Refresh loader

Archive : May

Bristol/Bryncrach – 21-26 May

Another bank holiday weekend, another few days away in the caravan. This time, as Paul had to visit his HQ near Bristol, we decided to leave on Wednesday afternoon and stay in Bristol for two nights, at the brilliant Baltic Wharf Caravan Club site.

We arrived after the reception had closed and found our details, as had been promised, pinned to the notice board. We pitched in the space allotted to us and were soon all set up. As it was a lovely evening, we decided to go out for a quick explore. This culminated in an unplanned trip to the highly acclaimed Clifton Village Fish Bar.  It is very popular and there was quite a wait to be served but it was well worth the wait. We took our feast up onto the downs and ate them overlooking the gorge as the sun began to set. Bliss! Marco’s home made tartare sauce was to die for!! Then we drove back to the van and eventually to bed.

IMG_0048IMG_0684 IMG_0682

The site is quite central and has a ferry stop right outside its back gate and a bus stop for the Bristol Sight Seeing bus right outside its front gate. It is also adjacent to Portsmouth-born Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great ship, the SS Great Britain, In  1843 she was the largest ship in the world. She was also the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, iron-hulled steam ship. Pictured below

Paul was up and away early to Failand Farm, the HQ of Digital Yacht, which was about a 15 minute drive away. I had a more leisurely start to my day and a plan to meet my cousin Alice, who lives and works in Bristol. I planned to catch the bus and hop off at Cabot Circus, which is closest to her workplace. The route pretty much retraced our steps from last night but being on top of an open top bus in the slightly drizzly day gave it added charm.  If you click on the route link I have supplied, you can see that I got on at stop 4 and off at stop 16.  Alice and I stayed in contact by text as it was difficult to predict the exact time I would arrive. This worked well and she was waiting for me as I alighted. As you can see from the pics, it was not the brightest of days but I never got more than a little “spritzed”!


Bristol Templemeads Station
Bristol Templemeads Station
SS Great Britain
SS Great Britain
The Hippodrome
Good advice
Good advice


A Banksy
A Banksy
View from the Sea Walls
View from the Sea Walls
That bridge
That bridge

We had a nice long, chatty lunch and then Alice had to go back to work. I had a little light retail therapy in mind, and we parted, vowing not to leave it so long until we next meet.  I had a mooch round the shops, bought a pair of sandals and then hopped back on the bus to complete the tour. It was very good value for money and I would highly recommend it if you are ever in the vicinity. I learnt a lot abot the City and its history. Loved the fact that the Downs has 32 football pitches and on winter Saturdays, over 600 people can be found playing the beautiful game. They even have their own league and games are played simultaneously.  Top facts!

I read for a while and somehow fell asleep and then it was soon time for Paul’s return from work. We were booked into the Pump House for dinner and what a find! 67 varieties of gin and great food. What’s not to like?  A hearty recommend. They even have a selection of tonics – such as the one on my picture below. This one – No 6 –  and its  fellow gin  is made locally (in Thornbury) and would make a pleasant non-alcoholic drink on its own or with grapefruit juice.


The Punp House at dusk
The Punp House at dusk
No 6 Tonic
No 6 Tonic

We had a great stay at the surprisingly peaceful Baltic Wharf site and are aghast at the thought of its closure later this year.  I’d urge you to sign the petition if you wouldn’t mind as it would be a great shame yp lose such a great resource. The plan is to build a school and it seems a very odd place to do so but what do I know?

Up smartly the next morning and off by 10 0’clock. Popped in to say goodbye and thank you to the lovely wardens. They actually remembered my name. That is good customer relations right there!

It was not a very pleasant day as we crossed over the bridge  into grey and drizzly Wales and that kind of set the tone for the whole weekend – in terms of weather at least. We arrived mid-afternoon and got set up. Lovely site with great views – usually! It is a working sheep farm and we had no neighbours either side – just empty vans and fields of sheep. Fantastic. We decided on a quick trip to Llandrindod Wells for a flip round Tesco (forgotten dog food – not my department of course!). We also had an little explore as we’ve only ever by-passed it on other trips to Wales. It is a nice little town with a station and all services. It has an attractive lake with a very impressive dragon water feature. It is a spa town, as the name suggests, and there are records of people “taking the waters” as early as the 17th century.

Lakeside Pavillion Cafe
Dragon Water feature
Dragon Water feature closer

There was no TV signal on site so we played a few hands of cards (our current favourite game is called Pitch) and watched a bit of  DVD to entertain ourselves before bed once again hollered at us. It was not a peaceful night. The rain hammered o the roof and were glad that we were on a hard-standing rather than grass.  Saturday dawned and we could not see the hills any more. It rained and then it rained and so we decided to stay in the warm and dry, reading and idling away the hours. I believe they call it relaxing? Whatever – we enjoyed. Rather than waste the whole day in this manner, though,  we eventually ventured out to Built Wells.  Builth was full of bikers on a rally – except not actually rallying, just gathering, because of the appalling weather. Fair weather bikers? We had lunch there in a cafe called The Cwtch (Welsh for a cross between a hug and a place of safety). It was somewhat haphazard as I think they were overwhelmed with customers sheltering from the rain and eating to assuage their hangovers! It was too wet to properly explore without getting soaked, sadly, but we did buy a cute keyring made of slate emblazoned with the word “Carafan”  (Welsh for – well I expect you’ve guessed!).

We took the scenic route home – armed with our trusty OS map.  I always look for roads with at least one < and preferably <<!  It was a nice route and we eventually arrived back to greet our neighbours. Who’d be a sheep in that rain?DSC_0449 DSC_0450DSC_0454DSC_0451DSC_0453

Sunday had been forecast to be the best day of the weekend so we set off for the Elan Valley – beautiful in any weather but views can be quite spoilt by mist. The day was much better than Saturday had been and we set off in good spirits. We once again resorted to OS maps for pour route rather than GPS, which always imagines you want the fastest route from A to B – which very often you do, but not in this countryside.  We saw some lovely sights – especially this bluebell carpet. Wouldn’t want to have missed that, hurtling along on some A road! That said the term A road has a slightly different meaning than it does darn sarf. 🙂



The Elan Valley is very special to me as it was often visited in my childhood and I have made sure that first Paul and then George  and as many other friends as possible have all experienced its beauty and yes, its grandeur.  We started at this time at Claerwen Dam (there are six) and ended at Craig Goch. See the map here. Since our last visit a few years ago with Sue & Paul Rogers, a new tea room has opened – Penbont House. Very enterprising. They should do a roaring trade – particularly in summer. We lunched there and had the Cheese on a Slate – 3 Welsh cheeses with Damson Cheese. Luscious although a tad dear we thought (£13.75 each!!!).  They are dog friendly and have a very tame bantam and a sweet old dog. Wild birds are also very tame and alight on your table if allowed. Reminded me of the Caribbean. We were outdoors by the way! Have posted quite a few pics to give a good flavour of the area. The reservoirs created by the dams serve Birmingham with it’s fresh water and are currently as full as I have ever seen them, I think?

DSC_0480 DSC_0485 DSC_0491 DSC_0498 DSC_0504 DSC_0506 DSC_0509 DSC_0510 DSC_0516 DSC_0517 DSC_0531 DSC_0536 DSC_0537 DSC_0538 DSC_0545DSC_0539

Our trip led us back through Rhayader but by then, the rain had set in again and we did not stop to explore, sadly. We arrived back in the rain but it eventually cleared and I took a picture in roughly the same location as I had on the day we arrived in the murk. What a contrast !


IMG_0708 IMG_0734


Monday was a beautifully sunny day – typical as we were leaving! We were on the road just after 10. Sad to leave Bryncrach. The owners are lovely and very friendly and seem keen to upgrade the site. I love it as it is, but the addition of a spanking new facilities block would be advantageous. We hope to return some day, as this is an ideal base for exploring all the beauty that mid-Wales has to offer. If only it were closer.  The owners have promised us better weather next time. As we drove further and further South,  the weather worsened and we arrived home in rain. Next trip is a canal based one, so we hope for better weather. Watch this space.

Newbury 2-4 May

Less than a week before this weekend, we were let down by our chosen site due to waterlogging. A slight panic ensued as this was a bank holiday weekend, but we eventually found a site – not quite as close  – but pretty near Kintbury, where we had an early start on the Saturday.  The site – Oakley Farm – was easy to find being just off the A34. It was not full and we had a warm welcome to a nice pitch. It’s a small site and the facilities could probably do with updating but it does have a certain charm. It is also quiet, despite its location. Also handy for amenities – chippy, Chinese and a large Tesco all nearby. We’d certainly return.

After an early night (also quite chilly) we arose early to make sandwiches and pack for our day on the narrowboat Cygnet. The day was to be spent with my brother Bruce, Mel and the kids and Peta and Steve Reading and their son Teddy. It was a beautiful morning and we – having the shortest journey – were naturally first to arrive. The Carters and Readings turned up shortly after.DSC_0250 DSC_0251DSC_0253 DSC_0252

Cygnet is perhaps not the smartest boat on the waterways but she handles well and is more than fit for purpose. We like her and you may recall reading about our previous trip on her in June last year? She must have a hard life as a dayboat, often being crewed by novices.

We went through several locks and through Hungerford and turned round after our lunch stop just above Little Bedwyn. On the return journey, we were behind a slow and wide boat, which meant that we had to wait at every lock while they went through and then refill the lock, enter and re-empty it. This slowed down our passage considerably and it soon became evident that we would be late back. A quick phone call to the very friendly guy from the boat company (Kennet Horse Boat) and all was well. We had laughed, sung and gorged our way through another lovely day on the canal and discovered that Steve Reading had a natural talent for steering the boat.  The weather had been amazing and everyone was a little frazzled by the sun by the end of the day.  Also tired, but very happy.

DSC_0398 DSC_0391 DSC_0349 DSC_0301 DSC_0297 DSC_0284 DSC_0272 DSC_0259 DSC_0258 DSC_0257 DSC_0256 DSC_0254

After we had returned the boat, we went to a nice pub just down the road in Marsh Benham – the Red House. It was a very nice meal.  and then it was off to their hotel for those with kids and home to the van for us. All that fresh air and the early start meant an early night!

The next morning was also lovely and the Carter/Reading crew went off to a farm which had a lambing event for the kids. As we had the dog, this ruled us out,  so we went off and explored near Inkpen, up on the downs and thence to Bagnor. This is the home of the rather wonderful Watermill Theatre, which we plan to visit soon. We stopped here, at The Blackbird for refreshments and polished off the remainder of the sandwiches from the previous day. These had matured well!


We met up with the others near Newbury town, at the Nature Discovery Centre. This is a great place to go with kids. I know I’d be there very weekend if I lived nearby and had little ones. There is plenty for them to do and there is a beautiful lake, where we sat and had a cuppa and fell upon the remains of the cake I had made for the boat trip. Everyone still looked very rosy from the day before. More sunscreen next time!

DSC_0414 DSC_0415 DSC_0429 DSC_0435 DSC_0438 DSC_0439 DSC_0440

As the sun began to lose its heat, we parted,  having had a lovely weekend. It was back to the van for us and away home quite early on Monday to avoid any bank-holiday traffic build up. Looking forward to the next Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May, when we are off to Wales – via Bristol.

Isle of Wight – Easter 2014 (17-22 Apr)

So for our Easter break this year, we chose the Isle of Wight as neither of has spent more than a day there and we wanted to explore more fully. It was also an opportunity to meet with my dear old school chum Julia and meet her husband. We have  recently become re-acquainted through Facebook after a gap of 40 years or so. Bizarrely, and also quite annoyingly, it was actually far cheaper to catch a Red Funnel ferry from Southampton to the Island than from Portsmouth, so we set off and arrived in plenty of time for our sailing, despite dire warnings of hold-ups caused by roadworks in Southampton. It was quite exciting – almost as exciting as going to France and the weather was kind-ish.


Molly & Mr Munsch
Molly & Mr Munsch
Nervous anticipation
Nervous anticipation
"Our" ferry approaching
“Our” ferry approaching

We had a pleasant crossing and were out on deck for the entire journey. It was only a couple of weeks earlier that I had passed that way aboard the Azura on a short cruise to Belgium with my dear old ma. There are some lovely sights along the way. You can see from the photos below that the weather was not quite perfect but bearable.


Netley Abbey
Netley Abbey
Netley Castle
Netley Castle

We drove the short distance to our campsite just outside Ryde. The campsite, Whitefield Forest Touring Park, had been well chosen. It was, as the name suggests, set in woodland and there was plenty of wildlife in evidence and the promise, too, of red squirrels.

Julia and Nigel were expected for dinner and I had made a curry before we left home. We were just getting ready for their arrival when disaster struck. We noticed that we had a leak under the sink. This meant that we could not pour any liquid down there. Lots of stuff had also got wet so we were in uproar when they arrived. Notwithstanding, we had a pleasant evening and eventually did the washing up in the sinks provided by the site. Very handy.

The next day (Friday) was quite pleasant and we set off to explore. Our first port of call was Seaview and we loved it there.  It was quite a clear day and we were able to get some good views of the Solentforts from the other side than we usually see them.


Spitbank Fort from Seaview High Street
Spitbank close-up
Spinnaker Tower and probably our house!


From Seaview we went to Ryde and found Hursts – a brilliant hardware store, where we bought the stuff needed to effect a repair on the leaky sink. While Paul was deep in conversation with one of their advisers, I took the opportunity to have a good rummage round. I ended up buying – a bucket! As were returning to the car, we saw a bridal party in horse and cart.


DSC_0063 DSC_0064.


Our next port of call was The IOW Garlic Farm, where we had been charged with obtaining some – yes you’ve guessed it- GARLIC. We were in luck.  There was garlic and garlic products galore here and we bought some for family and friends – including some amazing smoked garlic. Our car reeked for several days after it had been removed! We lunched here and then had a look at some birds of prey. Also spotted the local peacock.


DSC_0069 DSC_0072 DSC_0077


Then it was off to Fort Victoria for a quick look round and some more views across to amazing  Hurst Castle and Lymington.

Fort Victoria
Fort Victoria
Hurst Castle


Finally we went home via Yarmouth. A very full days exploring.

On the next day (Saturday) , we had arranged to meet Julia again at Carisbrooke Castle – where she works from time to time. The last time either Paul or I visited here we were both in junior school so we were pretty excited. We were not disappointed either. We had a great time exploring the battlements, seeing the famous donkeys and so on. We also learnt quite a bit about its history. I was clearly not paying attention on that school trip. What’s new?


DSC_0120 DSC_0121 DSC_0123 DSC_0127 DSC_0139 DSC_0141


We’d highly recommend a visit. Feeling a bit peckish after our exertions on the battlements, we made our way to Bembridge for a crab sandwich at the Crab & Lobster Inn. Perfection – and a lovely view from our table.




Post lunch, we had a stroll on the beach and then eventually home by working our way along the North-east coast. After a snooze, Paul took the dog for a quick walk, for the first time minus his camera. As he left he said “I’ll probably see a red squirrel now!” He never said a truer word and was soon back to grab the camera.

Tits like coconuts


After dinner, the evening was still quite pleasant so we decided to go out in search of ice-cream. And boy did we find it! Toppings in Shanklin. Outside of Italy I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different flavours plus 4 flavours of Mr Whippy style! I had a banana split to go. Fab. We ate them overlooking the sea. We called in at Yaverland beach on the way back. Lovely.

The Shanklin Cliff lift
The front – Shanklin
The last rays at Yaverland beach

Easter Sunday and of course eggs for breakfast. Duck eggs. Lovely, a slow start today as we were meeting Julia for lunch up on Culver Down. Prior to this, we popped back to Yaverland to have a walk on the beach. Really love this beach.







Lunch was a pleasant affair and afterwards we went for a stroll round the battery. Amazing views were hampered by a sea mist, sadly although it did eventually lift a bit.






Apart from the journey home, on Tuesday, that pretty much wraps up our IOW vacation. We thoroughly enjoyed it and vowed to return. We’d certainly be glad to stay at Whitefield Forestagain. Lovely location, peaceful and well laid out and with good amenities. It richly deserves its awards.