Birthday bonanza.. (part 1)

It has been a long winter in the Hymertrails household, lots of non vanlife stuff going on. Firstly, I am having work woes, do I have a job, don’t I have a job, who knows, hopefully by the middle of the summer I’ll have a clearer idea of what on earth is going on!!

The Hymertrails gang are also in the (horrible) process of selling our house, we have fallen out of love with our smallish Welsh miner’s cottage, well its mainly a case of not wanting neighbours, longing for somewhere to park Hank and having a smaller environmental footprint. We have a big garden for a small house and even though we love it, we used to grow loads of our own vegetables and fruit, since owning Hank we have less and less time at home and every time we are there we want to go away in Hank!!

February is the first spare time we have and it’s Claire’s birthday so it’s time for a trip. Wiltshire calls so we are off, first stop Avebury. We’ve been coming here for many years and it’s in an area we really love returning to time and time again. Parked up in the pricey £7 per day car park we pack our bags and set off with the hounds for a walk around the stone circle. It’s a bitterly cold day so it’s a quick loop, a wander around the village and we pop the hounds back in Hank while we stroll to the pub hoping for a quick meal and a local ale. Nooooo, the goddess is not smiling on us today, no food and the pub hasn’t had a delivery of any local ales today. Oh well, onwards to our stop for the night, a Camping in the Forest site in Savernake Forest.

Misty morning in Savernake forest.

All set up for the night we settle down for some food, take Tilly and Belle for a late evening forest walk and plan a little for the next few days.

Beeches at Savenake forest.

Up early and after a hearty Hymer breakfast, well cereal, toast and tea it’s off with the hounds for an early morning walk. It’s a misty old start to the day, the forest is eerily quiet and only the occasional dog walker emerging from the mist breaks the silence. Breakfast time for the hounds and it’s onward for a day of birthday adventures

First stop is a short drive away through the ancient Wiltshire landscape to Knapp Hill. We own a copy of ‘A Wiltshire Dog Walkers Guide’ by Nigel Vile which is a fabulous resource we have used for years, great suggestions for dog friendly walks, often with no stiles, livestock and generally through the best bits of the area. Knapp Hill is a Neolithic camp and the walk (5km) will visit the Alton Barnes White Horse, follow the ancient Wansdyke and cross Milk Hill.

Stunning views from Milk Hill.
Belle on the ancient Wansdyke!!
Rest time means treat time!!!

What a fabulous walk, we had amazing 360-degree views from the Wansdyke out across the rolling landscape of Wiltshire. Stopping to get our breath at the top we sat back, relaxed and watched the raptors circling on the thermals rising from the ancient landscape surrounding us. After rounding Milk Hill, we spotted the Alton Barnes White Horse below us so again we sat and watched a group of huge Red kites soaring on the up draughts seemingly copying and toying with a group of local paragliders.

Alton Barnes White Horse.

It had been a spectacular walk and one we will probably do again so after the exicitement of the final 500m and a field full of sheep, our hounds don’t do sheep, it was back to Hank for tea and cake. Just a short drive back to Savernake for our second night camping in the forest and time for another evening stroll, food and settling into the warmth of Hank.

Belle on early morning Deer watch!!

A new day brings another misty start and another spooky walk through the silent old forest. Hoping for deer glimpses Tilly and Belle are in stealth mode but no luck today just more early morning dog walkers.

It’s time to move on so we get fed, washed and ready for the off. The weather is looking promising, sunny intervals, so we leave Savernake forest and wind our way across Wiltshire to Ashdown house, an old estate near the Ridgeway trail that looks promising for a walk and picnic.

Snowdrops carpet the woodland floor.

Our luck is in we manage to squeeze old Hank into the small woodland car park, load up a few bits and head off for a lovely woodland walk through the spectacular display of Snowdrops. Tilly and Belle are in their element today, its sunny, warm for the time of year and they are in the woods, happy houndy days!! It’s a lovely little slice of Wiltshire and we get great views of Ashdown house which is closed today unfortunately.

Ashdown House looking a lot like a large dolls house!

Back to Hank and its picnic time so Tilly and Belle get back in for a snooze while we sit on a lovely sunny picnic bench and tuck in to some lovely vegetarian lunch treats, well rolls and fruit. Tea all round and some lovely homemade cake from my step-mum and we are set up for a snoozy afternoon relax.

Our thoughts turn to a park up for the night and off we go towards the Ridgeway and Uffington White Horse and Dragon Hill a short drive away. We pass a car parking area that is a short walk from Wayland’s Smithy a Neolithic Long Barrow and Chambered Tomb and given we have stayed here previously we agree we will come back later. On the other side of the Ridgeway we stop off at Ashbury for a local ale at the Rose and Crown, impressing the watching crowd with our reverse parking prowess! It’s a beautiful afternoon so we sit outside on a wooden bench and watch the expensive cars go through the village.

Hank parked up near Wayland’s Smithy – June 2017

Arriving at Uffington we park up in the dwindling light and head up the hill to Uffington castle, an ancient earthwork near the Uffington White Horse and Dragon Hill. It’s a beautiful end to a fabulous day, vanlife in all its glory!!

Tilly at Uffington.

With night creeping up on us we park up at the Ridgeway pull-in with a VW and another van and settle in for a lovely evening, some food, late dog walk along the ancient Ridgeway before turning in for the night.

After an early start our thoughts turn to home, the longish journey ahead and the unfortunate scenario of work the following day. Oh well, there are more adventures on the horizon and with luck on our side, a lucky sale of our house we may find ourselves full-time van dwellers. Exciting times ahead for the Hymertrails gang…

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