Thursday 9 March 2023

Elvis Road Tour 2023


Spanner!” said Ishbel, looking me in the eye.

A bit rude, I thought, wondering what I'd done to deserve this verbal abuse.

For the gas bottle,” she explained.

We were loading the last items onto the campervan, now named Elvis for its propensity to shake, rattle and occasionally roll. March 1st, the beginning of meteorological Spring and we were heading down into the fells for a two night stay at Skelwith Fold.

We stopped off at Thirlmere to take Mattie for a walk. It was bitterly cold, but the daffodils were out, so it must be Spring – and we must be mad.

Lowering clouds and a light rain accompanied us as we headed south past Grasmere and Rydal Water, until we finally lumbered through Ambleside, and turned up towards Langdale. I'd picked up some Hairy Bittercress, which is a common wayside herb of late winter/early spring and is very similar in flavour to rocket (they are in the same family, Brassicaceae). Ideal for egg and cress sandwiches.

The 130 acre site seemed bigger than some housing estates than I've lived on, but, as it was the first day of the season it was mercifully quiet. Excellent facilities, which we had more or less to ourselves, but I don't think I'd like to be there in the height of the season.

After a good night's sleep, in which we didn't die of hypothermia, we ambled the two and a half miles into Ambleside the following morning. Beautiful views over Loughrigg, and a pleasant lunch in the Royal Oak rounded off the morning. On the way in we noticed some curious plants by the roadside. These turned out to be Giant Butterbur, a south east Asian plant that turned up in Britain in 1897 and has been spreading ever since. It's edible but has to be pre-treated to remove it's bitterness.

A grey squirrel also graced us with his presence. I don't often see greys in Cumbria, as the red seems to be more common (from personal observations). In most of the country the non-native grey outcompetes the native red, but up here, the reds seem to be holding their own.

Going back to the Hairy Bittercress. Having made your egg and cress sandwich, how do you cut it? Square or diagonal? Up north, the square cut is more generally used (the diagonal cut being something that only us poncey southerners do). However, there is a reason for the diagonal cut – they fit better on a sandwich plate. Sandwich plates, like this 1930s example from Copeland Spode, have a vertical and horizontal ridge, to keep the quarters of the sandwich separate. As I've said before, they knew how to do things in style back then.

And finally... back in 2011, I started wrting a novel. Twelve years later and all 633 pages of it is now on the shelves. Amazon have it priced at £2.99 for the Kindle edition and £14.99 for the paperback, and you can read the first few pages here. However, I have 50, signed and numered, author copies (45 now, as I've sold the first 5) which you can buy for just £10 plus postage. If you'd like a copy, drop me an email ( ), let me know to whom you would like the book dedicated, and where you would like me to post it to. I'll work out the postage and arrange the payment details.

All the best,


Sandwich plates from Steve's Vintage Collectables.

Campsite: Skelwith Fold

Pub lunch: Royal Oak

Beetles and Butterflies; spiders and scorpions; woodlice and worms. How do you tell them all apart? To say nothing of crane flies, dragonflies, bee flies and yet more butterflies. Are they all flies? If not, why call them so? If you're fascinated but confused by the beautiful world of the very small, then this is the book for you.

82 pages of information on all aspects of the world of minibeasts, with over 100 photographs and illustrations, this book will help you track down and identify any arthropod, in its adult or juvenile state, anywhere in the world.

See all of my books at

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