Rolling Down to Ripon – Tour Four Begins
The time is eight a.m. on Saturday the 24th of August, and Iggy the Hymer motorhome is snoozing peacefully in a corner of the motorhome friendly carpark in Ripon, North Yorkshire. ( 54.136200,-1.52054 ) Just round the corner the bells are ringing out at Ripon Cathedral, and the green and shady car park warbles to the warm notes of wood pigeons. Everyone else is sleeping still, and the van is in darkness as I type quietly in the corner of the dinette.
The constant sound of car doors slamming and engines running starts to build up as I type. It amazes me how Jay can sleep through it all. If I’m lucky, and I’m quick, maybe I can get this finished before he wakes up. And before Marley decides she’s given me long enough and it’s time for a morning walk!
Just over 24 hours ago we said a very reluctant goodbye to my granddaughter, and left the misty hills, the hares, the owls and the curious cows, for Edinburgh, Scotland’s iconic Capital. Jay had to swing by his sister’s house to collect a few things that had come in the post, and then Friday morning he had his twice yearly appointment at the diabetic clinic at the hospital.
The appointment was at ten, and Marley snoozed happily in her favourite spot on the dashboard while we waited for him to return. I took advantage of the time to work on adding back articles to this new site. Frantically typing away trying to get as much done as I could before we hit the road.
But re-writing two and a half years of life takes a little bit longer than an hour and a half ( unfortunately) and before I knew it Jay was back and it was time to go.
It was almost worth the hospital having a paying car park for the moment the barrier raised to let us out. This was it. We were off!
Oh wither shall we wander this time?
As usual our travel plans are vague in the extreme. We know we’re heading in a Greece – wards direction. Cause we held a poll on our Facebook page, and that’s what our readers there chose for us. It’s a great way to decide which corner to turn. Like rolling a dice, but more fun, and everyone gets to play.
We also know, we’re going to visit Chris in Belgium on the 29th, and we’ve got to meet our friend David ” somewhere in Germany” a few days after that. We’d also really like to catch up with fellow vanlifer Vera who we met in Donostia last trip. She’s just started a new adventure doing up an old house in the Bulgarian countryside and it would be great to swing by and see how she’s getting on.
For now though, Iggy has an appointment with a graffiti artist on Monday near Hastings. So as we are buffetted by strong winds on our passage over the border into England I busy myself with checking park4night for a stopover a third of the way there. I find what looks like a good spot in Ripon, a very small cathedral town in Yorkshire that sounds lovely. But we’ve left our bluetooth speaker somewhere in Scotland, and I need it to run my CoPilot navigation app from my phone.
No matter. We make our traditional stop in Berwick-upon-Tweed – just over the English border, and I dive into Morrison’s for a new speaker and a cheeky hot pastry and cappucino’s for our lunch. We’re only two hours into the tour and my good eating habits are out the window already! Fruit Fi! Buy fruit!
Bellies filled and new speaker yelling directions we trundle southwards for Ripon. Culture shock already slightly in play as always by the sudden submersion in English accents at Berwick. And firmly added to by the appearance of lines of slow moving traffic in both directions. Why oh why had we decided to drive down on August Bank Holiday Weekend? We knew the English are renowned for their tradition of leaping en masse into their vehicles and coming together in a massive communal creation of “The Great English Traffic Jam” on bank holiday weekends. What were we thinking?
For all the long lines though, the traffic keeps moving fairly well. Even the satnav’s decision to send us through Newcastle City Centre, instead of just following the motorwat round the outside, doesn’t slow us down at all.
It’s quite nice to see Newcastle again, no matter how briefly, as it’s a while since we’ve been and we both used to gig here a few years back. It’s a great place to visit. Friendly folk, great architecture, and good prices too.
But today we’re just passing through. Our route takes us past the Angel of the North, but there’s too many dead bugs squished into the windscreen by now for me to get a decent photo . Another quick stop to let Marley stretch her legs, a countryside detour for a closed motorway junction, lots of blue skies and heat, and before we know it we’re there.
The parking was exactly as described, if not better. It’s a massive space set out on three leafy levels right in the heart of Ripon. ( Come in at the bottom entrance by the Prison & Police Museum. It avoids a ramp and narrow access, and is quieter and more “out the way” for vans)
Parking is free between 18:00 and 08:00 and a maximum of £2 for the rest of the time. It was 18:45 by the time we’d got ready to leave Iggy and we discovered it runs your time over automatically into the next day. So we popped in £1.60 by card and got a ticket till 11:45 the next day.
Someone on park4night had warned of no overnight parking, but that only applies to HGVs. A local even advised us of the easiest access and parking for us, so it all seemed very friendly and welcoming. Almost like being in Europe!
The old prison museum looked well worth a visit. Unfortunately it was already closed. And even if it hadn’t been it was much too hot to leave the furry one alone in the van. There was also an old Workhouse museum, and a couple of others that all sounded fascinating and I’m tempted to come back sometime in winter just to visit them.
For today though we contented ourselves with an evening wander round the tiny, compact, but quintessentially, pretty Northern English, town.
There’s an awful lot worse ways to spend some time than an evening wandering in Ripon. It really is a lovely place. Rows of red brick buildings unfold in charming, flower be-decked twists and turns around the central market square, and the massive, beautiful, bulk of the cathedral.
It’s a town packed full of history and Jay tells me the obleisk in the square is, apparently, the oldest in England. Though he knows no more about it than that, but it would be more than easy to spend a couple of days here finding out. There is a lot to see, and the atmosphere is easy and warm as the the evening is.
We go on the hunt for some Yorkshire beer for Jay’s video “World Beer Guide”. There’s one off licence open that has a few interesting looking bottles in the window. But we’re in the mood to find a pub. This early in the trip we’re a bit worried about spending too much cash – England is a pretty expensive country – but we’d like to immerse ourselves a little bit more in Ripon. Talk to a few folk – not just scurry back to the van.
After a couple of failed attempts we settle on a pub with a few interesting drafts and settle down in the beer garden to drink them. It’s tempting to get food but we’re not going to pay £16 a head for pub fish & chips when there’s a perfectly good Aldi a minutes walk from the car park. So much for the cheap North!
Beer drunk and it was time for a last leg stretch before we headed to Aldi’s for something for tea. We’d done the pavement and cute building’s part. Now for some greenery for Marley. It’s not hard to find in tiny old Ripon as there seem to be little squares of park all over the place. There’s also a canal and lovely walks along the riverbanks.
Marley loves a good riverbank walk as much as I do and we weren’t disappointed with what we found – just sorry we don’t have more time to explore it all. Oh for ten lifetimes! There are so many wonderful sights to see. So much to learn. There will never be even a fraction of enough time. And that, in the end, is a good thing.
We found the pub we wish we’d gone to. Though they were all very nice, but this one had a nice beer garden with the view of the cathedral at the top of the page. And then made our way home, where Jay made stir fry noodles for tea while I got the photos ready for writing this in the morning.
One episode of the new Mind Hunters on Netflix and it was time for sleep. It had been a long and busy day, and my eyes would not stay open a moment longer. Life on the road is a full one. Every moment stretched and packed with… being. It suits my soul.
It had been a good day in many ways. And a difficult one in others. Jay and I were in different places for this first day of the Tour. This often happens when we begin.
He is still wrapping up in his head. Shouting about corrupt politicians and moneymakers. Asking me to send emails. Settling his mail.
Me? My eyes are already, from moment one, fixed firmly on that next, enticing, mysterious, bend in the road. I rush, dancing, ahead. Jay will catch up in a day or so. And Ripon? Ripon was a good place to start.