I'm beginning to think wistfully of getting away this summer up north, using the caravan of course. I last holidayed in the north (using a farm near York as my base, with forays into Cumbria and Teesside) in September 2010. It's about time I treated myself to another visit. And need I add that meeting up with frends old and new will be part of the pleasure?
This summer I'm going to be ambitious, and aim for Durham, Tyneside and Northumberland, very possibly revisiting Berwick-on -Tweed, North Berwick and Edinburgh, then returning via the Lake District, the Peak District, Norfolk and Suffolk.
Say 20 nights away, and 2,000 miles covered.
I'm looking then at £500 or so for diesel, and £250 for site fees: £750 for both.
£200 of the fuel cost, and all my food and other personal expenditure, will be covered by what I would ordinarily spend if simply staying at home. So really there's only £550 to find, and in theory this is covered by my 2013 holiday budget of £600. But then I'll want to have other caravan outings.
So in practice I'll need to have quite a few 'stay in and spend nothing' days during the first half of the year, to get that £550 together - about three weeks of them, on and off. That'll be three weeks of serious gardening in my back garden. A fresh project is born: I will make my back garden resemble the Garden of Eden, and in the process give myself some exercise and a nice tan.
I suppose this will mean no fitness classes, because of their cost, but hey ho. The prospect of a blockbuster Northern and Anglian Tour, and a well-sorted back garden, is a lot more attractive!
I consider myself quite well-travelled where the UK mainland is concerned. But there are still so many places I've never been to. I'll be wanting to fill in a few gaps. And travelling on my own, with nobody else to consult and consider, I have the flexibility to change plans in in instant, to investigate something on a sudden whim. Whatever happens, it will be a photographic orgy.
Here's an example of the sort of place seen in a hurry some years back, which now needs a more careful look. It's the famous Allendale Chimneys. These are high up on bleak Dryburn Moor, between the East and West Allen valleys in western Northumberland. M--- and I stopped off to look at them one afternoon in September 2006:
They are an odd sight up on this very empty moorland. They are clearly proper chimneys, not monuments or follies. What were they for? Both chimneys have at least one opening at the base, facing down the valley, but are just bare stonework inside:
Even curiouser, they are both connected to the East Allen valley below, nearly three miles away, by curious tunnels, mostly caved in, so that in places they look like dried-up water channels with the occasional stone bridge built over:
The explanation is straightforward and mundane. Down in the valley, from the early 1600s, lead smelting used to take place, and the noxious fumes were made to flow up to the moor through very long flues built upon the surface of the rising valley sides - horizontal chimneys as it were, with vertical endpieces, so that the poisonous fumes could be whisked away by the persistent Pennine wind.
There wasn't time in 2006 to 'walk the flues'. But I might do that when next up there.
Dryburn Moor was like a lot of the High Pennines: beautiful but desolate; sweet in the summer sun; but most definitely not a place to be at night, nor in the teeth of a cruel winter's gale. Over at Ribblehead, near Dent, on the west side of the Pennines, I saw in 2010 a lovely sunny afternoon change abruptly into the kind of driving rain and hail that would chill to death anybody not properly dressed for it. The uplands of Britain are not the Himalayas, but they still need to be treated with respect.