The turn of the year in the north-east

We opted to see the year out in County Durham and Cleveland in the north-east of England.  We followed the river Tees from the wild open country of the Pennines to the North Sea.  After the heavy rain we had experienced in the north of England over Christmas, High Force and Low Force were spectacular and on a sunny afternoon there were plenty of people around to marvel at the spectacle.  We found a quieter spot for contemplation at Summerhill Force and Gibson’s Cave, although just a few minutes’ walk from the Bowlees car park.

Low Force on the river Tees after heavy rain
Low Force on the river Tees after heavy rain

At this time of year we like to tour around in the van and make the most of the seven hours or so of daylight.  We followed the river through the lovely town of Barnard Castle, spending some time exploring the castle and the blue plaque trail and moved on to Darlington.  This once thriving engineering town still had a lovely buzz about it in the December drizzle.  We visited the Head of Steam Railway Museum and looked in wonder at the amazing Locomotion No. 1, the first passenger steam train.

From Darlington the Tees flows through industrial and urban areas but we still found plenty that is beautiful.

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About as much fun as you can have on a bridge: the Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough

The Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough is a stunning  piece of engineering from 100 years ago.  The ‘bridge’ carries cars and pedestrians over the Tees in a cradle that is wound on cables across the river.  Ducks, geese and hordes of lapwings entertained us while we explored the National Nature Reserve on the north side of the river and at the excellent Saltholme RSPB reserve.

The mouth of the river Tees is a National Nature Reserve
The mouth of the river Tees is a National Nature Reserve

We finished our trip on the fantastic stretch of sand at Saltburn-by-the-Sea.  From the attractive and recently restored pier we watched the hardy surfers and we wandered around the pretty streets window shopping.

We stayed at:

The Crown at Mickleton in Teesdale – this is a small Caravan Club CL with a bathroom and all hard-standing.  It was £20/night.

White Water Park Caravan Club Site in Stockton-On-Tees is about 20 minutes walk from Stockton town centre and 30 minutes walk to Thornaby railway station for trains to Darlington, Bishop Aukland and Saltburn and Redcar.  We paid just short of £25/night.

We also had one night free camping to help the budget.

 

Saving for early retirement

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Instructions on the wall of our campervan

Having read plenty of other blogs by fantastic people working towards financial independence and early retirement, all I have really learnt is that everyone has different priorities for their spending.

So our spending for 2015 is below and is offered up humbly for blog readers to pick at as you see fit.  I don’t claim to be a model of frugality, Mr BOTRA and I are just doing our best but hopefully you will think that managing to save 40% of our income isn’t at all bad.

We save by looking for the cheapest deals for utilities where we can, shopping in the discount stores (mostly Lidl as I like to support them for paying the living wage ahead of other supermarkets) and Mr BOTRA does all the bicycle maintenance.  As you can see we have a weakness for rock concerts … they do make us happy … and a lot of our socialising with friends involves eating in restaurants.

2015 spending £ %
Utilities 4966.59 13%
Holidays 3374.58 9%
Vehicle costs 1460.00 4%
Diesel 957.90 3%
Food & groceries 2788.84 8%
Other household items (inc furniture & bikes) 2399.18 6%
Restaurants, cafes and bars 1249.32 3%
Public transport 357.70 1%
Gifts 822.92 2%
Concerts / theatre and other attractions 1034.36 3%
Healthcare (dentist, specs & prescriptions) 500.78 1%
Clothes, shoes & accessories 394.69 1%
Unidentified spending (cash) 2080.00 6%
Savings 14734.00 40%
TOTAL 36857.30 100%

 

 

Back On The Road Again

 

Travelling whatever the weather.
Travelling whatever the weather.

Having mothballed our previous blog with the sale of our much loved VW ‘van, the typing fingers were itching and it was time to start a new blog.

Further adventures of our campervan trips, frugal living and savings as we work towards and beyond financial independence and retirement to follow.