Archive for the ‘campervanning’ Category

As Bede has said we explored both a Roman Fort and Bede’s World this week.  Arbeia Roman Fort is in South Shields at the far end of Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England.  This place is fantastic!  We happened upon a day with archery demonstrations and Leah and the boys lined up eagerly for a turn!

Bede Arbeia Fort August 2010

Emmett Arbeia Fort August 2010

Archery Arbeia Fort August 2010

Bede and Emmett had a long discussion with some Roman soldiers about life in the fort and discovered that despite supposedly protecting Britannia from the Barbarians, Roman rules were fairly barbaric, girl babies and illegitimate children were killed at birth, women were treated very badly and life was brutal.  It was a cold day after a rainy night and this really brought home how uncomfortable and bleak life must have been in the muddy, cold barracks.  I know why the soldiers slept 4 to a bed now – it would have been the only way not to freeze – and we are here in summer!

Arbeia Barracks August 2010

Bede enjoyed the large display of falconry birds – he’s hankering after a Peregrine Falcon.  I was more interested in the lovely knot garden full of traditional herbs.  Emmett and Florence had a great time with the miniature catapults which have been well photographed so we can attempt to recreate one at home.

Catapult Arbeia Fort August 2010

Freaky Falcon - Bede would know what it really is...

Herb Garden Arbeia Fort August 2010

We could hardly drive past somewhere called Bede’s World!  I was very impressed at the carefully thought out museum that made the quite academic life of the Venerable Bede accessible and interesting to our Bede and to Emmett.  The boys were fascinated by St Bede’s scientific knowledge – he was aware the earth was round and that the orbiting moon caused the tides and even discovered the concept of latitude, although he called it something else.

Bede's World August 2010

Calculating dates Bede's World August 2010

Bede’s writing about Anglo-Saxon Britain is the best record of this part of English history and the museum has a working Anglo-Saxon farm.  We’ve been discussing the option of getting a little bit more than our 1/4 acre of land when we go back to NZ and Bede, Emmett and Flo wandered around the farm talking about when we get “our pigs” and “our horse” – the adults were more imagining a creek, two trees and a rope swing in our future…

The Skinner-Vennell Round the World Family Trip Pose

Today we packed up and returned our camper and headed south in a rental car.  We managed to give much of our extra gear (no longer needing sleeping bags, bedding and many of the toys acquired while campervanning) to other campers before dropping the last off at a charity shop and posting 8kg of special things back to NZ (watch out for 4 parcels coming surface mail Norah and Papa).   Bede went in and offered our duvet to a charity shop as the previous one wasn’t able to accept it due to rules – the man at Red Cross said he’d happily pass it on to someone who needed it but that it had to be brought in by an adult as he thought Bede might be playing a prank!  Bede thought this was hilarious!

The charity shop pile

We’re off to Roald Dahl’s house tomorrow and then to play with our Wales camping trip friends who happen to live near London.  We’re getting excited about meeting up with both old and new friends in Vancouver very soon!


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After our hectic schedule lately (!!) we have had a lovely few days away from wifi, cellphones and fastfood on the Isle of Mull, one of Leah’s ancestral homes.  To be serious we have noticed that our stamina has reduced after so many months of traveling and it was really good to do little other than wander on the beach and in the hills.  We camped at Calgary Bay on the Isle’s most remote point, a beautiful white sand beach with a well known wild camping site, there’s a toilet and little else there – although there were plenty of other campers given it’s the school holidays here.

Building waterfalls Calgary Bay August 2010

Our kids had made friends in minutes and we basically didn’t see the boys most days from dawn till dusk as they played along the shallow burn at the campsite, swinging from ropes, building sand creations and catting with mates.  Flo was so safe digging in the sand by the burn that even I read a book while she played.  It rained every day, but usually just as we were heading to bed so it didn’t cause too much disruption.  We did have 3 layers of merino on most of the time – in contrast to Italy where we were never comfortably cool, but I’d rather put more layers on than be too hot anyway!

Despite my extensive scouting background our attempts to have a roaring campfire on this trip have been somewhat pathetic.  We have still managed to have several meals of potatoes baked in the fire and sausages cooked on the fire though and bananas and chocolate and apples with raisins and cinnamon.  Wales and Scotland have few fire restrictions in campsites, although given the rainfall we’ve experienced I can imagine fire risk is rather low!

Next to the campsite there was a fantastic Calgary Art in Nature Centre, with sculptures through the woods and a quest for kids to participate in plus delicious food.  The island was very much like Southland and we all felt very comfortable there.

Sheep labyrinth Calgary Art in Nature August 2010

Bede and I hiked around the bay and up the hill one day in lovely sunshine and planned the “Skinner-Vennell Family do all the NZ Great Walks” adventure for another year…

Bede Calgary Bay August 2010

When we headed back to mainland Scotland we had great fun exploring Dunollie Castle, home to the MacDougall clan – ancestors on Leah’s side.  What an awesome place the MacDougalls picked for their castle – a cliff top looking out over the Hebridean Islands from Oban.  Emmett was thrilled to see how easily they could have picked intruders off the cliff side with arrows!  Bede had a new Percy Jackson book and barely managed to put it down till we found the wild raspberries…  Florence called them Doodal berries (as in MacDougall berries).

We managed to reduce our load quite a bit by donating to charity shops in Oban – had to get Flo out before she noticed all her toys were getting put in the toy bin in one place though!

Skinner-Vennells meet Dunollie Castle

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Today, we went to Hadrian’s wall first thing in the morning and there was an archery activity there.  Of course I had to have a go and it was 1 pound 50 for 3 arrows, Emmett and I got 6 goes each.   Emmett got 5 points and I think I got about 10 points, Leah got a bulls eye and popped the balloon.  After that we went up an old fort and at the top there was a Roman soldier and his squire, there was some armour, some swords, spears and daggers and also wood and catapults and lead ammunition for the catapults.

After that we went to Bede’s World, the reason we went there was because I was named after The Venerable Bede, he was a monk.  He was the first person ever to work out that the tide was caused by the moon.  His teacher was called Benedict which we all find funny because my uncle was called Benedict – Ben for short.  There was an Anglo-Saxon farm there too, we ate some beans and peas but best of all we found some blackberries!

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A Quest at Mull

We went to the Isle of Mull, which is about an hour ferry trip off the coast of Scotland.  On it we drove for about 45mins, to get to a camping ground that wasn’t really a camping ground, it was just a big bit of grass beside a creek that was beside the sea.  There I met an 11 year old called Callum and a 9 year old called Faith.  There was lots of swings, but one went over a creek, we played on that one till about 1030 at night. We told jokes and everything and played with Emmett and a 5 year old friend he had.  At Calgary Art in Nature there was a thing called the quest it’s like a scavenger hunt that you do, it’s really famous and when you do it, just as long as you get 2 questions right, if you visit the visitors centre in Craignure, where you catch the ferry, you get a stone.  They had run out when we went there but we got to sign the Great Book which is a huge book that you sign with an eagle’s feather, I signed for Flo, Emmett and I.

The Book Isle of Mull 2010

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I didn’t wash the dishes at Merrill’s house which made my Mums really angry so I had to go in the car for about half an hour.  Then I made brownies and everyone loved them with cream but they were nice without cream as well.  Later that day we went to Edinburgh but we didn’t actually go there we just went to a camping ground.  I made friends with a kid called Sean, he is ten and we played pool.  at the moment I can hear Flo screaming and that means that Emmett is picking her up.

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Neglected Blog

We’ve been so busy enjoying ourselves lately that I’ve run out of time to write about our trip.  Must get back to the blog because I know we’ll all enjoy reading about our trip when we’ve returned to our “normal” lives!

Recycled Jewellery August 2010, Wales

We had a fantastic week in Wales, as you can see from Bede’s post and the lovely poem I got from my birthday.  Camping beside the Centre for Alternative Technology was a perfect birthday gift for me.  I was inspired by the gardens and technology, I think my next project will be to go one step further than our solar hot water and get some photo-voltaic cells on the roof.  This used to be a very difficult and expensive business because of the batteries to store the energy produced, but these days it’s easy to just wire back into the National electricity grid and be paid for your extra power on sunny days and then buy it back when the weather is not so good.  Our solar hot water heater was purchased with a government supported interest free loan and paid for itself within three years – when in NZ we pay for no hot water in summer and very little in winter, even in the rather wet Palmerston North, so I suspect PV cells will also be a good investment financially, not just in the future of the planet!

The kids loved the really steep funicular up to the CAT centre and the fantastic children’s programme.  I’m sporting two beautiful necklaces made from recycled paper beads and we donated the basil plants they have been growing to Merrill since they weren’t going to get through customs after we leave here!

Willow Tunnel, CAT, August 2010

After leaving Wales, with plans to catch up with our new friends once more before we leave the UK, we headed to Langholm, in Scotland and were treated like royalty by Merrill and Dan (and Merrill’s mum Helen) and got to meet Keiran and Miller.  We did lots of reminiscing about our university days ten! years ago and ate lots of yummy food.

We have spent today in Edinburgh, mostly at a lovely fair trade craft fair and in the city gardens, right in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.  We are off to explore the Isle of Mull tomorrow, one of the parts of Scotland our family has roots.  We’ll probably pitch up somewhere pretty remote for the next week – so it might be a while till you hear about it!

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We cooked our dinner on a fire for three nights.  The first night it rained as though Zeus wanted to kill someone and it was difficult to keep the fire going.  I liked the the potatoes and the Quorn sausages we cooked on it.  We made a mud slide under a swing so when we went down it with a move that I invented called “skiddy widdy woo” it was really fast and we did tripple spins and landed like we were snowboarding.  We got muddy and mum was angry because we were leaving that day.

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