It may only be 3 miles or so to Craster but this could well be the busiest stretch of road we've been on since leaving the M1. Craster is a nice enough turn but surely not that nice to attract so much Sunday morning traffic. And boy, is Craster expensive - 50p for an hour's parking, why that is nearly as expensive as at home.
OK rant time. Later in this blog I will mention visiting Jedburgh (parking free), Hawick (parking free including overnight parking for campervans) and Peebles (20p for 2 hours but Saturday only, free all other days). Guess what, we visited all these towns, shopped and spent money with local businesses. If anyone from Eastleigh council is reading this (£2.60 for 2 hours) then you will know why we are more reluctant to spend our money in your shops. Even the popular seaside town of Seahouses had 1 hour free parking!
Anyway Craster visited, kipper bought, tick! Had we more time we'd have joined the throng ambling their way photo by photo along the coast to Dunstanburgh castle. We just joined the photo frenzy instead for a quick harbour shot.
Kipper acquired, destination Hawick. A change of plan, we avoid Coldstream and head out across the northern corner of the Northumberland National Park. This isn't the Northumberland wilderness and moorland characterised in Vera and much in evidence west of Alnwick; no, this is rolling hill sheep country. With its winding roads and little hamlets it is no less picturesque.
Jedburgh (free parking, remember) is a prime example of why we need to return once again to the Northumberland and Borders area. It's a fascinating little town, full of history with its abbey, jail and castle. However we don't have time to explore everywhere today (and so MUST return) so we settle on the Mary Queen Of Scots museum, in a house she reputedly stayed at whilst visiting. Note to all museum curators reading this, you could do worse than pop up to Jedburgh to see how it's done. A really excellent job of weaving the life story or Mary in with the artifacts on display. We learned much. Also the museum had a meta-display about is own history which was nice to read. If you do go, don't forget to pop into the garden to see the 8th century Christian cross base. British Christian artifacts don't get much older! By the way, the museum was also free, relying entirely on donations.
Anyway here's the abbey we must explore next time:
However today's real destination is Hawick where there is a rare example of a British equivalent of a French Aire. The non-nomadic amongst you may not have encountered the concept of an Aire before. Unlike the UK, France realises that the tourists traveling around in their campervans/motorhomes/caravans will need food, entertainment, supplies and are likely to buy mementos of their trip. So France has hundreds of Aires in towns and villages across the country, each being somewhere safe to sleep overnight with a chance to take on water and empty waste. Some even provide free electric hookup or WiFi. No cost of expectation of the camper but they know a goodly percent will wander round town, dropping into the local boulangerie or boucherie and maybe buying a little local wine. Compare and contrast with the UK where "No overnight parking" signs and height barriers tell the holidayer that he is not welcomed in their town. Wake up UK, many of us campervanners and motorhomes are retired baby-boomers, only too keen to spend our pension in your restaurants, pubs and shops.
Bravo Hawick! Mind you Hawick needs our money. It seems the town was pretty reliant on one industry, fine wool and cashmere. But who has a wardrobe of fine wool sweaters these days of the microfleece? Ok golfers, you've made your point but who else? Walking down Hawick high street I see a little old lady who reminded me of my dear old mum. Only difference being this lady was wearing a Craghopper fleece, whereas my mum would have had a wollen cardigan. Time have changed and Hawick is suffering from that change. No wonder they introduced an aire into their 400 space car park. There were 5 vans this out of season Sunday. Let's hope all the others ate, drank and shopped in town as we did.