On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

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The Hop Farm – Kent, May 4-7

We selected this site for a variety of reasons  – for its closeness to (Royal) Tunbridge Wells,  because it was sited on the River Medway and lastly because of its proximity to my brother’s home in Beckenham.

I had been looking forward to visiting RTW at Easter, the year my lovely mum died, but, before we had a chance to visit, we had to turn round and come home after an urgent call to say she was fading fast. I could not face going back to the same site and the Hop Farm looked interesting – particularly as it was by a river and we could take our boat.  We also had a plan to hook up with my sister -in-law and the kids as my brother was away. SO – it all fitted.

Friday 4th May

We left at about 10.30 and had a quite surprisingly traffic free journey – considering it was A) a bank holiday weekend and B) much of the journey was on the M25! We arrived at about 12.50 – just 10 minutes early – but were permitted on site with no problem. We were located on Camping Field C – and when we arrived we were pretty much unaccompanied. As the afternoon wore on, though, more and more people rolled in. Somewhat oddly though, we had a spare pitch either side of us. Perhaps our reputation had preceded us?

We went though the well practiced set-up routine and were pleased to note that there was a handy tap on each power point. Not too far to fill up. After this – lunch, a bit of a relax and then a trip to the nearest Aldi, near Maidstone with a view to possibly buying a new water barrel as ours has a slight leak. Alas they had none (although there had been plenty in our local store the evening before. Doh!). A little research showed a caravan and camping shop not too far away, and we popped in there too – to see if we could buy a new seal instead. This tale may have a familiar ring to it, as we bought a new seal last time we went away (at Easter) but – annoyingly – can’t find the flipping thing now.

We noticed that traffic in the area was very heavy , and we experienced this phenomenon, which we dubbed “Kentish Queuing”, quite a few times in our travels around the area.

We arrived back at the van and set about relaxing. The site (which has 300 pitches) had filled up even more in our absence. But we still had no neighbours! Nice. It was a pleasant evening and we were excited to notice that an air balloon was being inflated in the adjacent field. Judging by the wind we estimated that it would fly right over us. We were right! I was very envious of the passengers. It’s a wonderful thing to do (I did it for my 40th birthday ) and it was the perfect evening for it.

We had a delicious dinner and retired early as we were both tired.

Saturday 5th May

Wow! What a lovely day! Filled with a desire to get out and about in the sunshine,  we breakfasted, washed and got ready in record time, and set off for RTW. I particularly wanted to visit the Pantiles  as I had fond memories of a trip many years ago with friends Alsion (then Stewart) Deacon, Sharon and Tania. We parked nearby and walked to the Pantiles. It had not changed too much – from memory. People were out and about in droves, lured by the lovely weather and the numerous street cafes.

I had a recollection of “taking the waters” at the “Chalybeate Spring” and I thought Paul should try them too. My recollection was that they were vile! Nothing has changed – it still tastes like sucking a rusty nail!


The “Dipper”


For the princely sum of £1, we were treated to a short and informative talk by the “Dipper” in her Regency costume. The water was presented to Paul who quaffed. And then grimaced. It’s awful stuff – but was believed to have beneficial properties and is one of the reasons why the Wells of Tunbridge  came to prominence. Interestingly – the Spring stopped flowing for 7 months in 2014/15, putting the Dippers out of work for a while. The reason why the spring failed doesn’t seem to have been fully determined, but low rainfall has historically had an effect on flow. This was the first time in 400 years that they had actually stopped altogether. One wonders whether climate change may have been the culprit?

Welsh dandy Beau Nash certainly saw the business opportunites in RTW! Fresh from his success as MC in Bath, he declared himself MC of RTW and it became a very fashionable place to take the waters. I’d love to go back to the mid 1700s and attend a ball,  in a sprigged dimity frock with gloves, fan and dance card, all presided over by Richard “Beau” Nash himself.  I imagine it might be a bit stinky though?

We browsed the stalls and bought some interesting Scotch eggs – Curried, Chorizo, Chicken and bog-standard, with a view to lunching on them. We also paid a visit to a magnificent cook-shop (dog-friendly!) where I bought a whisk for the caravan. This was because I had made Polenta the previous evening and had to use the fish-slice to mix it! Not a disaster but a whisk would have been so much easier! We also bought Arch some Peanut Butter and Banana, hand-made dog biscuits as a treat.

By then, it was coffee time and we had delicious flat whites and a scrummy pain au chocolat each – a Hobbit-style second breakfast!

Another place I had a yearning to visit was Toad Rock. On that same holiday, many years ago, we had visited it and gone egg-rolling (it was Easter). There are rocks all around RTW  and it was while I was researching their provenance, I came across this – possibly the BEST ever local news story:


Anyway – back to the rocks. It has previously been speculated that the rock was man- made – including some rather fanciful ideas that it wafashioned in the shape of a rocket (!)  to appease the space men who came travelling. Yes. I know. More modern thinking is that it  was eroded into its current shape by wind action during the Ice Age. I think that’s a tad more likely?

The site wasn’t quite as I remembered it – it had seemed to be more open in my memories, but perhaps time and buildings have encroached? Or – more likely – my memories were dim and I filled the gaps with fancy. Whatever – it was nice to visit and take a few photos to keep the 70’s memories alive. Wish I’d noticed the bin when I took that picture, though.


As they day was getting on a bit now, we decided we would follow the route of the “Heart of Kent Scenic Trail“.  We had noticed a prancing horse on several signposts and it seems that these mark out the trail. We made our way to Wateringbury, where it starts. We went through some very pretty towns and villages – most notably Mereworth, fab church,  built in the Palladian style; beautiful West Malling  – key features are a Cascade and St Leonard’s tower – probably built by Bishop Gundalf (he of the white Tower at The Tower of London) to name but a few.

Kent Tour


The Medway at Wateringbury


St Lawrence’s, Mereworth


West Malling Abbey Cascade


St Lawrence’s Tower, West Malling

We then arrived in Tonbridge, another Medway town. We decided to have a look round as there seemed to be a lot of stalls and goings-on at the Castle. We spent a very pleasant hour or so there. The “goings-on” were a food festival (too full of Scotch Egg!) and a demo of the 18th century army (think Culloden) and the various roles each type of soldier played. Perfect location and weather.

We decided to abandon the trail after Tonbridge and pop back to the van for a siesta before our big evening out!

We snoozed, cooked dinner and then popped out to Waitrose in nearby Paddock Wood to buy a few bits for a picnic tomorrow and then came back to the Moonlight Drive In. I felt like a 50’s teenager – although there was very little in the way of “making out”.  Prefer comfort these days!! And there is no need for PDAs!

The film (which started at nine, as dusk fell) was OK – I knew it wouldn’t be great but it was the experience I was after rather than a great movie (which it very definitely wasn’t). But we had popcorn and coffee and our comfy car seats. A very enjoyable experience. The film, by the way,  so that you can avoid, was called “Truth or Dare” and starred no-one in particular!

And so to bed.

Sunday 6th May

Rudely awoken by the yappy dogs at 07:30 from our new neighbour’s (one side only still!) van, we dozed for a while. Mel and the kids were due to arrive late morning so we had no need to hurry. We had the usual eggs’n’sourdough toast combo and then got ready for a picnic on the boat. As soon as we had notification of Mel’s departure, which was swiftly followed by a return to home for Evie’s forgotten swimming costume) we set off down to the river. By the time they called to say they had arrived the boat was blown up and ready for the off.

It was a bit of game getting aboard as there was no pontoon or anything  – just the river bank,  but we were soon afloat. 5 people and a dog plus picnic. It was cosy! But so lovely to be on the water. Jolly fine boating weather. Mel didn’t realise we were using the outboard until we had been underway for some time. She thought we were being transported by the flow of the river, it was so silent.

We were going upstream as far as the first lock – Oak Weir Lock.  (see the map on this link (Part 2) They are BIG locks! All went ashore while I stayed with the boat. And then we turned round and went back to the Sluice Mill lock, passing the campsite on the way. Our final leg was back to the campsite, where we disembarked and deflated the boat with our very clever pump. Rather than pack it away wet, we stuck it on the roof of the car and drove back to the caravan, where we laid it out to dry and had a cuppa. Needless to say – we had grazed our way through the voyage and the heat was quite enervating. Mel and the kids went off to check in to their hotel for the night and we had a snooze. We planned to meet for dinner at 7.


Our evening destination was The Chequers in Laddingford – pretty much equidistant from their hotel and our campsite. It is dog-friendly and has a large garden for the kids to run around in. The food was average (I thought). But we had a pleasant evening and made plans for the next day before going our separate ways.

Monday 8th

We had arranged a late check-out and again had a leisurely morning reading and relaxing until Mel and the kids turned up. They had been making good use of the pool at their hotel. We had decided to go to Teapot Island – a nearby tourist attraction/cafe. Its claim to fame was that it was once on the Guinness Book of Records for the largest teapot collection (7,600) but that was a short-lived moment of glory as their record was smashed (ha ha!) by a chap in China (ha ha!) whose collection number a whopping 30,000. I read a review from the funny “Crap Days Out” book  – “”It’s awful if you don’t like teapots. But it’s probably all right if you do.” I think that about sums it up?

We had a nice coffee and a walk around by the river, where we watched people on Hobie stand-up paddle-board. They look like really good fun. The kids had a go on dry land. And then it was time to say goodbye – we went back to the site to pack up and they went home. Our journey home was a little more congested than our journey there but we were soon home, unpacked and looking forward to our trip to Frodsham (childhood home of Gary Barlow, no less!) in Cheshire on the next Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May. Where we have a pitch with our own personal hot tub! Larks!




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Dorset Hideaway Easter Mar/Apr 18

Maundy Thursday  – 29th March

I just can’t get away from the old habit of going away on this day. Dates back to my 40+ years of being a Civil Servant and getting a half day. Not sure why we did? I was happy to take it though, and usually took an additional half day to make the most of it.

We departed at around 10.30. The journey time was estimated at just over 2 hours but we always stop for a coffee and break for Arch and we eventually arrived about 1.30 – just a shade early as our pitch was accessible from 2 p.m. but it was fine. The roads to the site are very narrow and steep, but there are passing places and it’s not too bad. I was relieved when we entered the site though – such a wuss! It was raining, not for the first time this weekend!

Our site – The Dorset Hideaway –  is very rural and it looked like we would have a peaceful few days. Bliss! There is a Spa, with hot tub and you can even hire a chicken and coop for your pitch (not if you have a dog though, sadly). We had a fully-serviced pitch and soon got set up – although we do have the issue of a leaky water barrel that needs resolving. Kettle on, light lunch and a short relax. Paul had a new external 3G/4G antenna to set up and test, so he got on with that. It seemed to work very well even though it was a very quiet rural location  (phones struggling a bit). We managed to stream Netflix with ease.

After a relax and a Google, I found that there was a Caravan Supplies shop very nearby in Charmouth so we set off to buy parts for the water barrel and to get our bearings. The shop – Dorset Leisure Centre was a real find. And the staff are very helpful and knowledgeable – and the stock is VAST! We got what we needed and few other bits to boot and then set off to see the harbour at Charmouth. we then went for a Cream Tea at the very pleasant Annie’s Tea Rooms .  (Facebook link) Highly, highly recommended. Very generous portions and reasonably priced.

Back to the van to discover we had a leak – the source of which seemed to be the shower tap. Wet carpet and a repair job required. Great. Good start. I hate plastic plumbing.

We had the first of our two Gousto meals for dinner, which was delicious. Potato Cakes with baked beans and streaky bacon. we’ve had it before but it’s worth a repeat. Dinner was originally planned to be a fresh Pizza cooked on our Cadac but the rain put paid to that idea!

We spent the rest of the day/night with the water pump off, meaning the joy of a fully serviced pitch was negated. And it rained – all night.

Good Friday – 30th March

I woke up after a very quiet night and – after checking not one, but two time pieces – I decided that, as our shower was US,  it would be a good time to nip over to the very smart shower block. It was a good call. Deserted! I had a lovely hot shower (although it was one of those push-button ones – not my favourite type) in solitary splendour.

Paul (and Arch!) was still snoozing when I got back to the van, so I had to sit quietly. On checking my phone, I noted that the time was actually only 07:20! No wonder I had had the place to myself. What an absolute nana!

Paul eventually arose, we had breakfast and then he started investigating the cause of the leak in more detail. It seemed that the tap had a minute crack. This may or may not have been caused by the recent freezing conditions. It’s hard to say. As we caravan all year round we don’t drain down all the pipework, as many people who put their caravans to bed from October to March do. But in ten years of caravanning, it’s never been a problem. Until now.

Another trip to the caravan shop, £50 and a new tap, pipework and connectors purchased. We then went to Waitrose in Bridport to collect out Click and Collect order. It was raining.

It being nearly lunch time, we decided to go to the Anchor Inn in Seatown.  Delightful location, but a VERY rude waitress/proprietor told us in no uncertain terms that they were full. Her manner was so brusque, we were both left open-mouthed. It was unbelievable.  We shall  certainly never darken their doors again!

We agreed that – as the coast was likely to be busy – we’d head inland and ended up at The Hare and Hounds in the village of Waytown. A  welcome from their lovely Border Terrier, a roaring fire and a plate of Ham, egg and chips improved our mood no end! They said thick cut ham – and boy did they mean it!! It was delicious too, but some of mine went home in a doggy bag – despite the avaricious eyes of the resident BT!! He was hard to resist, though.

We went back to the van – did I mention it was raining? I had a snooze (to make up for the early start, of course). Paul mended the tap – but left everything open – just in case. There was little info on the web about such matters so he wrote a Project page for this blog – a step by step guide –  which can be found here.

And then we spent the evening scanning old photos and watching the box. We watched Conspiracy Theory – an oldish film with Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson. Empire gave it 4 stars otherwise we wouldn’t have bothered and it was not too bad at all. Mel was acting for all he was worth!!

It rained all night!

Easter Saturday – 31st March

Kippers for breakfast. With fresh wholemeal bread. Divine. Been such a long time since I had kippers. Must do it more often.

Sometime during the night the rain had stopped. Great! We set off after brekker and our first port of call was Eypemouth. A delightful spot. We met a young BT and his hoomans, who were very nice and made a fuss of our old chap. I noticed today that his age is starting to show a bit and must admit to shedding a tear at the the thought of him leaving us, as he he will one day. But for the moment he had fun chasing sticks, although it was clear he didn’t like the surface on the beach.


Fans of Broadchurch will recall this place


Eypemouth Beach


Arch – stepping stones



Kay stepping stones


Next we went to West Bay – made famous recently by the gripping series “Broadchurch“, which we loved. It was fun spotting all the familiar locations and we had a nice walk round the harbour, before buying freshly baked pasties from The Cornish Bakery for our lunch. Cheese and Onion for me and Bacon, Leek and Cheese for Sumps.  And – joy of joys – Pastei de Nata. The pasties were nice, but we both wished we had gone “traditional”.  The tarts were delish! Almost as good as mine. Chuckle.


West Bay – River Brit flow


Too muddy!


The famous cliff


Made famous by Broadchurch

We sat and people watched as we had our lunch. By coincidence, we saw the people with the BT again. Stalkers!!

Next was a visit to Burton Bradstock – which my spellchecker very kindly spelt Burton Breadstick, which made me laugh! Thence onward to lovely Lyme Regis, which was – as usual – very busy indeed. We did eventually manage to find a KIA shaped space though. We went for a stroll along the Cobb and decided to complete the west Country triumvirate (Cream Tea, Pasty) with an ice cream. Salted Caramel and Maple Walnut, specifically. And very yummy it was. I had a good poke round the very well stocked hardware store  – Arthur Fordham and Co – and bought some (vital!) pan separators! The link is to their Facebook page, by the way, so will not work for non-users.

We got back to the van and all was well with the tap and the carpet was dry, so Paul put everything back together and stowed everything back in the cupboards. Nice to have the water back on!

As we had lunched well, we had what is known as a “Willowbridge” or “Boat” supper –  which is a selection of cold cuts/cheese/salad/dips etc etc. Always a favourite.

Another evening of scanning and telly ensued. And the rain held off. And, just as we were going to bed, Paul was in the bathroom, cleaning his teeth when he suddenly hollered “Pump off, Pump Off!”. The fix had failed and the carpets and cupboards were once again submitted to a wetting – although not as bad as last time. We put everything to dry again, and retired. Somewhat dejected…….

Easter Sunday – 1st April

This morning saw us making another trip to the Caravan shop where more advice was dispensed and more parts bought. And it’s not raining!

And then we set off to see what delights Axmouth and Seaton had to offer. They are either side of the mouth of the River Axe. Sadly the water was out so it was less picturesque than it might have been at high tide. But we did catch a glimpse of the Seaton Tramway , which goes to Colyton, before stopping for coffee on the esplanade at Seaton. In common with many places in these parts we observed that it must be hellish here in the full season. Too many people going after too few parking spaces. This time of year is just right. Our next visit was to Beer (you will have noticed that we are now in Devon by the way).

Beer is a very pretty town and we stopped for a while on the cliff top, where there are great views.


Estuary at Axmouth





Beer cliff top parking


We made our way home via Colyton (pretty, great church) and Axminster (not so much!) . We had a light, late lunch (cheese and crackers) and then did a bit of packing ready for the off tomorrow. All seemed well with the plumbing. So far so good.

Dinner was the 2nd Gousto meal – Beef and Mushroom Risotto. As always, very tasty.

Oh – and the rain started.

Easter Monday – 2nd April

Rain all night. Heavy rain. Thank goodness for ear plugs. All seemed well with the plumbing, the carpet was dry and everything else likewise, so we repacked everything. Hopefully for the last time!!

We finished packing up and were off site by 10 am. The roads were quite close to flooded and I was again relieved when we joined the main road. Which was also flooded in places. Progress was slow. But we eventually arrived home, after the usual stops at about 2 pm. Not the best break ever, but still a break from routine and some quality time for us and the dog. Roll on the next Bank Holiday, when we are off to Kent.











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Rivermead – nr Micheldever 2-4 Feb

We set off about 3 pm, with Paul on phone-manning duties as usual. Arrived about 4.30 – just a few last rays of light,  although we note with good cheer that the days are actually slooowly getting longer. Hurrah.

The directions to Rivermead  are quite specific and, when I phoned to book, the owner of the CS (David) was most emphatic that they should be followed to the nth degree. After our experience with “Uncle Paul’s bend” in the summer) we were more than happy to do this. The site is in the small hamlet of Weston Colley, just outside Micheldever. It has five pitches overlooking a meadow with the River Dever as the boundary. I imagine it’s a tributary of the Test as it looks very similar; clear, fast-flowing and laden with watercress.  We were advised not to attempt to eat it due to the leaching of – ahem – cow effluent. Noted!

Rivermead is a “CS”  (Certified Site – for Caravan & Camping Club members only – max 5 pitches).  It’s a lovely spot with all the things you’d expect or wish for (a posh toilet, fresh water, waste disposal (all types), lovely views and hard standings). And it has none of the things you don’t really need (if you’re us!) like a clubhouse and kids play area. Aside from the owner’s caravan, we were the only people on site tonight. Lovely.


The posh loo


On site

It was pretty chilly and we got set up as quickly as we could so that we could get in the warm and snuggle down for the evening. We had dinner ready to cook and no plans to go out and were soon comfy with a cuppa. It’s amazing how quickly the van warms up, considering it’s not heated at all most of the time. We passed the evening watching the box and then retired to bed. I had put a hot-water bottle in the bed to warm it up and was glad I had. This is obviously a very peaceful location, and other than the rain on the roof, we had expectations of a quiet night. Sadly Mr Boy R. Acer ( or Hannu Mikkola, as we dubbed him) had other ideas! He did circuit after circuit – slowing down by the caravan field before accelerating noisily into the “90 left” just past the field. We lay there in the dark, waiting for him in the end – we could hear him for miles, it seemed. Luckily, he got bored and knocked it on the head by midnight! Hallelujah!

Saturday arrived – grey and rainy, as per the forecast.  Not a disaster but a bit of a shame as it would have been nice to have a walk around. As it was, we went out in the car and embarked on a tour of the small towns and villages in the area.  Snowdrops everywhere. I was reminded of the Tennyson (I think?) poem about Snowdrops, which makes me feel strangely wistful.

The Snowdrop

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!


There are some really lovely churches in the area and we also spotted the village pump in Preston Candover. Photo opportunity!

We stopped for coffee in Whitchurch – Kudos Coffee – and very nice it was too. Archie was lucky enough to be bought one of their Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits. He seemed to like it, although it didn’t really hang around long enough to be sure! They do lots of yummy tray bakes and cakes but we managed to resist their charms.

We particularly liked the very beautiful St Mary Bourne and stopped to take this picture of fighting hares atop one of the picturesque thatches.


We finally ended up in Andover where we nipped into Waitrose for a few odds and ends. We then popped to The Range (for me) and Maplins (for Paul) and ate our (very late) lunch in the car park! Classy! My man knows how to show a girl a good time, eh?

After the nipping and popping was done, we made our way “home” and spent the remainder of the afternoon/early evening, putting together a plan for the next year or so, which involves (among other things) downsizing and a decrease in working hours for Paul. Really quite exciting stuff! As we were working, we noticed that we were going to be joined by a motor home this evening. And – when the owner popped in to bring us some eggs – he mentioned that another two mohos were also expected. Busy suddenly!


The site from another angle

The evening passed in the usual manner – although we now have an Amazon Fire stick and can catch up on our favourite Netflix shows too. The rain seemed to be easing and it looked as if we might have a finer day on Sunday. Before dinner, we had some prawns as a starter and a while later I felt itchy all over and discovered than I had had an allergic reaction. A little consultation with Dr Google revealed that shellfish allergy is quite common and that people spend their lives quite happily eating prawns, when bang! They react. This seemed to be what had happened to me. I took some antihistamines (always have some in the First Aid box) and by bedtime my skin seemed to have settled down a little. Phew.

It was a lovely quiet night – we half-imagined that our friend with the car might show up again but not tonight,  thank goodness.  We slept until about 9 and then got up for our usual Sunday breakfast, eager to taste the free range eggs from the site. Reader, they were delicious, with huge, intensely orange yolks. Paul said that he felt that they tasted like eggs used to taste when he was a kid. We had  forgotten our trusty egg-topper – a gadget to which we had been introduced by my brother. It does just what its name suggests. It takes the tops off boiled eggs! Efficiently and neatly. Highly recommended. And, as we are avid boiled egg fans, an essential for our batterie de cuisine! I think we may need a caravan one!

It was a lovely day and David ( the owner) had mentioned that there was no hurry to leave  and we were welcome to take our time. This is one of the things we like about smaller sites like this – much more relaxed about departures, whenever they can be. As it happened, we had done everything we needed to reasonably early and we had one or two things to do at home (I have a whole week of work ahead). By coincidence,  we rolled off site on the dot of midday – the time most bigger sites require you to leave (some are even 11 am) which usually feels a bit rushed. A lovely relaxing weekend and we very much plan to return to this lovely little site.

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Chew Valley for New Year 28-12 to 21

Thursday 28th December

We’d had a day to recover and clear up from Christmas and it was time to up steadies and make our way down to the West Country for the New Year. We keep our van on the drive at home and had been sleeping in there since Christmas Eve (we had family staying) but it was still great to be getting away. We have done this for several years now and it has become part of our festive seasonal routine. I think I look forward to it as much as I look forward to Christmas, these days. Having dealt with all the left over meats by freezing them, we packed all the other goodies (Cheese mountain!) into the van and set off. We had chosen Chew Valley, one of our favourite “Tranquil Parks”  (Adult only)  sites for this year’s trip. It had been on our list of sites to visit for some while and we couldn’t wait to get there.

Traffic was not too bad and we stopped once for a comfort break for the dog and a coffee for us and arrived early afternoon, with daylight to spare. Chew Valley is at Bishop Sutton – a Somerset village, and the nearest bigger town is probably Keynsham ( spelt K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M for those old enough to remember Horace Batchelor on Radio Luxembourg!)  and pronounced Cane-sham.  Quite interestingly, Bishop Sutton, is an ex- (as recently as 1929) coal-mining village. It has a pub, a shop and post office and even an Indian Restaurant. And of course our caravan site. It was well sign-posted and easy to find and we were soon reporting our arrival to reception.

Now for the treat! They ask you to unhitch on arrival, hook your van up to a tractor and then site and level it for you! We have never experienced this before. All you have to do is put the steadies down and hook-up electricity and services and you’re done!  You leave the car in the car park – once you’ve unpacked all you need. Then you just need to put on the heating, make a cuppa, eat a mince pie (or other delicacy in season) and relaaaaaxxx. We like! Oh and we were presented with a nicely wrapped Christmas gift (a Chocolate Orange) and another nice touch I omitted to mention was that we got an email from them just before we came saying “looking forward to seeing you”! Likewise.


Siting and levelling

And relax was just what we did for the remainder of the day. And the site looked very pretty at night – lots of Christmas lights. Many people had bedecked their vans with festive illuminations, too, as you can see below.


Friday 29th December

Well that was a Cold, Haily, Windy Night and no mistake! Actually it was just wind and heavy rain and we were snug as, but I’ve always liked the song (Steeleye Span – Please to see the King  -Track 2). Even with ear plugs in I could hear the rain! We had a slow morning but eventually headed out to suss out the lie of the land and to replenish our victuals (no cheese required!).

Our first destination was Chew Magna – a very pleasant little village that actually seems to have a thriving heart. The Chew, by the way, refers to the River that runs through the valley, and Chew Magna is/was the most important of several similarly named villages in the area. The Chew is a tributary of the Avon.

As we were driving to our next destination, we encountered an usual sight. A pair of (I think?) Rheas, in a field. They are a long way from home (South America). They were quite friendly and very inquisitive.


Rheas – not very easy to photograph!

We passed through Compton Dando (nice name!) and thence to Keynsham, where we visited the Waitrose to pick up some fresh stuff and grab a coffee. Our tour then took us on the Bath road, and we decide to have a late lunch at The Blathwayt Arms, a nice-looking, dog-friendly pub overlooking the race-course.  We shared a baked Camembert (cheese again!), which was delicious.

Thus refreshed, we made our way home, via Bath, to our cosy van for a snooze. We stopped for a quick look (the light was fading) at the Canal leading down to the centre of Bath. Some happy memories of these locks.

Saturday 30th December

Well that was a Cold, Haily, Windy Night and no mistake! Are you seeing a pattern here? I didn’t get a great deal of sleep as the caravan was battered by the wind and there were a couple of gusts which made my heart beat faster. It truly felt like we left the ground, briefly! Luckily we survived with no harm done but I felt pretty groggy!

It was a grey and blustery day, with a louring and sullen sky as we set out, late morning. No cycling today. We popped in to Chew Valley Lake, which is very near the site. The Lake is actually a reservoir (opened in 1956) which supplies Bristol with its drinking water. Unlike other lakes we have visited, there is no provision for an off-road cycling (or walking) circumnavigation, which seems a shame. Lots of dog-walkers though, on the trails that are there.  Bristol Water don’t seem too encouraging of such an idea, judging by this article, although there is progress towards one. Anyway – as I already said, it was not a cycling day as it looked like it would pour down at any minute, so not an issue.


Chew Valley Lake

We thought we’d go on to have a look at another local lake –  Blagdon Lake. This, too, is  reservoir, again owned by Bristol Water. From my reading, it seems to be a a bit of a mecca for fisherman.  There is a visitor centre – Blagdon Pumping Station and Visitor Centre – but this is sadly not open at the moment due to “works” (according to Bristol Water)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoncliff_Aqueduct. This is a shame, because it looked pretty interesting and has a couple of old steam-driven beam engines.


Blagdon Lake

Hunger reared its ugly head and we dropped in on the Plume of Feathers in nearby Rickford for a bowl of soup. The Soup du Jour was Mushroom and Anchovy. Yes. Reader it was not pleasant.  I note that their website could do with an overhaul, as the Christmas Menu for 2013 appears in the news section! It has a pretty location by a stream,though,  and I imagine it’s pretty popular in summer. I saw an advert for a Mole Catcher in the local magazine, which amused me. You don’t see that very often in our neck of the woods!


We noticed a very interesting building on the way in to the village by a pond, and stopped to take a couple of photos. It transpires the pond is Rickford Pond, and the “interesting building” is a former Baptist Chapel – now a Masonic Lodge.


We realised we needed to buy some more dog food as we had used the last the night before. We decided  to go to Cheddar to make the purchase as it gave us an opportunity to see – once again cos we love it – Cheddar Gorge.

Sunday 31st December

Well that was a Cold, Haily, Windy Night and no mistake!  Again. The rain was particularly heavy – almost monsoon-like. Not that I have ever experienced a monsoon but it was how I imagine it would be!

We had a bit of lie-in as we had had such a(nother) disturbed night and actually did not go out until  about 2 pm. The weather was, again, not up to much. Still not cycling weather and we were starting to wonder why we had bothered to bring them!

Because the weather was so rubbish, Paul devised one of his “misery” tours. We passed a most beautiful country house. Sadly it was closed but it was Iford Manor, which holds a Jazz festival in the summer. It was a nice photo opportunity.


Iford Manor

We also passed through Freshford, which is the most beautiful village imaginable. All beautiful houses in honey stone and quintessentially English. Interestingly, the village featured in and filming took place here, for famous Ealing comedy.   “The Titfield Thunderbolt“. Also noteworthy is that this film was the first Ealing comedy to be filmed in Technicolour.

Our route took us through Bradford on Avon and thence to Bath, very pretty at night (for it was now dark) and a good re-fuelling location.  We arrived home and settled down for the evening, hoping that fireworks would not be too big an issue – although Archie’s hearing seems to be less acute than it was. Certainly the firework season, which has hitherto been pretty traumatic for him, passed reasonably peacefully this year. We did hear them nearby but Archie didn’t turn a hair, which was a relief.

Mon 1st Jan 2018

Happy New Year – and a peaceful night all round! And the forecast was good too. A cycling day, at last. We had stumbled across a cycle path, based on an old railway line, that runs from Bristol to Bath, which has a well-designed, interactive website. The path is tarmaced throughout (so hopefully wouldn’t be a mud-bath after all the recent rain). Our nearest point of access was Saltford, so we made our way there and set off. As is often the case, the path is near the canal and we got some lovely views as we cycled along. Not many boats on the move though, maybe because it was NYD?

The cycle path is a tremendous resource and very well used – walkers, cyclists, runners, dog-walkers, families. It’s really good to see. The surface is good too – a few puddles, but no mud. Excellent! It’s about 8km from Saltford to Bath city centre and we thoroughly enjoyed the ride, passing a few locks, a beautiful bridge and then – sadly – the cycle path was closed – less than half a kilometer from the town centre, due to high river levels. Annoying! The rest of the way was on roads, so we decided to give it a miss. We sat and had a drink and then commenced the return journey.

We eventually arrived back at the car park. We’d had a great ride, Archie had had a great run and we had also worked up an appetite for a late lunch. There is a pub (The Bird in Hand) right by the access point to the track, but I had seen a signpost earlier, to a canal-side pub and we decided to make for that. This was the Jolly Sailor which has a prime position right by Saltford Lock.  Bet it’s heaving with gongoozlers in the summer. The pub doesn’t have a website, but it does have a Facebook page, so I’ve included a link for those who use it. It was a nice meal – nothing special, but a bit pricey, I thought. Before we left, we took a few photos of the lock. The water was very high indeed – almost over the top of the lock moorings. It made us look forward to a time when we’d return here by boat, hopefully.


Sunshine at last!


High water!


Lock entrance


Cormorants on the weir

We made our way back to the van to do some packing. Paul was working on the 2nd, so we had an early start to get back in time for that. On the way back to the van, we called in at Avoncliff aqueduct, where we had been by boat earlier in the year with our great friends Sue and Paul Rogers. More happy memories and it was interesting to see it from another angle.

It was probably the wettest, windiest New Year break we have ever had and the weather prevented us doing as much as we might otherwise have done. But that didn’t stop us enjoying it at all. It was actually a nice opportunity to relax and read, eat cheese, make more memories and just be. Chew Valley is a lovely site with great facilities. Well worth all the positive reviews and we’ll definitely head back one day. We currently have no plans yet for 2018 but that will be rectified shortly, no doubt.





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The Old Oaks 17-20 November – for the Glastonbury Carnival 2017


The Old Oaks is one of our favourite campsites – we initially visited back in December 2009, for our first annual “Wrapping Weekend”, where we take all the presents we have bought, wrapping paper, tags and trimmings; and bottle of Baileys to a campsite and have a lovely weekend, wrapping the presents on the Saturday evening, quaffing Baileys and making fun out of a bit of a chore. This was back when the Old Oaks stayed open all year. It closes now – after the carnival until March. And it has just won Campsite of the Year, I believe? Well deserved.

Anyway. Paul had been away at the annual Marine Electronic Trade Show (METS) in Amsterdam and flew back on Friday morning. I picked him up from the airport and then we came home, loaded up and set off at about 1.30 pm for Glastonbury.

We had lunch on the journey and had very few hold-ups, arriving just before sunset. We  quickly set up on our fully serviced pitch and were soon sat down, cosy and warm with a cuppa in hand. We had a quiet evening, reading and playing cards, after I had made and Paul had cooked Pizzas – from scratch – on our Cadac. They were delicious – ham, mushroom and gorgonzola, topped with grated mozzarella. Yum!

We were both tired and so retired to bed by 10 ish.


Sunset set-up at Old Oaks, Glastonbury


Pizza being cooked


Fato a Mano!



After a lovely quiet night (owls!) we awoke refreshed and raring to go. We had a cooked brekker – again courtesy of the Cadac. I love the fact that you can cook outside with no stink/grease in the van! After a couple of coffees and a relax, we set off for a look round Wells. We have been before but it’s such a lovely place and with Market Day on Saturday mornings, it’s worth another visit.

We started with a coffee in a very pleasant little cafe – but not before I’d bought a couple of Christmas presents in a cute shop – Saint & Gray (lovely scarves and bags – must …resist…..). I had hardly walked a dozen steps from the car park before I’d made that first purchase! And then straight into another, well-stocked fabric and haberdashery shop for some lovely Christmassy fat quarters (in tasteful shades of grey ) to make myself a Christmas rag wreath. I was really motoring on the shopping front!!

After coffee we strolled up the High Street and round the market square. Loads of lovely smells. One fruit and veg stall looked particularly good, and was selling lots of really traditional old apples and pears. Paul said they looked a bit manky – he’s too used to perfect, waxed and polished supermarket apples. These looked like proper, unsanitised apples to me. And they had romantic names – like Egremont Russet,  D’Arcy Spice and Laxton’s Fortune. They smelt quite wonderful and reminded me of my childhood. Not a watery, tasteless Golden Delicious to be seen in those days.

We had a quick look at the famous bell-ringing swans (it’s true –check it out!)  and the at the Bishop’s Palace and then bought some delicious looking pasties for our lunch and made our way back to the van. We were being picked up by coach to go to Glastonbury for the Carnival, later in the afternoon. We had a comfy (snoozy!) afternoon and then got ready to go. Half way through the afternoon, Paul suggested we stayed another night (they had a special offer on) and I jumped at the chance.  He went and paid and it was settled. I love an impromptu decision!

The pick up was at 4.30 and rain was forecast. Boo! The coach deposited us right in the town centre (before all the roads closed in preparation for the procession) and we were left with a couple of hours to fill, before the pre-procession started at 6.30. We had a wander round and finally settled in a cafe – beers for Paul and coffees for me. The rain had started. And so it continued throughout the entire evening.

We found our viewpoint and settled in for a long wait. We had taken the opportunity to book tickets for a buffet in the Abbey Tea Rooms, which we could use as a base for the evening. But we could not go there until 8 pm, so we had a couple of hours of standing in the deluge. Luckily we had brollies, good rain-wear and walking boots, so it could have been worse! We had also thought to bring the backpack we use for Archie when we go road cycling. So we tucked him in there. Not sure he was very keen but we kept the rain off him with one of the brollies. Spirits among the crowd were high, despite the weather and this helped to make the wait more bearable.

The procession was awesome – in the very truest sense of the word. The work that goes into building the floats is unbelievable – as you can see in the pictures. And they are full of people, doing choreographed routines. Those people worked so hard! You would never have known they had done it all the night before in the neighbouring town of Wells! They must have been soaked and frozen to the bone, but they performed with gusto. Respect to them. They were amazing.



The West Country is famous for its carnivals and some (e.g. Bridgwater ) date all the way back to the 17th Century. They are actually related to the Gunpowder Plot/Guy Fawkes, but today are more about raising money for charity. Information about the circuits can be found here.

About 8.15 we made our way across to the Tea Rooms. It was packed out. I guess the impact of the bad weather was that everyone wanted to get in out of the cold and rain. There wasn’t a seat to be had. Very disappointing The buffet was plentiful and the hot drink was welcome though – even though we had to juggle with plates, cups, brollies and dog.

The procession takes about 3 hours to go through and we eventually made our way back to the coach at about 10:15. We hung up all our wet stuff and fell in to bed. What an amazing evening. So impressive. I’d thoroughly recommend a visit. We will definitely return.


We woke up quite late –  to sunshine. Typical. But we had an extra day. How lovely. We agreed that we would buy food from a supermarket for our unplanned supper tonight, rather than go out to eat and would thus factor that in to the end of our day.

It was a beautiful day and, after a very late breakfast, we set off. Our first port of call was Street – home to the Clarke’s Shopping Village. With Christmas in mind, I thought it might be worth a visit. It’s also dog friendly – they claim that 90% of the shops are, which is good news. Sadly it was absolutely heaving (what did I expect??) and we decided to give it a miss after all. We saw some lovely views on our way there, though.


We had spotted a monument on the hills, and a little research showed that it was dedicated to famous seaman, one Vice Admiral Samuel Hood – after whom the famous WW2 battleship HMS Hood was named. We set off to have a look for it and finally found it. It’s an impressive edifice and has quite an interesting history. We were glad we had made the effort to take a look.

Our next hour or so was spent exploring the Somerset Levels – which became quite famous after the floods in the winter of 2013/14. We were hoping to see (although not really expecting to) some Cranes, which are slowly being reintroduced to the UK after being hunted to extinction a few hundred years ago, What a sight that would be. Perhaps another day. We did see many birds of prey – largely red Kites –  but beautiful to see, nonetheless.

We made our way back to Glastonbury and bought our provisions for our supper and then repaired to the van, which was looking lovely in the sunshine. We spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and chatting through a project of which more news in a future post. We’d had a lovely weekend with a bonus day and are now looking forward to our next trip away – maybe a wrapping weekend ?  – although December is already looking busy. So unless we can squeeze one in, our next trip may well be after Christmas for our traditional New Year break. We are off to Chew Valley, near Bath this year. Bring it on!








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New Alresford for the Alresford Show – 1-3 September

Having been to the Alresford Show last year and having thoroughly enjoyed it, we decided we’d make a weekend of it this year. We found a campsite – The Spinney – on the outskirts of the small town of (New) Alresford itself. And it was a great find. Just off the road but tucked away from sight. We chose a pitch and, luckily, we had that entire side of the site to ourselves all weekend. There are no frills here and yet there is everything you need. Hook-up, water and somewhere to dispose of rubbish and waste – of all kinds! It’s a little gem of a site. Just the type we like – relaxed and few rules. The site does not have a full website, but it does have a Facebook page and I have included a link above for those of you who use it.

It was a beautiful evening and after we had set up, we popped out for a drive because we needed some cash. New Alresford is a very pretty little town with an abundance of pubs/restaurants and tea-shops. It’s the sort of place you feel Jane Austen might have felt at home. It has some interesting independent shops and is well worth a visit. It also has a Co-op in case you have forgotten something vital. And don’t get too bogged down by the “New” appellation! It’s been around since around 1200! Famous for the Watercress Festival – which is held in May (the weekend of the 20th in 2018), it’s also home to the terminus of the The Mid Hants Railway aka the Watercress Line. Also worth checking out. Incidentally, it’s called the Watercress Line because Alresford is one of THE places for growing the stuff. The line made it possible to swiftly transport it to London for sale in Covent Garden in the mid-19th Century.

We returned the van to cook our dinner. As we often do in the van, we were using GOUSTO for our evening meals. Fresh ingredients, with everything required to cook a delicious meal with step by step instructions. We love them. And you get the recipe cards to keep and make it using your own ingredients. It’s not cheap, but cheaper than a meal out. We’d definitely recommend. Tonight’s dish was Sticky Hoisin Pork with Cucumber Pickle. Absolutely delish! If anyone wants a voucher to try it, contact me through the blog.

It was a rather lovely sunset (photo does not do it justice) and we had a pleasant evening watching the box, before retiring.

Saturday dawned fair, and we left in good time to join the inevitable queue to the show. The parking is very well organised, though, and we were soon making our way in to the show. First stop – coffee! We watched the stunning heavy horses as we drank our coffee. And then the craft stalls! I bought myself a new bracelet from Boat House Studio, who are based in our home town of Portchester and who are a particular favourite of mine.  I also bought some lavender for a craft project. There is a big lavender nursery (Long Barn) just outside town which has a very pleasant cafe – again well worth a visit.

We then sat and watched the very entertaining Alresford Ukulele Jam play in one of the arenas, and then the novice show jumping, which we really enjoyed. Those tiny little girls being so brave. We had a plan to meet our friends Bob and Barb who were attending for the day with their family and planned to stay in touch by mobiles. The signal wasn’t great but we agreed to meet a little later.

These events always remind me of the John Betjeman poem “Hunter Trials” I think it’s called?:

It’s awfully hard luck on Diana
Her ponies have swallowed their bits
She’s fished down their throats with a spanner
And frightened them all into fits

That’s all I can remember of it but it always makes me smile.

It was on to the livestock. The show is a proper old-school agricutural show and there is plenty to see – three arenas, plus stalls and food and drink outlets. You can even buy a tractor. It’s such a great day out. It had got quite hot so we stopped for a quick G&T. No ordinary G&T though. It was locally brewed Watercress Gin – served garnished with it and grapefruit. By gum it was good! Just what the doctor ordered. I’d happily have spent the remainder of the day there! The company – Winchester Distillery –  brew several great gins – not cheap but good for special occasions rather than guzzling (as we are wont to do  – on occasion!). We saw a great idea for a garden bar at the gin stand.

Rustic bar idea!

Looking a bit sheepish?


We had – just for fun – entered Archie in the “Best Veteran” section of the dog show. Fresh from his 4th place at the Cirencester Show, we thought we’d show him again. There were 16 dogs in the class and they were paraded and the judge chatted to the dogs and their owners. Imagine our surprise and – yes – joy when our old boy (a 15 year old Border terrier) was awarded FIRST PLACE! We were so chuffed for him. A silver cup and 2 rosettes (a First and a Best Veteran) and lots of kudos for him. Just lovely.

We had lunch (very late!) after this – a delish posh fish finger sandwich, which slipped down very well.  And then it was time for a quick meet up with the Shorters. They were there en famille and it was good to meet their daughters and grandchildren of whom we have heard so much over the years. It was late afternoon by then and the heat had taken it’s toll on us but particularly on Arch and we decided to go back to the van for a snooze.

After our snooze and a well-earned cuppa, we popped out for another drive and decided to have dinner out and save our other Gousto meal  (Cheesy Chicken Piccata with Spinach) for the next day.  We rang the nearby Tichborne Arms and they squeezed us in. It’s a really lovely, very dog friendly pub, with a friendly ambience and, tonight,  we had struck lucky!  Steak and Kidney pie was on the menu (which changes often). And it was a great choice. A proper pie with good pastry, tender steak and large chunks of kidney – rather than the tiny slivers you get in a commercial pie. We loved it, and Archie enjoyed the left-overs (it was a big portion, served with plenty of fresh and well-cooked veg).

We returned to the van and it was nice to think that we did not have to rush off the next day. Normally Sunday means that you have to pack up and be off site by midday, which although is not really a rush is sometimes a bit too early. We had spoken to the owners the day before and they said there was no rush at all to leave the site and that any time was good with them. How very civilised!

Arch and his silverware

Sunday was soggy. It rained pretty much from late evening Saturday onward. We had a nice (rare) lie-in, the usual eggy breakfast and then read and dozed and and relaxed until about 3 o’clock. We were home and unpacked by 4.30. A perfect weekend break. Think we might give the Watercress fest a go next May and stay here again.

Looking forward to our next trip which – as I write – is probably not going to be until our trip to Glastonbury for the Carnival in November, staying (again) at the lovely Old Oaks. Unless we can squeeze in another weekend before then, that is? Ever hopeful.






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Somerset – Aug 25th to 28th

This trip saw us off to Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor (nearest town Dulverton) in Somerset for our annual get away with our niece Evie (11) and nephew Lenny (7). This year was unusual in that we were just back from 2 weeks in Italy with them, but we quite like them so it wasn’t an issue!

We had planned to get away by 09:30 and I noticed, as we drove down the hill, that the time was 09:31. Not bad, considering the amount of stuff we had had to cram in (two excited children, a dog and two excited adults, four bikes, a boat, and outboard, a large leisure battery, food for a small army and entertainment for us all).

It was not the best journey (although I have had worse!) but it was a bank holiday weekend and so to be expected. It allowed us the opportunity to take a few (pretty poor!) pictures of Stonehenge!


The last bit of the journey was pretty hairy as we had (foolishly it turns out) trusted the satnav to get us there. Fail! We knew that the site was very rural, so naturally the roads might be a little tricky, so were mentally prepared. The road we were sent along, however, was particularly narrow and steep and there was one bend that was pretty much a hairpin – just the place where you don’t want to meet anything – let alone a large red lorry! Oh crikey! Paul was amazing and kept his head as he reversed the van back down the steep bend. There were a few anxious moments, as you might imagine (although we kept it light as we didn’t want to worry the children) but we got there, thanks to Paul’s steady hand. A couple of minutes later, still marvelling at Paul’s prowess and unflappability,  we pulled onto our allotted pitch. That was one big phew! The bend, which can be seen circled in red on the map and in the photo below, has since been dubbed “Uncle Paul’s Bend”.

Lake map


Uncle Paul’s bend – so much worse in reality!

I think it’s the first time we have been caught out like this, which in all our years of caravanning isn’t too bad. We’ll probably be a bit more careful in future!

As mentioned, it had been a  protracted, 5 hour, journey (rather just the 3ish it should have taken) and the kids had endured it very well, bless them. We were glad it was over, though, so that we could get on with our holiday. The kids were, as usual, very helpful with the many little jobs that need to be done at set-up, so we finished in good time.

A quick cuppa to restore Uncle Paul’s shattered nerves while the kids got an ice-cream and had a cycle round to get acquainted with our home for the next three nights and then we got our bikes out, too,  and set off to explore. We cycled down to the lake and set off in an anti-clockwise direction towards the dam.  Wimbleball is actually a reservoir and, in addition to the camping, there is a nice cafe, a sailing club, archery, wind-surfing, SUP and more.

You may recall that last year was a bit of a washout regarding Lenny and cycling, but he has just learned – almost overnight  – and was so keen to get cracking. Archie was his usual exuberant self, despite his age. He really does love a bike ride. The path has a good surface and also has some good but short inclines, to get the blood pumping though the veins. We arrived at the dam and the kids and Paul climbed down to the water’s edge to throw stones. We evetually retraced our steps and arrived back at the caravan. Considering he has only just got to grips with cycling, Lenny did very well indeed, cycling around 4.5 k in all. Go Lenny!


We arrived back at the van and prepped the veg for tea and then set off in search of a phone signal. There is no service at all for quite a way, but we arrived in pretty little Dulverton and found a good signal, so that we could phone the kids’ Ma & Pa. That done, we went back to the van for tea – a pre-made Cottage Pie (with hidden peas) , with broccoli, carrots and runner beans. This was pronounced “yummy” and soon disappeared. Then it was a visit to the play area, a bit more biking and a dog-walk, a few games of OB (as it is known in our family but also known as Switch), and then bed. For all of us! We find it easier to go to bed and get up at the same time as them.

It really was a quiet night – no noise at all, except the odd owl and some snoring from you-know who! We all awoke around 8 pm and arose for breakfast. It was a fine day, thankfully, as our plan was to do some boating this morning. Breakfast finished, we packed all we needed in the car and set off to the water-sports area. This is just a short way up the road, but too far to carry the boat.

This was the first outing for our new high speed pump. It is both an inflator and a deflator – made light work of the inflation, and we were soon (although probably not soon enough for the kids!) ready to launch.

We spent a good couple of hours exploring the lake and the kids were keen to steer it themselves. We had such a great time. The lake is large enough that you don’t have to worry too much about other boaters/sailors/boarders and they had fun turning circles and generally going wherever the fancy took them. They even had a go at rowing – not quite so successful!


We all worked together to pack the boat away, when we had finished boating. The pump was brilliant at deflating – which had hitherto been a bit of a nuisance – and the outboard still had plenty of life left in it. Great purchases, both recommended.

We returned to the caravan for lunch, by which time it was heading towards mid-afternoon. We took a drive to Minehead, had the daily ice-cream and popped in to the local Tesco for some more milk and more cash. We then returned to the van. It was cycling time again!

This time, we went clockwise round to the bridge under which Evie had steered earlier. It was a lovely early evening and we felt lucky to be there. IMG_3456


We returned from our bike ride and set off once more for Dulverton, where we had spotted a handy chippy. A quick call to the ‘rents and then we joined the queue for the chippy. Being Saturday night, it was pretty busy and we had a 20 minute wait, so by the time the food arrived we were all pretty ravenous.

We opened our packages and – despite having asked for plenty of salt and vinegar – there was none. SO disappointing. The kids food was fine but Paul & I repacked our grub and we beat a hasty retreat home to apply a liberal dressing of said condiments. Sadly, by the time we got home it was all a bit soggy and, to be honest, I wish we hadn’t bothered. Not a great success.

After dinner there was time for a little more fun before, once again, we all retired.

Another quite night and we were soon up, washed fed and dressed ready to go out. The morning’s plan was to visit Tarr Steps. This is a “clapper” bridge – a type of ancient river crossing (or prototype bridge), made with local stone. Tarr Steps is the longest clapper bridge in Britain, apparently.

We went through a ford on the way there, which Lenny, in particular, loved. We had to turn round and go through again, so that he could get a picture. We were also spotting ponies and other livestock on the moor and these all involved more photo opportunities.


It seemed that everyone else had had the same idea as us, and the car park was heaving. We eventually found a space though. We had put the beach shoes out to bring but had forgotten to pick them up, so paddling was done bare foot. Archie had a particularly nice time, barking at a Springer Spaniel, who was more of a water dog than he is. He rarely barks, so can only assume he was barking out a warning about getting wet?


We had an appointment with steam at 2.30 in Bishop’s Lydeard and set off, eating lunch on the way there in the car.

We arrived a bit ahead of schedule and popped in to the Bishop’s Lydeard Mill and Rural Life museum. Sadly we didn’t have time for a proper look round but there was time for an ice-cream (or chocolate cake, in Evie’s case!). It looks well worth a proper visit. Maybe another time?

We set off for our train ride on the West Somerset Railway – which is the longest heritage railway in the UK, at over 20 miles long. We couldn’t take the dog so it was just me and the kids, Paul would meet us the other end, in Watchet, our destination. This would take about an hour.


It was a pretty trip through the lovely Somerset countryside, but once they had got ever the initial excitement and done their activity sheets , I think they were a tad bored, so I was quite glad we weren’t going all the way to the terminus in Minehead!

Paul took a video of the train at one of the crossings and we can be seen at 27seconds – albeit not too clearly!

We had a walk round Watchet. Paul and I had a cream tea while the kids had another ice-cream (yeah, I know but we were on holiday!).  It’s a pretty little town with a cute harbour and was quite busy on this lovely summer Sunday. We saw the statue of the Ancient Mariner and were interested to find that Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived nearby and was inspired to write the poem by a visit to Watchet harbour.


Back in the car and, as it was on our route home, we decided to see if we could spot the train at its various crossing places. Sadly, it was not to be. We were held up at one road junction and it was just enough to make us miss it. Each time we arrived at a crossing, we had just missed it. It was fun looking though and when we eventually gave up, typically, we heard the train arriving at where we had just left. Doh!


Train Spotting

We arrived back at the van and, while I made the dinner, Paul took the kids out for a last cycle ride. One of the things I have really enjoyed about the site is that it is safe and child friendly and we were able to allow them a degree of freedom to roam alone which, as they are children who live in London, they may not be able to do very often.

Dinner (Cheesy Tuna Pasta Bake) went down very well. I had a lot to live up to, as Mummy’s version is a firm favourite and mine is quite different as it has tomato sauce. It was much enjoyed and I was honoured to have the title “Aunty Kay’s Pasta” bestowed upon the dish and given the freedom to make it again. I has a proud!

After dinner, they were let out to the play area while we did some prep for the off tomorrow. It always goes way too quickly.  As the sun started to set, we played a few games of Dobble – which is the best card game EVER in my opinion. We actually played it quite a lot after the kids were in bed when we were in Italy, it is so enjoyable.  Yep. We sure know how to party!

We had quite a noisy last night. There was a big gathering of people on site celebrating a special birthday. We very much believe in live and let live, but there is an unwritten rule when camping about noise at night. Sometimes it is 10 pm , sometimes it’s 10.30 but there is a time to keep the noise down. Clearly this did not apply to our revellers, as they were chatting and laughing in full voice well past 11.30. And these were not kids, who could probably be forgiven a little. These were people who should have known better.  A bit inconsiderate but thank goodness for ear-plugs!

We were up early, packed and on the road by 09:00, in anticipation of another long and tedious journey but we were pleasantly surprised to be home in good time, with very little in terms of delays. It is customary to teach the kids a new song each year and this time it was that good old Children’s Favourites standard (remember Stewpot?)  “Lily the Pink”. That kept us entertained for quite a while! And JoJo drove some of the way home, which took some of the burden off Paul!

After unpacking, it was still hot and sunny so we finished off our little holiday with a dip in the pool. Probably the last one for this year, which has been a good one pool-wise.


The perfect end to a lovely weekend. And we sang Lily the Pink all the way to Guildford the next day, to return the kids to their Mummy, who was eagerly awaiting their return. She told me that they had many tales with which to regale her and a rendition of Lily, of course, during their journey back to London. Here’s to next year.

Our next trip is a little closer to home – to Alresford for the Alresford Show. Bring it on!