Friday, November 28, 2008

York, Sherwood Forest & Hemel Hempstead (27/11, at 8:30pm)

These long drives are starting to take their toll -- I'm falling asleep earlier at night, and finding it difficult getting going in the mornings. It's still cold, but not as cold as Scotland -- about 10 degrees this morning.

The campsite we stayed at overnight, Maustin, has nice facilities (including free wifi), but I was glad to leave it. There was nobody else staying here, and the camp wardens weren't exactly fussed about making sure we were comfortable.

We left Maustin about 9:45 (after a lovely cooked breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs, courtesy of Juliette), and headed to York. After a brief stop to fill up the tank (oddly, diesel costs more here (around GBP1.08/litre) than petrol (at about 98p/litre)), we decided to risk going into York itself rather than use a Park+Ride. We found our way, but took a wrong turn trying to get to the Castle car park, so ended up going up a narrow street, with cars parked all done one side. I almost clobbered a pedestrian with the left wing mirror, and at one point had to drive onto the footpath to get past a parked van. Nerve-wracking, but we got around the block and back to the carpark. There was no height limits that we could see (the local council's website said "electronic barrier", but no alarms went off), so we drove in, took up two parks, and paid GBP2 for an hour's parking.

It was a hop, skip and a jump through to the Jorvik Viking Centre, which is an underground exhibit based on archaeological digs around York. It's more geared to kids: you first got into a "time machine" that took you back to 866 CE, then you go through onto a ride, with chairs suspended from the ceiling following a track through a reconstruction of a Viking village. It was quite cool, especially the way the chair swivels to point you in the direction of whatever the voice track is talking about. After the ride, you go through a display of artifacts (including staff dressed in period costume), before emerging in the gift shop (where we were very restrained).

After a brief stop to grab coffees from Starbucks, we headed back to the van and got out of the carpark without too much trouble. Back on the road again, we headed for a small village in Nottinghamshire called Edwinstowe, to visit Sherwood Forest. The Forest is much reduced from its Robin Hood days -- only a few acres remain. But they have a nice visitor's centre, and a walk through the trees. The main attraction is the Major Oak, an oak tree that's estimated to be around a thousand years old, but the rest is a pleasant woodland walk, very quiet, the only disturbances being other walkers (with Juliette accosting anyone with a dog!) and the squirrels.

By the time we left, it was nearly 3:30, and Betty was telling us it would take us till 6pm to get to Sarratt (a small village in Hertfordshire, where my Mum was born), so we headed straight to the Caravan Club camp site at Hemel Hempstead. Of course, there were roadworks all down the M1, and the exits had been moved around, so we'd already gone past the turn-off before the GPS told us to take the exit! We ended up taking a later exit, and having to negotiate several roundabouts before getting onto the A414. Fortunately, the campsite was easy to find after that, and a couple of petrol stations close by meant it was easy to get some supplies (though having to dash across the 60mph road to get to the BP was entertaining).

We've just had dinner, and I'm knackered (we've travelled over 600 miles in three days!). Juliette's going to do her own entry for the blog, but I think I'll just go make a cup of coffee and fall into bed.

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