Campsite review: Fauxquets Valley, Guernsey

We loved this campsite!
Reception and shop at Fauxquets Valley campsite
Reception and shop at Fauxquets Valley campsite

Fauxquets Valley is located in a rural area in central Guernsey. It offers pitches for tents and camper vans, fully equipped tents and a couple of log cabins to rent.  There are a variety of camping areas, with separate areas for large tents or outback camping for those who don’t need an electric hook up.

Despite it being the May Bank Holiday weekend the site was pretty quiet and we were able to choose our own pitch on arrival.  We had mixed weather during our stay, with heavy rain on two nights, but the terraced pitch drained well.

Roland and Teresa, the owners, were friendly and welcoming.  They were permanantly busy but happy to chat and provide recommendations for walks and places to eat. Roland has mapped out some walks in the locality, and can point out a short walk in the valley which is perfect for an evening stroll.
A group of 50+ French children arrived on a school trip a couple of days into our stay. Fortunately they used tents in a separate field and had their own group toilets and showers so we weren’t disturbed.  Although they did commandeer the sockets in the ironing room for their phone chargers – and a coffee machine!
The campsite pool
The campsite pool

Facilities at Fauxquets

The toilets and showers were kept clean. I’m not sure how they’d cope at the height of the season as there were only three showers for ladies, three for men and a disabled shower but we had no problems during our stay. There is a playground for young children, a large field for ball games, an outdoor swimming pool, a TV room and a games room. We didn’t brave the pool as it was a cool week but we did hear shouts and splashes from more hardy souls.  The TV room was very small but to be fair, you don’t generally come camping to sit and watch the box!
The shop offers the usual camping and food basics, as well as newspapers, postcards, hot drinks and pre-ordered bakery goods.  It was open in the morning and late afternoon during our stay but all day during high season.  There’s a small sunny terrace outside, with free wifi, and a covered seating area with conservatory style furniture.
A wood fired pizza van operates a couple of times a week. We enjoyed an excellent goats cheese and red onion pizza (£6) with our Greek pasta salad one night.
Help yourself to herbs
Help yourself to herbs
The best part of the campsite though was the small area of farm animals – piglets, lambs, chickens etc. The piglets were very cute and the source of the sausages and other pork products on sale in the shop!
Piggy
We completed a variety of family walks in Guernsey and we also popped over the beautiful island of Herm for a day trip. Highly recommended if you get the chance!

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Enjoying the wild flowers in Guernsey

One of my lasting memories of our trip to Guernsey are the wild flowers along the verges and adorning the cliff paths.

Sea thrift, Guernsey
Sea thrift, Guernsey

Whilst the bluebells were just going over the colours of the later spring flowers brightened our walks. The cliffs were covered in swathes of pink sea thrift and yellow gorse bushes.

Gorse and sea campion, Guernsey
Gorse and sea campion, Guernsey

I tried, unsuccessfully, to take photos of the butterflies too.  Speckled wood  butterflies were in abundance but proved too fluttery for me to capture with my camera!

Flowers along the southern coasts of Guernsey
Flowers along the southern coasts of Guernsey

The verges alongside the roads are left to grow long in spring, benefitting the insects and birds. So different to the sterilised roadsides at home!

Stinking onions, Guernsey
Stinking onions

You can read more about our family walks in Guernsey and our day trip to the beautiful island of Herm; they’re a great opportunity to see many of these flowers.

Alexanders, Guernsey
Alexanders
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Down and up the Caen Hill Locks, Wiltshire.

Caen Hill Locks
Caen Hill Locks

I was disheartened recently when I mentioned to my youngest how lovely the weather was going to be at the weekend, and he replied “Oh no, that means we’ll have to go for a walk!”

It was a true assumption though as we like to get out into the countryside as much as possible. I just hope the kids grow to love the outdoors as much as we do.

On a recent sunny weekend we decided to visit the Caen Hill locks on the Kennet and Avon canal. The set of locks are an incredible feat of engineering. First opened in 1810 they were built to carry the canal 237 feet up Caen Hill. There are 29 locks in total, over 2 miles, although the picture you see most often is of the 16 locks stretching up the hill.  The canal became derelict after the Second World War but was restored and officially reopened in 1990. Many of the locks are dedicated to those who helped with the restoration.

We parked at the wharf in Devizes and followed the signs to the locks along the towpath.  The first half mile or so is through parts of the town but it soon heads into open countryside. The canal was pretty quiet with just a few owners out spring cleaning their boats.

locks1

The Caen Hill cafe marks the top of the hill and is a perfectly located refreshment stop. The cafe is in the old lock keepers cottage, and the tables in the front garden have views down the canal. We enjoyed a cup of coffee, whilst the kids took advantage of the sunny weather and chose ice creams. Suitably refreshed we continued downhill.  Whilst the cafe had been busy, the canal itself was rather lacking in boats.  Boats can take up to 6 hours to travel through the set of locks, but it was slightly disappointing to only spot one boat negotiating them during our visit.

I live in hope that my children are now of the right age that I don’t have to worry about them falling off the edge of the canal into the lock. Whilst my daughter has inherited my sensible gene, my son is of a much more random nature – act first, think later (maybe). So it’s a little hard to relax when he’s running and messing around by the edge off the canal. Suffice to say it was just me being paranoid and the walk passed without incident.

locks3
View back up Caen Hill locks

Shortly after reaching the bottom of the hill we crossed over one of the locks and headed back up the hill which runs alongside (but away from the locks). This takes you closer to the large pools which provide the water to operate the locks.  These were home to a variety of ducks, and some nesting swans which signs warn against getting too close to.

It was at this point that we realised our mistake of stopping at the cafe on the way down rather than up. The ice cream incentive  to finish a walk doesn’t work this way round! Fortunately the hill isn’t really that big or long and we were soon back on the flat and heading into Devizes.

Kids view:

The walk wasn’t very exciting, but the ice cream was really yummy!

General info:

  • The towpath is accessible, although pushing a wheelchair or buggy back up the hill might take some effort!
  • There’s another car park at the Caen Hill cafe if you don’t want to walk from the centre of Devizes.

Costs:

The car parking charges were reasonable.  We extended our stay with a wander around Devizes, the parking cost for our visit was around £4.

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Walking the Ridgeway 40

It’s not often we spend a day away from the kids.  We enjoy our family time together and want to make the most of it. Last weekend was an exception.  The kids got to spend a day with the grandparents, and we took part in an organised challenge walk along the Ridgeway, our local long distance footpath.

This is the second time we’ve taken part. Last year I thought walking 40 miles in a day would be a great way to celebrate my partner’s 40th birthday.  Fast forward a year, and for some reason we’re doing it again. During the intervening year my mind has somehow obliterated the soreness and blisters we experienced last time.  Even my souvenir black toenail had grown out.

Raring to go at the start of the Ridgeway 40
Raring to go at the start of the Ridgeway 40

If you’re unfamiliar with the Ridgeway, it’s an 87 mile ancient track, running from Wiltshire through Berkshire to Buckinghamshire.  The first half (which we were walking) is mainly across rolling chalk download. The scenery changes in the latter stages to beech woodlands, as it passes through the Chilterns. Our walk was more or less along a ridge (funny that, given the name) and although not hilly there were quite a few ups and downs, particularly near the start.

Our day began with an early morning bus journey from the end point at Streatley Youth Hostel to the start of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill. Driving for an hour to our destination reiterated just how far we were going to walk. It was also during this bus ride that the other half remembered his sandwiches were still in the fridge at home!  Fortunately he had plenty of other snacks to sustain him.

Walking the Ridgeway
Walking the Ridgeway

By 8am we were off the bus and on our way.  The event is limited to 300 participants and whilst the challenge is officially for walkers some people do run it. During the first few miles we were repeatedly passed by these super fit individuals.  Later on we found out that the first runners home completed it in around 6 1/2 hours,  almost 6 hours quicker than our eventual time!

The morning walk was relatively painless, and we made speedy progress over the first few miles. We were thankful that the brisk wind was behind us, and although we had a couple of short rain showers the cool weather was perfect for walking.

A highlight of the early part of the walk was Barbury Castle.  This is the home of an Iron Age hill fort, and one of many historical sites along the track.  I made a mental note as we zoomed through to bring the children back for a more leisurely exploration another day.

Registering at checkpoint 1
Checkpoint 1

There were 9 checkpoints along the route, the first one at 7 miles. At each checkpoint our cards were clipped and times allocated for the previous leg.  The first stop offered squash with subsequent ones offering snacks such as dried fruit, orange segments and rice pudding. All built up to the highlight of the day at checkpoint number 6, but more of that later.

It’s fair to say that as we passed the 14 mile checkpoint we were starting to suffer.  We trained for the walk last year but hadn’t done much in the way of long distance walking since. A big mistake! The only way to train for a walk such as the Ridgeway 40 is to do plenty of walking.  Our feet were letting us know that we hadn’t done enough.

We took the opportunity to stop for a quick lunch break at Uffington, and a change of socks.  It was a relief to sit down for a few minutes, although getting up again was rather painful.  Blisters were starting to form, rather worrying given how many miles we still had to walk.

Uffington was the halfway mark so from that point on we started to count down the miles.  Didcot power station came into view, albeit with the recognition that we had to walk several miles past this to our destination. I’d love to tell you more about the scenery we were walking through, but by this time my view was near enough restricted to my feet.  Heads down, we trudged on.

Well deserved cake at checkpoint 6
Well deserved cake at checkpoint 6

Checkpoint 6, which we reached around 4pm, offered tea and cake. As we arrived the lady advised us to eat as much cake as we could and to take some with us for the rest of the walk. The table reminded me of a WI cake stall, with gingerbread, Victoria sponge, fruit cake, chocolate cakes and more! It’s not very often that taking up a suggestion like this is guilt free, but given the circumstances I demolished three slices of homemade cake in a very short time.  Cake has never tasted so good.

Leaving checkpoint 6 we were 28 miles down, 12 to go.  The weather forecast had advised of an 80% chance of rain, with the possibility of hail and thunder.  We had been incredibly lucky to miss the heavy showers throughout the early afternoon but our luck was about to run out.  Our first soaking only lasted about 20 minutes and the wind blew the showers over pretty quickly. I was secretly happy that I got to use my waterproofs, which I’d been carrying all day.

The rain that missed us
The rain that missed us

Shortly afterwards, we were joined by a friend who’d come to provide some moral support, along with bananas, Club biscuits and Mars bars. We both felt rather guilty however as he’d got caught in the aforementioned rain shower, but unlike us he’d been wearing jeans.  There’s nothing worse than the feel of sodden jeans.

The rain that didn't miss!
The rain that didn’t miss!

With only 10 miles to go we were onto the home strait.  At this point we just wanted to finish.  Our feet were screaming at us and it became an effort to put them in front of each other.  Rather ominously the sky was also turning black.  We walked as fast as we were able to at this late stage but just after we passed the last checkpoint the rain started again.

This time it was much heavier.  We were down to the last couple of miles, which is along a road, and small streams were racing alongside us.  A couple of cars came by, throwing spray our way, but by this time we were so wet it didn’t  really matter.

The rain stopped just as we arrived in Streatley and we were treated to a glorious rainbow.  A few more hundred metres and we were at the Youth Hostel, the end point. We’d hardly noticed the steep slope up to the hostel entrance when we’d left in the morning, but I can assure you we noticed every step of it that evening.

It was a relief to finally finish.  Of course it’s a fantastic achievement, and I’m glad we did it.  However the agonising walk back to our car and the taking off of boots will stay with me for some time yet. I am also not ashamed to say that I had to physically crawl up the stairs to bed that night!

More info:

Fancy taking part next year?  Are you sure?!  If the above hasn’t persuaded you to give it a miss you can find out more and register for the next event at www.ridgeway40.org.uk

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