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.
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!