the olive tree
Greece, Tales

The Olive Tree

the olive tree
The olive trees of Leonidio

The Olive Tree, η Ελιά, is one of my favourite trees.

I love the way the trunks of Olive trees are so strong, hardy and characterful and their branches and leaves so delicate. And the fruits so powerful and versatile.

I firmly believe that the Olive Tree has magical powers. It produces amazing and delicious fruits that fall in abundance at the end of each year and are enjoyed by so many worldwide. And its virgin oil so healthy and loaded with powerful antioxidants.

Why else does the olive tree exude such magic?

  • olives and their oil have strong anti-inflammatory properties
  • olive oil has antibacterial properties
  • nutrients from olive oil can help strengthen and soften hair
  • whenever I use Ouli’s Ointment as a skin softener, lip salve, or on cuts and grazes, it instantly soothes, heals, and hydrates
  • their strength is in their longevity, some can survive for around 2000 years, or longer
  • the olive tree branch is a sign of peace
  • the olive tree is protected by law. Why? Many old olive trees can die if uprooted and transported.
  • it’s one of the most beloved and sacred trees in the world
  • you are never far away from a beautiful olive tree in Greece

My favourite olive trees in Greece

olive tree olive oil
Mary’s very own olive oil

These have to be in and amongst the olive groves around Leonidio in the Peloponnese where my (now deceased) cousin, Mary, had a little house. She had many olive trees in her garden. Every olive harvest she would gather the olives with help from local pickers and turn them into her very own olive oil. Delicious!

Leonidio is a small town nestled underneath imposing mountainsides. It is well known for its very fertile landscape. I love shopping in the little streets here, especially in the local fruit and veg shops – they are abundant with local produce.

Are there any olive trees to visit in the UK?

Yes! There’s one very near to me on the Sussex coast at the little sensory Garden in Lancing. This is a tiny community garden just off the seafront. It’s dedicated to a mixture of plants, flowers, shrubs and garden art that inspire the senses and create a peaceful haven in which to relax, sit and meditate amongst olive tree, bamboo, apple tree, lavender and so much more

And, last September, I visited the Urban Jungle near Beccles in Suffolk. Dedicated to exotic and unusual plants, the Urban Jungle nurseries have a spectacular range of olive trees.

In amongst the olive trees at Urban Jungle
In amongst the olive trees at Urban Jungle, Suffolk

Finally, the ‘must visit’ olive tree of all time

This has to be one of the oldest and most impressive olive trees in the world – the Ελιά Βουβών. It sits amongst the olive groves of Vouves in Crete and it’s estimated that it could be 4000 years old. There’s an Olive Tree museum located nearby where you can learn about the tradition of olive cultivation in Greece, from ancient times and traditional tools to modern day cultivation and production.

I’ll be there as soon as I can.

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Campervan adventures with Dolly, travels

Is hiring out a caddy camper to others a good thing?

Hiring out a caddy camper and sharing with others is something that I started doing last year, via www.camptoo.co.uk

Taking off in a campervan is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to get away, holiday, travel and camp. Why? Because it’s spontaneous, it feeds our desire for adventure, it’s easy, it allows us to go where we want at our own speed, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s fun.

Why hire out your precious caddy camper?

Hiring out a caddy camper to others means they can:

  • see how they get on with Dolly’s miniature size
  • try before (perhaps) they buy
  • arrange the caddy camper hire via a reputable campervan hiring firm
  • be safe in the knowledge that insurance, breakdown cover etc is all included
  • get to know Camptoo’s easy airbnb-type of booking for campervans
  • take off and travel in an instant
  • know that they will be hiring a delightful miniature camper

Friends ask me how hirers look after Dolly and whether she comes back looking as pristine as she did when she left. And the answer is, yes, she has been returned in perfect condition. So far I’ve done five hires via Camptoo and all of the caddy camper hirers have been wonderful – respectful, trustworthy, and like-minded. And I know that, following two hires of Dolly, one of my hirers is already well on the way to converting his own caddy. How amazing is that?

My tips for a good hire

What would I recommend as being essentials for hiring out a caddy camper?

  • keep your camper as uncluttered and uncomplicated as possible – this makes for fast-turnarounds and easy cleaning and maintenance
  • choose a camper insurance arrangement that is best for you. Going with my own camper insurance that would cover hirers as well would be a considerable annual expense. Going with Camptoo’s insurance policy takes the onus away from me – ok, it means less for me for each hire once the insurance cost has been discounted, but it gives me peace of mind
  • make sure your Gas Safety Certificate (if your camper has gas) is kept up-to-date each year
  • keep an inventory of everything in your camper (Camptoo insist on this anyway)
  • get to know your hirers a little before they hire
  • keep dates free in the year so you can enjoy your camper too!
  • an obvious one – ensure that the camper is well serviced and maintained throughout the year

Hiring out a caddy camper is a bit like Airbnb, but for holiday homes on wheels instead. And who wouldn’t enjoy waking up to views like this? If you would like to hire Dolly, here’s how.

View from caddy camper
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Tree hugging
Tales

Trees – ‘we give one another life’

I watched this short film The Trees Movie today. It’s a crowd-funding film created by tree enthusiasts around the globe. They are keen to tell the world that, places we once called home, will soon be uninhabitable.

They say there is a simple solution. That, by planting more trees, this global climate crisis can be reversed.

Apparently, if 1.2 trillion new trees are planted by the year 2030 (only 9 years away), they will help to suck up nearly 830 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide that is currently swirling around the atmosphere and that is damaging us and the planet.

In short, trees help US by purifying the air and giving the oxygen we need to survive. In return, we can help THEM by caring for them, helping them to grow, protecting them, and extending their life.

The movie creators are seeking anyone who has a phone, camera, voice and story and wants to tell their own timeless tale of trees. Your story could be woven together with hundreds of fellow tree lovers and enthusiasts from around the world.

I’m going to submit my own tree hugging experience.

Don’t miss the opportunity to send a love letter to the silent giants that control our fate.

Sarah x

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travels

No. 5 place to visit post-lockdown

No. 5 place to visit when the pandemic is over is a pub stopover. Close to my No. 4 place to visit – the beautiful tunnel of trees at Halnaker – it’s a perfect overnight stopover for me and Dolly. And it means more time to explore, more time to relax, and more time to walk on the South Downs.

Apparently, the Prince of Wales pub is only 15 minutes drive from Chichester and it has a few camper places in the field behind the pub. Even better, you can enjoy traditional pub food and there are overnight facilities – a must for Dolly and me. It’s got some good reviews on PitchUp too.

Why is it important for me and Dolly to have overnight facilities?

  • Dolly has a water supply but not a toilet
  • It’s always nice to be able to enjoy some pub food after long walking stints
  • In the UK, wild camping (camping anywhere) is illegal
  • I feel safer
  • I never know who I might get chatting to at the pub!
No. 5 place to visit with Dolly the Caddy Camper

No. 5 place to visit is my final top 5 suggestion

Just to recap, I started the theme of my ‘top 5 places to visit when the pandemic is over‘ way back in September 2020, just before the covid virus got worse again. When we are all allowed to get out and about again, simply focusing on these top 5 places has given me lots to look forward to. Here’s a reminder of my top 5 places to visit:

Good start to my 2021 planned trips in Dolly the Caddy Camper!

We’ve all needed some positivity to get us through these dark virus times. And we all have different ways of coping and ‘looking forward’ Dolly and trees give me reasons and passions to ‘look on the bright side of life’. What are yours?

Always look on the bright side of life

Until next time,

Sarah x

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travels

No. 4 place to visit post-lockdown

No. 4 place to visit when the pandemic is over is a Sussex gem and is often reached via a beautiful tunnel of trees.

No. 4 place to visit
Halnaker Windmill

Halnaker Windmill, north-east of Chichester, West Sussex, is in the South Downs National Park. The original windmill was built for the Duke of Richmond and was first recorded in 1540. It seems that the views from this newly restored windmill are superb.

Why is this No. 4 place to visit so appealing to me?

Because, one of the most popular routes to the windmill is through the Halnaker tunnel of trees. And this path is described as one of the prettiest tree tunnels in the world. Hidden away in the depths of the South Downs National Park, this wonderful tree canopy looks spectacular no matter what time of year you visit.

No. 4 place to visit
The tunnel of trees at Halnaker

As a tree lover, I can’t wait to walk through this beautiful tree tunnel. But how to get there? Apparently it is best to park in the village of Boxgrove at the village hall. There is a footpath from Boxgrove to Halnaker that runs along the main road but it is separated from the road by a hedge. When this path ends you can follow the pavement round to the right to The Anglesey Arms.

At the bottom of the garden at The Anglesey Arms is a footpath to the left. Follow the path until you reach a tarmac lane and turn right. Just a short way along this quiet road look out for another public footpath sign that leads across the fields. Follow this path until you reach the main road. Carefully cross the road and you’ll be at Warehead Farm. From the farm, turn right to the tree tunnel.

This magical tunnel of trees is described as if you’re walking into a fairytale or maybe the The Shire in Middle Earth and it is definitely why it’s my top 4 place to visit when the pandemic is over.

It reminds me of another South Downs tree haven

In case you’re ever lucky enough to walk some or all of the South Downs Way, don’t forget to also visit the village of Buriton in Hampshire. Buriton is around 24 miles along the South Downs Way from Winchester, and, from the other direction, around 24 miles from the tunnel of trees at Halnaker.

I love Buriton. It’s an idyllic village with an ancient church and a picturesque duck pond and, of course, a beautiful forest of trees to climb through up on to the South Downs Way.

I came across a lot of pine and conifer trees here. Here’s a pic of me hugging one. You can see how old this tree must be with its roots defiantly wriggling along the pathway.

No. 4 place to visit
Tree hugging at Buriton, Hampshire

Any other Tree Tunnels in the UK?

Apparently there’s an amazing Yew tree tunnel at medieval Aberglasney House in Wales. It is thought to have been planted during the 18th century. Today, the tree trunks have spread and their branches fused so much that it’s hard to count how many separate trees are mingling together. This tree tunnel is definitely on my list of ‘tree’ places to visit.

But first stop – my no. 4 place to visit, the tunnel of trees at Halnaker!

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Tales

Tree hugging and Trees

The beauty of trees

Tree hugging is one of my passions. In 2018, I hugged a different tree every day of the year. Needless to say, I learnt a lot about trees in the process.

I have also learnt that there are some key organisations in the UK that support the love and care of trees, and that promote the importance of trees to our health and well-being, and to the future of the planet. These are:

10 reasons why I love tree hugging?

  • I am giving thanks to the tree for giving us the air that we breathe
  • Hugging trees increases levels of the happy hormone serotonin
  • Trees are a source of energy. Not only do they provide oxygen and shade, they provide shelter and habitats for animals
  • Some trees give their fruit and wood to help ensure our survival
  • Trees bear wisdom. They shed their leaves in winter and yet they remain standing tall knowing that they will return to full splendour again in the spring
  • Trees have an excellent grounding energy, they give out the energy vibe of safety, security and stability
  • I have learnt to get to know the different varieties of tree
  • Hugging trees encourages me to get out into nature regularly
  • I have explored new areas of parkland and forests
  • I appreciate the importance of saving trees to save our planet

What were my top tree hugs in 2018?

  1. The Cedar Tree of Lebanon. The Cedar Tree has a symbol of power and longevity. My father’s ashes are buried underneath this tree. I love the way the Cedar tree has a mind of it’s own, the way that its branches span out horizontally in all directions and provide such a warm and welcoming feel. And wow…what a magnificent tree trunk.
Hugging a Cedar Tree
  1. The Silver Birch. I love the white bark of these striking trees, there’s no mistaking them. Their trunks are elegant and slim and their branches are elegant too. The leaves, light and delicate, twinkle and dance. I would say that, if trees were in a fashion show, the Silver Birch would definitely be up there on the cat walk.
Hugging a Silver Birch

Maple Trees. I frequently pass through this glorious avenue of Maple Trees at Beach Tree Gardens in Worthing. An uncomplicated tree, the Maple looks magnificent whatever the season, with leaves that change to magnificent colours. Even in the winter when the maple is waiting for its fresh spring bloom, this tree never loses it’s charm.

Hugging a Maple Tree
Hugging a Maple Tree

Plant a tree, save the planet

Trees are in the news a lot these days. We all know the stark facts on climate change and how we need to act NOW to prevent irreversible damage to the earth.

Planting trees can drastically help to capture huge amounts of damaging carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In fact, research shows that planting billions of trees across the world is one of the biggest and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

So, how about it? When was the last time that YOU planted a tree? You can contact any of the organisations above to find out more about how to help preserve, and plant more trees.

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Tales, travels

No. 1 place to visit post-lockdown

No. 1 place to visit - somewhere with trees
Beech Trees

No 1. place to visit is somewhere with lots of trees.

Why? So many reasons. I love trees. Without them, the human race wouldn’t survive – trees take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and, in the process of making wood, they emit oxygen…vital for our existence. I’m always thanking trees, hugging them too.

No. 1 place to visit - somewhere with trees
Hugging a Pine Tree

Second, trees are sanctuaries. Sanctuaries for calm, peace, nature, wildlife, thought, de-stressing, happiness, beauty.

Third, being in a forest is good for the soul, it’s impossible to be unhappy in a forest. It’s the simple things that take over, like listening to branches whistle in the wind, noticing how the mind starts to unclutter, feeling the crunch underfoot as you walk, and breathing in the fresh forest air.

So…where are the No. 1 place to visit local forests and woods where Dolly and I can travel to for the day? Here’s my list so far:

Just think of all the No. 1 places to visit of wonderful forest spaces, untouched after months of being human-free during the virus-crisis months, that will be ready to explore, abundant with nature, and full of bird song.

I can’t wait…

No. 1 place to visit - somewhere with trees
Tree Hugging at Buriton, Hampshire

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Tales, travels

No. 2 place to visit post-lockdown

No. 2 place to visit – the Mawddach Estuary, North Wales

Victorian artist and writer John Ruskin had a home in Barmouth, North Wales during the nineteenth century and was inspired by the Mawddach Estuary’s isolation and beauty. He said ‘there is no better walk than from Barmouth to Dolgellau other than from Dolgellau to Barmouth’.

I love this part of the world. I first came here when I was 6 weeks old, a babe in arms. Just as my mother’s parents had brought her, and her parents before her. In fact my maternal grandfather was half Welsh and lived along the North Wales coast at Aberdovey.

The slopes of Cadair Idris
Family time on the slopes of Cadair Idris, 1960

I can’t wait to introduce this part of North Wales to Dolly the VW Caddy Camper. With its mountain peaks, forest-lined green valleys, long sandy beaches, and isolated roads, the Mawddach Estuary landscape brings back so many wonderful childhood (and adult) memories for me. And what better way to re-visit than in a home-on-wheels. I’ve walked the Mawddach Trail many a time. It follows the disused course of the old railway line along the south bank of the river from Dolgellau to Morfa Mawddach. With the river on one side and the craggy slopes of majestic Cadair Idris on the other, as the landscape widens to the mouth of the estuary at Barmouth Bridge the views back upstream are stunning.

Barmouth Bridge at the mouth of the Mawddach Estuary

I’ve found two idyllic campsites with views overlooking the Mawddach estuary that will be perfect for me and Dolly. The Bwlchgwyn Farm campsite and The Craig Wen campsite (featured in the Cool Camping guide).

No. 2 place to visit – why? Hidden beauty.

No. 2 place to visit - North Wales
View from the George III pub of the Old Toll Bridge & slopes of Cadair Idris beyond

Just as the estuary begins to widen, there’s the 17th century George Inn. A favourite stop off way back when my grandparents used to bring me and my brother down to the estuary to swim. It’s still a popular pub/dining stop off today for walkers, bathers, families, and visitors who can relax with a drink taking in views of the estuary and watch the cars as they rumble across the old toll bridge

There’s so much hidden beauty in this part of the UK. I will leave you with a pic of what I think conjures up this favourite part of the world for me…mountain peaks, rolling green hills, dry stone walls, farm animals roaming free, and low misty clouds that are often quick to burst open for sunny blue skies behind.

No. 2 place to visit - North Wales
The Green Valleys of North Wales

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Tales, travels

No. 3 place to visit post-lockdown

Bridge Villa riverside campsite Wallingford, Oxfordshire

No. 3 place to visit Bridge Villa campsite

No. 3 place to visit is Bridge Villa campsite at Wallingford, Oxfordshire. The site is shaped a bit like a horse-shoe, with lots of lovely leafy pitches up at the top end away from the entrance, but still lots of trees to park-up under at the entrance end (nearer to the facilities).

Even in the height of summer, when the site is full with the buzz of families and I hear the early-evening hum of chatter and outdoor cooking, the site doesn’t feel over-crowded.

No. 3 place to visit – riverside walks, riverside pubs, and great restaurants are only 5 mins walk away

Bridge Villa campsite is located in a picturesque spot beside the River Thames and close to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Close by there are unspoilt river-meadows, a part-medieval bridge into Wallingford town, and glorious riverside Thames Path walking ways.

Who knows when these wonderful eateries will be open again, but when they do, here are the ones to try.

Just over the river is The Boat House pub with a riverside terrace. I’ve enjoyed many an early evening drink here gazing up at the tall riverside trees and watching the boats glide by.  So many other pubs in Wallingford to choose from – The Coachmakers Arms (also near the river), the Old Post Office, and The Coach and Horses.

No. 3 place to visit
View from The Boat House pub at Wallingford riverside

So many brill places to eat in Wallingford too.  I haven’t tried them all (yet).  My favourites are The Wallingford Tandoori (just over the bridge),  Delhi Brasserie, and Pizza Express (Pizza Express were running a prize promotion for a few months last year and I won quite a few delicious dishes).

Always a friendly welcome

The team at Bridge Villa are always accommodating and helpful.  I can ring last minute and there always seems to be a small space for me and Dolly.  I was late arriving one evening and they telephoned to check that I would be arriving ok and to assure me of my space.

Bridge Villa facilities are top class

I’ve left this one til last as it’s the most important for me.  Clean, warm, well-maintained, and well cared for toilet and shower blocks at campsites mean the world to me.  And Bridge Villa goes right to the top of the class for this.  And guess what?  There’s underfloor heating throughout!

Even in the height of summer when the campsite was full, the Ladies shower and toilet block was clean and fresh.  And the showers…well…what can I say.  Powerful hot water that gushes out for as long as is needed.  And handy mops to wipe shower floors after use that everyone seems to use.

And two clean and tidy wash cubicles with their own lights.

Perfect.

Bridge villa campsite – one of the best

So there you have it.  A quick review of one of my favourite UK campsites.  Just a few other need to knows about the site:

  • Internet – yes
  • Shop – yes
  • Disabled facilities – yes
  • Washing-up room – yes
  • Washing machines – yes
  • Drinking water points and refuse collection points throughout the site – yes

Looking forward to visiting again once the virus lockdown has eased.

Thank you Bridge Villa!

Love Sarah and Dolly

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travels

Why I chose a VW Caddy Camper

Dolly!

VW Caddy Camper – why I chose one

VW Caddy Camper is an ideal small camper.  I discussed my caddy camper conversion with Darren from  Vantastic Campers and he transformed the back space of the van into a living/sleeping space that included:

  • a rocknroll bed
  • a mini sink and one ring burner
  • a fridge
  • hanging space
  • 2 small storage spaces
  • lots of space behind the front seats
  • space underneath the rocknroll bed for bedding
Why I chose a VW Caddy Camper
Compact interior

A caddy campervan doubles as an everyday vehicle

VW caddy vans are sleek, nippy, easy to park, uncomplicated, and easy to drive.  They double as an everyday vehicle and the campervan space can be packed away in minutes.

It’s important to keep ultra organised in the camper space. And to keep possessions and ‘things’ to a minimum in order to avoid feeling cluttered.  In fact, one very important thing I have learnt is that, when the bed is folded down, I can’t open the fridge.  So, to make a morning cuppa, I have to get the milk out of the fridge the night before.

It’s amazing what a mini -fridge can hold

I can stock the mini-fridge with enough food for a few days.  There’s a separate mini freezer section at the top with a mini ice tray, 2 small racks for holding food, a section on the bottom for a basket for fruit & veg, and separated sections in the door for milk, dairy, and other kinds of drinks.

Another tip.  I have to remember to turn up the fridge the day before I set off on my travels. This makes sure the freezer section is cold enough to start freezing some ice.

I have a leisure battery that recharges whenever I drive the VW caddy van so I’m always assured of enough charge for the fridge, the lighting, and the heater.

The cosiness of a VW caddy van camper at night

Whenever I look at Dolly from the outside I still can’t believe that her super interior space doubles up as a very cosy night-time space with comfy bed, night-light, and heating, where I feel very safe, warm, and secure wherever I bed down for the night.

Why I chose a VW Caddy Camper
Cosy at night

On those chillier mornings all I have to do is flick the heating switch on and wait for about 15 mins for the space to get warm and toasty.

It’s certainly a very compact (but comfortable) sleeping space, and with two people in the bed-space I would advise that you’re ultra-organised!  An awning can always be added on to the van and this is something that I’m planning for the future.

But hey, just think of those warm sultry evenings and nights when you can leave the back doors open, drift away listening to the sounds of the night, and wake up at sunrise looking out on the most incredible view of your choice.

My journey of exploration with Dolly the Caddy Camper has only just begun.  But am I glad that I’ve chosen such an easy, small-space, uncomplicated, comfy and cosy VW Caddy Van camper for my partner in travel.

Sarah

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