railway line, it is easy cycling. The village is very pretty and one of its
star attractions is Ripley Castle, a 14th century fortified house.
Entry to the house on weekdays is half the price of summer weekends an also the
gardens are free to visit on weekdays.
There is a nice café before the entrance to the castle and a
good pub, ‘The Boar’s Head’.
We also cycled up the lane past the castle and part of the
cycle route to Ripon. This is a bit up and down and it is a popular walk but it
is beautiful and some of the best bluebells seen, comparing very favourably
with ours in Bucks.
EnglandPosted by normanbaker Tue, May 17, 2016 14:09:40
We based ourselves at Holme Valley Camping which is situated about a mile outside of Holmfirth, infamously renowned for its locations used for the BBC series 'Last of the Summer Wine'.
You can have tea at Sid's Cafe, which somehow I did not realise was the cafe used in the series, despite the large cardboard cutout of Nora Batty, which somehow I missed. You can even take a tour of the locations used, which we gave a miss as we were not fans of the series.
The campsite is located around a small lake and on the banks of the River Holme.It is a very picturesque campsite, though the entrance appears narrower,than it actually is but you still need to access it steadily. The site has two toilet blocks, a recently opened modern block with excellent facilities and a older block. There is no motorhome service point but there is a manhole available to dumpgreywater.
Holmfirth is more than just a TV location, it is renowned for the number of festivals it hosts throughout the year and it is a gorgeously attractive town. Its main draw for us,however,is that it offers some fantastic scenery, now that its industrial past as a textile town has been confined to the past. Tourism and agriculture are the main drivers of the local economy nowadays.WALK
It is about a 35 minute walk into town and the campsite will give you details of the walk, which will avoid the main roads and follows the River Holme for a good part, emerging at the bus station, via the Co Op, which is good for supplies.WALK RAMSDEN RESERVOIR about 8 miles, with gorgeous views of Holme Valley
Walk into town & coffee at the cafe next to Sid's & pick up a pork pie for lunch.
Walk past the church and take Cemetery Road and follow cycle route 68, until you come to a T junction and then turn right. You want to head towards Holmbridge and you will always see the church in the distance. You come to another T junction and you turn right and head towards the village and then you take a minor road on your left and keeping left, you head towards Brownhill Reservoir. You continue past the reservoir to a great picnic spot overlooking Ramsden reservoir. After lunch,continue to follow the track,with the reservoir on your right until you come to a house and then you take the footpath on the left. Walk up the hill and at the top turn right and you are now on a wide track. You come to a T junction, head left and follow all the way until you come to a road.
Do not take this road,which is cycle route 68, but the track immediately to the right and follow this all the way into Holmfirth.
On the way you go through Cartworth Moor and amazingly you will come across a cricket pitch and a football pitch, the latter has certainly seen better days.
You also pass a Camping and Caravanning Club CS with amazing views and as the owner said, who we met drywalling on the lower road, 'it is stunning on fine days though with the wind howling nad driving rain on this open site it would perhaps be a little different'
FrancePosted by normanbaker Mon, November 26, 2012 18:18:45
After leaving the Roman town of Autun, we headed back north via the Burgundy Canal, with the aim of tracing it to its starting point at Migennes. Following the Roman theme our first stop was at Venarey Les Laumes,adjacent to Alise Sainte Reine which is below Mount Auxois and the alleged site of the battle of Alesia.
In 52BC Julius Caesar with the aid of elaborate encircling fortifications besieged a Gaul army, under the celebrated Vercingetorix ,four times larger than his own. The end result, amidst much brutality, as is common with the Roman army is that the Gauls came second. Vercingetorix surrendered not before evicting his women and children who became entrapped between the two armies and were left to starve. Vercingetorix was taken back to Rome, paraded as the defefeated enemy before being executed 5 years later.
There is a museum which also displays an example of the considerable formidable fortifications but there is a snag. There is some dispute whether this is the actual site of the battle, there is a challenger, Chaux des Crotenay in the Jura and amidst the competing claims, there are accusations of skulduggery and the fact that the French have spent a lot of money on the museum, has nothing to do with the fact that Alise has the support of the authorities, as the official site, ever since Napoleon 3rd in 1860 who commissioned a massive statue of Vercingetorix.
Further details of the competing claims can be found at:
Anyway our main aim was to cycle the canal and chill out. We stayed at the excellent, appropriately named Camping Municipal Alesia which was a pleasant site with spacious pitches and many surrounded by hedges. It was very clean and as normal very reasonably priced.
The canal is a very short ride from the site and in one direction south to Pouilly en Auxois. It is well surfaced and is a steady climb and we passed 45 locks in about 15 miles. No problem for boat owners here, not that there were many, as the locks are operated by lock keepers who beetle up and down the towpath on their mopeds covering the locks that they are responsible for. Many lock keepers also appear to compete with each other to see who has either the best gardens or in some cases the most bizarre.
FrancePosted by normanbaker Sat, November 24, 2012 18:59:56
We were on our way from Chalon sur Saone to cycle the Burgundy Canal when we decided to take a detour for a bit of culture.
We stopped at the excellent ex municipal site, just outside of the town but committed the cardinal error of arriving at lunchtime but never mind, we filled up at the spacious motorhomeservice point, so no tricky reversing and then found ourselves a very spacious pitch, surrounded by hedges and overlooking the meadow and the town at the back. We settled down to lunch and met the warden afterwards and settled up, all very relaxed as is so common in France. No rules and regulations to contend with and at 19 euros a night with EHU and very clean sanitary facilities, who can argue.
A short walk from the site takes you across the Roman river crossing to the Porte d'Aroux and to the entrance of the Roman garrison town of Augustinium.
A circular walk from this bridge,takes you to the other river crossing and the other impressive Roman ruin, 'The Temple of Janus'
To visit the town, you have to retrace your steps and go back through the Roman gate; do not be put off by the 15 minute walk through the outskirts of the town which are promisingly unimpressive.
You soon arrive in the attractive historical square, the main shopping area, which is a good spot for refreshments and chilling.The pattisseries and chocolate shops are definitely worth stopping for. A short walk up takes you to the equally impressive St Lazarus cathedral, apparently his relics are in the cathedral. There are some very atmospheric restaurants in the high town. The town also has a very impressive Roman theatre,which can be reached by signpost from the high town. Unfortunately when we were there, it was the subject of a somewhat plasticky French Spectacle, plastic gladiators and chariots but the town has to make its money somewhere. You continue to walk down to the other well preserved if somewhat altered Roman gate, Porte St Andre. After you have negotiated the town outskirts you will find the town is very appealing and soon grows on you, it is reasonably compact yet at the same time having plenty to occupy you. If you do want to stay free, the town does have an aire, at the top of the town and the town is certainly worth a visit, not just for its well preserved Roman walls and remains, though they are undoubtedly a big attraction.
St Lazarus cathedral from the excellent 'municipal' site on the outskirts of town