After a very relaxing evening in our 2-pound-a-night field, we munched on buttered hot cross buns and some leftover sandwiches as we packed up camp. We started our day cycling back to Rothbury by climbing up the hills we had cruised down the day before. On the way we stopped at a small park and Tyler showed me how to change my brake pads. Parked in the small parking lot were two camper/caravans. We have observed that great big campers can get away with pretty much anything, while setting up a tent on a 6'x6' area sometimes seems practially impossible and certainly frowned-upon. England sure does love its campers.
We biked into Rothbury (not quite as picturesque under grey cloudy skies) and stopped at a cafe for brunch—Tyler had a large slice of chocolate cake, and I had a kid's meal of fish sticks and chips (fries) with a nice hot cup of tea. We tried to upload some journal entries and pictures but our internet connection was much too slow so our efforts were in vain. As we were finishing up our meal a motorcycle rally vroomed into town and our little cafe became inundated with grubby motorcyclists in full riding gear. It was really nice not being the only dirty travelers!
On our way out of town we stopped at many different stores—the butcher's for a roasted chicken, the grocery store for milk, and the bakery for some caramel bars and strawberry & rhubarb cake. Our panniers loaded with goodies, we cycled off in the direction of Wallington.
Today was a day of hills. Loads of hills. We were in good spirits though and took our time so the hills didn't bother us too much. We had fun cycling (or pushing) very, very slowly. After a particularly monsterous series of hills, we took a break for lunch and sat exhaustedly staring into the beautiful scenery laid out in front of us.
I've developed a rule about hills that helps me not get my hopes up prematurely—after you get to the top of a hill, don't expect a downhill. Sometimes, more uphills magically appear and it may be a very long time before you get to go whizzing at breakneck speed back down, singing with joy.
After a few more miles of hills we came upon a random crop of rocks and boulders jutting from the ground in a display of mighty cragginess. Just ahead there was a very old stone tower. All of this was too good not to explore so we got off our bikes, hopped the fence, and went poking around. Deducing from what John at Hedgeley Farms had told us, our guess is that it was an old lookout tower used for guarding against invasion by the Scots. Between two of the boulders, I saw a ram that had fallen in and gotten stuck, dying in its stone prison.
A few hills later we came upon a very nice lady who was outside gardening. We asked her where the nearest petrol station was and she informed us that the only nearby one was closed. She was nice enough to let us fill up our fuel bottle from her lawn mower fuel can. She also confirmed that there was, indeed, a campsite just outside of Wallington that didn't only cater to caravans, but tents as well. After she refused our money for the petrol we carried on.
As we arrived in Wallington we stopped at a wonderful local farm market and bought some eggs, garlic, and oranges. Besides being filled with hills, the day was also filled with lots of yummy food! We asked the people who worked there about a campsite, and they pointed us in the direction of that really nice sloping downhill we had just coasted down.
Thus began the evening's edition of "trying to find a place to camp in England." I started to get tired and cranky—having to backtrack up hills you just joyfully coasted down has a way of dampening your spirits a bit. There is so much land everywhere—beautiful land filled with adorable lambs—and so, so many fences. We've decided to start asking farmers if we can camp on their land. It really should not be this hard to find a place to put up a tent.
Finally we arrived at our campsite; an old farm with a large field and beautiful stone walls. No one was in the reception area so we set up camp. It is always such a relief knowing we have somewhere safe to stay at the end of a hard day. In the caravan next to us a very friendly woman by the name of Pauline gave us two beers and said "might be nice—not the sort of thing you pack in your panniers, you know!" Thank you so much, Pauline!
After a lovely chat, we set about making dinner and making our home for the night. Tyler set up our tent and bed while I made delicious cheesy garlic chicken noodles with garlic bread. YUM! When we were done, Tyler again tried to pay for our site at the house/reception just down the road. We were almost turned away as we found out our site is for campervans only (big surprise!). Thankfully given that we were set up and our neighbors didn't mind, we were allowed to stay. They didn't mind tents, they said, but some people in caravans do!
After dinner we made sandwiches for tomorrow and filled our waterbottles. We're trying to be quicker about leaving in the morning so we've started doing as much as possible to get ready in the evening. We are completely done for the day and it is ten minutes till nine. All of our basic needs are met and we are ready to set off on another adventure tomorrow! A place to sleep—check. Food—check. Water—check. Journal written—check. As I write this, Tyler is already asleep next to me.