Travelling in France – Baie de la Somme

The Baie de la Somme has been a regular feature of our trips to France over the years. Just a few hours drove from the Calais ports it often provides a first night of relaxation before heading into the more challenging regions of southern France or Northern Spain.

On this occasion we arrived mid-afternoon on a Thursday at our preferred aire in Le Crotoy. The books described this site as ‘Le Crotoy 1’ because there is another aire at the far extent of the town. Our choice hosts more than a hundred motorhomes some of whom have a stunning view of the bay and across to St Valery some12 km away by cycle path

The site provides a ticket machine (€7 per night in 2017) and a ‘Euro Relais’ stand for fresh water, waste disposal and, if necessary, power.

Acres of space mean that units are not squeezed together and the approach to alignment and to tables, chairs and sunshades is typically French laissez faire. The ground is rock-hard packed sand in the middle but the edges which are highly prized pitches have some grass and, in the wet season, some mud. Clearly it had rained recently in the following picture and one young French boy a,used himself for hours cycling through and then scooping up mud to hurl in every direction while keeping up a running conversation with himself and his imaginary friends.

Once the amusement palls it is time to head into the village, a few minutes walk away along a well formed path at the side of the small marina. One of the attractions of the site is the plethora of wildlife, particularly birds which crowd every area and entertain the passers by with their calls.

The village provides everything the visitor could want including a good tourist information centre but excluding post boxes. We struggled to find one single postbox on our walk through the village and back along the coast paths but, as the French would undoubtedly say, ‘tant pis’. There are restaurants to numerous to mention, all providing a sumptuous feast of fish and crustacean delights from produce caught and landed each morning. After dining well you cold enjoy a leisurely walk along the paths and alleys coming across a wide variety of interesting hotels and turreted homes. There is even a Pierre et Vacance centre jut at the other end of the village.

The lasting image, as you head back to your well-appointed accommodation, is of the sun setting over the bay and gleaming off the water.

The bread man arrives early each morning and circles the aire tooting his horn and inviting you to supplement your cornflakes with a warm baguette or croissant. Your memory, as you pack off and head further into your vacance, is inevitably going to be of the beautiful scenery and quiet relaxation and your plan the inevitably return as soon as possible.

All the Aires Book, Northern France N 50.13.094 E 001.37.992.

Anglesey, Trearddur Bay, Trials and Tribulations

We hadn’t been to Anglesey for more than 20 years, at a time when our marriage was new and our son Jamie was still a youngster.  We remembered the small deserted bays, the empty beaches and the quiet narrow roads.  The island even gave birth to a standing joke about our adventures in Europe off the beaten track in that if we were driving and came across a road with grass in the middle then we must be in Anglesey.


 The Camper

This has been the longest of our shakedown trips before we venture into Europe with our pre-loved 54 plate Tribby.  I’m still trying to sort out a very noisy pump (and have the expansion chamber on order from Fiamma) but this was also an opportunity to try out our new drive-away awning.

We had inherited with the camper a Fiamma Zip ‘Privacy Room’ which looked as if it had never been erected – and we quickly learned why.  The previous owner had arranged for shock absorbers to be fitted to strengthen the sun shade but they had been fitted right at the ends of the housing leaving no space to fit the rafters that are the integral part of the ‘Privacy Room’.  So if anyone wants a Fiamma awning it is going cheap.

We dug into our funds and bought a Outdoor Revolution Movelite Quattro – very smart looking dome awning with two sleeping compartments (for when we have guests that want to stay over) and the Fiamma fixing kit to attach it to the sun shade. Erection was straightforward although we chose the windiest day on the windiest site in the UK to try it out (more about that later).

The problem with the Quattro; and I suspect with any other drive-away awning, is that the Fiamma Zip, the fixing kit and the awning ‘c’ channel are all  different lengths and capable of sliding backwards and forwards at will.  The wind continued over the week and we quickly found this to be a problem as the awning tried to part company with the camper so I’m going to find a way of putting some removeable end-stops into the fixing to cure it.  I’ll let you know when this is done.

So, we settled down to a week of walking drinking and sightseeing, not necessarily in that order.  As a modification to the Tribby I have taken out the small table and its ‘L’ shaped leg and sticking out brackets on the assumption that this is a two berth and a second table is a bit unnecessary.  Obviously I replaced the table (used as part of the bed base) with a piece of marine ply the same size which stows away quite happily above the water pump and water boiler and takes up much less space and weighs half what the table did.

Our water systems have continued to make us scratch our heads in a mixture of confusion and disbelief.  I’ve mentioned the noisy pump and the obscure control panel elsewhere so let’s move on to the grey water tank.

When we picked up the camper we got the ten minute run-through which told us that, to empty our grey water tank, we simply drove over a disposal drain and pulled the lever under the van – the nice dealer man showed us how to pull the lever (as if such a demonstration was needed) and everything seemed simple.   I supplemented these instructions with the excellent guidance provided by but there was no additional info there.

We are quite careful over our water use so our first couple of trips didn’t generate much waste and after each trip I parked over the suitable drain and pulled the lever.  It was halfway through our week in Anglesey that I realised that something was not quite right.  The realisation dawned on me when grey and distinctly smelly water started backing up in the shower as I emptied the sink.  The tank was obviously full but nothing on the control panel warned me of this and I didn’t think we had used anything like a tankful. I drove over a disposal point and pulled the lever.  Nothing happened.  I pulled it again more forcefully.  A tiny dribble.  It was then that I noticed water cascading over the omni-step and saw that a black pipe had been jury-rigged from the bottom of the tank to above the step.  Pulling this out, I found that someone had gaffer-taped this pipe on to the bottom of the tank – presumably to make it easier to empty at home – but the dealer clearly hadn’t noticed this, servicing had missed it and the water in there must have been months, if not years old.  Phew!

Now a quick review of the site.  We had stayed on Anglesey before at Trearddur Bay and wanted something nearby.  My wife found Blackthorn Farm ( and we were extremely impressed.  The site is on a hillside overlooking the sea and from our camper we can see the peaks of Snowdonia out of the back and Holy Mountain through the windscreen.

The site also runs a B&B with a restaurant offering dinner or breakfast by prior arrangement and the shop offers a good selection of necessities from 08:00 to 20:00.  Each pitch has its own electricity and water supply and the on-site toilet facilities are immaculate – especially if you enjoy Radio 2 Wales.  What is most surprising is the provision of free wifi – very uncommon – but the welcome is warm and friendly.  A word of warning, the site can experience quite strong winds so be advised.

Anglesey 1 – Pen-y-Llyn to Holyhead

We have visited this wonderful island a number of times over the past few decades and stayed in a variety of accommodation from holiday cottages to house lets, from camping to motorhome glamping. On every occasion we have been enthralled by the rugged beauty of the place, its accessibility and, at the same time its inaccessibility especially to motorised transport. In our early visits we explored every road and track leading to a standing joke in our family that, if the road had grass in the middle we were invariably in Anglesey.

For the second time in five years we opted for a delightful campsite separated from RAF Valley by a small lake. There are countless positives for this campsite, it is immaculate, the owners are friendly and it is adults-only. It boasts a Caravan and Motorhome Certificated Location but also caters for couples like us who would not join any club that would accept us as members. It is an ideal jumping off point for most of the island, a bus stops outside the gate and it is a relatively short beach walk to the small town and beaches of Rhosneigr. In the other direction it is only a few miles to Holyhead for a day trip to Ireland or a walk around the town, marina and extensive sea wall. Details of Pen-y-Llyn campsite can be found here.

Our little motorhome nestling in this beautiful campsite

If you love the sound and sight of airplanes then this sight is sure to be heaven to you. The site is a prime position for watching all types of military aircraft arrive and leave, on our second day here we saw a venerable Hercules bomber slide ponderously a few feet above the dunes of Rhosneigr and Typhoon fighters practicing low level runs across the lakes and tors dotting the landscape. This can, of course, be a negative. When a Typhoon zooms overhead at a few hundred feet the ground literally shakes and conversation is almost impossible. The airport has good rules that prohibit flights in the early morning or evening so if you spend the day exploring this great island you may miss the sound altogether.

Enough about our good fortune to enjoy the benefits of this great site, let’s move on to our interesting journey to Holyhead on Tuesday 18th June 2019.

The bicycle distance from the site to Holyhead is 6.2 miles. No great distance admittedly. The path is supported by two national cycle routes, Route 5 takes you along the A5 through Valley and more or less straight into Holyhead. Route 8 takes you along the coast around Penrhos before joining up with Route 5 a couple of miles out.

You can find details of cycle paths in the area here.

We have two electrically assisted cycles, mine a bog standard shaft drive single speed three gear brute which bounds forward the moment I apply power. MBH bought an eRanger Floral Cruiser which offers her a choice of seven gears and seven assist levels together with trip computing and bells and whistles.   

We set off happily enough but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in a bit of trouble – to quote Frank Spencer. The cycle path along the A5 suddenly disappeared at the beginning of Four Mile Bridge and we were forced to compete with juggernauts on their way to the ferry port. (We found out on the way back that the cycle path moves to the other side of the road and carries on, hidden, along the bridge). We picked up the path again on the other end of the bridge and then were faced with a choice:

We could take the pretty coastal road and meander into Holyhead or carry on along the A5 in a more direct route. We chose the latter and there is where the second problem surfaced. For some reason the securing nut for my handlebars had slowly loosened and at the slightest bump the front wheel took a unannounced 90 degree turn in either one direction or another. This resulted in a number of tumbles and a larger, considerably larger, number of obscenities in a number of languages.

We finally arrived in Holyhead to find it virtually closed. Many of the cafés had decided to shut for the afternoon and our favourite spot, by the museum overlooking the port, was crowded with cotton buds sipping slowly at their herbal teas. We didn’t stay long. On the way back we followed the coastal path and cycled through woodland and down steep gradients to finally arrive at Pen-y-Lynn campsite and a very welcome cup of tea.