On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

Meriden – Dec 29th to Jan 1st

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Another first for us! Spending New Year’s Eve in the Caravan. Sounded like a nice idea and so we looked for somewhere nice to stay. Being child-free, we are big fans of adult only parks and in particular this group of 32 quality child-free sites throughout England & Wales. We have visited several near(ish)by and decided to try a little further afield. Somers Wood looked very nice and seemed well-placed for a spot of exploring and so we booked for a 3 night stay. We set off at around 10 am on a beautiful day (especially in comparison to the hideous pre-Xmas weather) and had a stress free journey to Meriden, home of the Triumph motor-cycle factory until the early 80’s.  There was a friendly welcome and a swift check in and we soon got set up in the attractive woodland setting on our fully-serviced pitch. Archie was particularly interested in the many squirrels – he has an ambition to catch one but never will!

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In complete contrast to the day before, the next day started off horrendously. Blowing a hooly and lashing with rain. We thus had a slow start and enjoyed the lack of urgency to get out. By late morning, the squall had passed and we set off towards our destination – Royal Leamington Spa. As is our wont, we took a circuitous route, via Kenilworth to have a quick squizz at the castle. We were impressed.

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After a short wander (it was VERY muddy under foot) we retired to the local hostelry, the Queen & Castle,  for a spot of lunch. A very nice pub with tasteful décor and even tastier food. Would recommend.

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Lunch devoured, we resumed our journey to Leamington. This a a pleasant, leafy town with wide boulevards and some beautiful Edwardian and Georgian houses.  We toured the town, which was bustling with post-Christmas sale shoppers first by car and then parked near the Pump Rooms and took Archie for a stroll round Jephson Gardens.  More squirrel action here for Archie. He was very excited indeed and actually wrneched his lead out of my grasp in his futile efforts to catch a squirrel.

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The Pump Rooms (comedy name?)

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Jephson Gardens

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Archie not wanting to leave the squirrels of Jephson Gdns

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Bridge over the River Leam

Much more rain has fallen since we were there a week ago and the river is very high, as can be seen in this link. A terrible start to 2014 for so many people.

As Warwick is almost touching Leamington, we had a quick visit although the daylight was on the wane and we have visited before. I can confirm it is a still beautiful.

Mediaeval Warwick

Mediaeval Warwick

We also stopped on the way home at Hatton Yard – mid-point of the infamous (to me!) Hatton Flight of 21 locks, which raises the Grand Union a mere 45 metres for a very great deal of effort. Those who know us will be aware of our love of canals but Hatton is our most detested flight on the whole system. Here is an aerial view of the yard:

Hatton Yard from the air

Hatton Yard from the air

It still made me feel very nostalgic though. I miss the canal so much.

We passed a quiet night at the lovely wooded site, Although it is only a short hop to the motorway it is very quiet and there seems to be little in the way of traffic passing the site. All we could hear was owls, which we love.

Raining again in the morning (which was New Year’s Eve) and thus another slow start. In fact we went straight out for lunch. This time to the  Orange Tree in Chadwick End. Once again, great décor and great food and another recommend.

After lunch we bashed our way down to Stratford-upon Avon. Stratford was absolutely HEAVING, as it probably always is. But parking was a bit of an issue., We ended up parking on the other side of the river and walking back across the river to the town.  The last time we came to Stratford was by boat. It was an amazing experience, coming down the  13 mile long South Stratford Canal, with its 35 locks, and out into the basin via the very low bridge which can be seen in the 1st picture below. It’s so low that you basically have to aim the boat through the bridgehole and then crouch down and hope for the best. We emerged from the bridge and what seemed like a thousand Japanese camera, toted by a thousand  Japanese tourist went off! It was like (I imagine!) being papped! A never-to-be-forgotten experience. 

Entry to Stratford Basin

Entry to Stratford Basin

There has been extensive redevelopment of the basin since our last visit and we enjoyed a wander. One of the trees has been designated a Remembrance tree and has loads of crocheted squares hung on it. Quite a sight and much photographed, not only by us!

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Milepost

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Bridge over the Avon

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Remembrance Tree

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The lock down to the river

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The RSC HQ

As you can see, the light was again fading fast so we made our way home, nipping quickly over to Wilmcote to see one of the South Stratford locks (there’s a short flight of, I think, 12 locks here) – nostalgia again – and them home to the van. We were hoping for a peaceful firework free night for Archie, but no such luck. As midnight struck it sounded like a bad night on the Gaza Strip! Luckily, it was short-lived and pretty much all over by 12.30. Upon which we retired.

Guess what? Yep. Rain again the next morning and poor Paul got pretty drenched doing all the outside jobs, while I pottered around doing those essential indoor jobs and kept nice and dry.   It was a pretty beastly, gusty, squally journey home. But – would we do it again? Hell yeah! We had a great time and this may become a regular date in our caravan calendar – although we’ll go somewhere different every year. Somers Wood is highly recommended and we’d definitely be regulars  if it were closer. 

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