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Archive : September

Camp Site Summary Map

Just thought it might be interesting to have a link to a map that I have created (yeah – I know. Too much time on my hands!) that shows every campsite we have visited since we took up caravanning, back in 2008. The different colours and symbols relate to different years. Here is the key:


2008 Blue pushpin

2009 Turquoise pushpin

2010 Green pushpin

2011 Pink pushpin

2012 Purple pushpin

2013 Yellow pushpin

204 Purple picnic table

2015 Turquoise tree

2016 Yellow moon

And here is the link to the Map

Hill Farm – a new site for us – Sept 16-18

We are always looking for good sites within an hour of home and goodness knows why we have never spotted this site before, but it looked like a nice site in a good location (the beautiful Test Valley) so we booked. No particular reason for this weekend – just fancied a get away before the rigours of that annual curse – the Southampton Boat Show –  hit home.

We set off around 2.30 and had a pleasant drive to Sherfield English – on the A27 just north-west of Romsey. The site is secure and check-in was swift and friendly. The shop is well-stocked  and there is also – among other facilities – an on site cafe,  which we may use for Sunday brekker. Good 3G too and also optional wifi (paid but reasonable).

Our super pitch
Our super pitch

We had booked a premium (or full-serviced pitch) and were soon set up, with the kettle on. And then – disaster struck. NO COFFEE! Miffed. But no problem as we are quite near the Romsey branch of Waitrose and so off we went in search of coffee (and a few other bits and pieces). Traffic was heavy into Romsey, it being rush hour, but we soon reached our destination. My favourite coffee was on offer and we saw (and bought) various other must-have delicacies – including some fresh, green Kentish cobnuts for Paul. Result.


We returned home with our purchases and cooked dinner and then settled down to watch a bit of television (good signal) before having an early night.

It was a quiet night until the early hours of the morning, when the bullocks in the field adjacent to the site started hollering.  I wear earplugs and only noticed because I got up to go to the loo. But they were pretty loud! Thank goodness for earplugs.

We got up about 9-ish and started our breakfast. Paul received a text from his boss (at the Boat Show) asking him to call. This struck a chill in my heart! The upshot was that Paul had to go all the way back to Portchester, pick up a bit of kit and take it to the Boat Show, before returning to Hill Farm.  That pretty much wrote off the morning, which Archie and I passed reading (me) and snoozing (Arch). I also prepared lunch (Chicken Caesar Wraps) to take with us and we eventually set off on our planned trip to Andover at around 12.30.

We chose a scenic route rather than bashing down an A road, which took us through Stockbridge – a favourite of mine. I thus had to have a very quick stop to look round a cookware shop. Lovely lady, so I felt obliged to buy something. A lemon saver. Perfect!

Eventually, we arrived in Andover and I needed a quick pop to Boots (for some cosmetic essentials) – one shop led to another and I ended up with a new pair of sandals at a bargain sale price. They will do for next year – if not for our forthcoming trip to Sicily (28 days and counting). Very nice chartreuse suede flats. Pleased.

Finally, we made our way to the car park for our intended bike ride around Andover Lakes cycle path. This a lovely and well-used resource, with a great surface for an off-road cycle ride. Perfect for our boy Archie who, at 14, likes nothing better than a good run alongside a bike. He learnt to run by the bike on towpaths as a puppy and it is obvious that he really enjoys it, and it keeps him – and us – fit. We got lost a few times (signposting could be better – it assumes some local knowledge) and, as we were later than planned, we did not do the full 11k ride, but we will be back. We had a great time and so did Arch.

Cycle Route
Cycle Route
Nearly there
Pre shake

We came home the fast way – with a quick detour to look at the picturesque village of Wherwell, which I remember from my childhood. Time for a quick cuppa and a beepy – although some of our fellow campers (in tents) seemed to think that everybody was going to enjoy their rather loud music. We didn’t! Luckily, they turned off around 6,  so we had a rather more quiet evening. We cooked dinner (salmon) and watched a bit of telly and then played cards until bedtime (Cribbage). I must mention that there were quite a few kids here, which is fine as long as they are properly supervised. My beef was 3 lads playing football very near our van. Their ball hit our car once and had to be retrieved from under the van another time. Van are made of aluminium and it doesn’t take much to dent them. I’m surprised their parents weren’t worried about their own van, let alone everyone elses! A bit of an irritant, especially as there is a large field on site, where they could  have played to their heart’s’ content and with no risk of damage or irritation.


There was a fair bit of noise from our camper friends, still, at bedtime. Just chatting and laughing, but noise carries so at night. It didn’t really bother me with my ear-plugs in,  though, so all good. And I don’t begrudge them a bit of fun. Much……

I’m sounding a bit curmudgeonly, but I really didn’t want to come home on Sunday morning. We had such a nice time and will definitely return – if only to have that breakfast at the cafe! But leave we had to and we were soon packed up and on our way. And we were even back home in time to do a few jobs round the house – lawn-mowing, kitchen-floor-washing and so on. And there was time to cook a roast for all the fam (George & Uncle D) too. A weekend utilised to the max, I feel? Not long until the next one, either, when we are meeting friends for a spot of boating. Hurrah!




Setthorns again – with Lenny and Evie Aug 26th to 29th

We chose Setthorns again for the annual caravan weekend with our favourite niece and nephew, Lenny and Evie. There are so many places to visit nearby and it makes a great base, so it was a pretty obvious choice.

Thursday 25th/Friday 26th

We met my brother, Bruce, in Guildford for the handover on Thursday evening. 2 excited kids, a couple of bikes and clothes and entertainment for 4 days and we were away. We arrived back home quite late and there was time for a quick pre-bedtime snack before they bundled into bed. Lenny (6) went out like a light and Evie (10) joined him about half an hour later. They awoke quite late for them – about 7.30  – and we all got up. We planned to get away about lunch-time and take a picnic lunch with us in the car. Unusually – it all went according to plan and we were on our way by 1pm. Predictably, the kids fell upon their sandwiches before we were at the bottom of the road. The “grown-ups” made it as far as the M27 – something of a record!

We had an easy drive through the Forest (it not being rush-hour), singing all the way, as we always do when they are in the car with us. We have made it our mission to teach them Old Time Music Hall songs. They seem to like them?  As were were earlier than usual, there was a nice choice of pitches and we chose one in a ring of trees, with plenty of room for bikes and quite a lot of privacy. The kids love helping set up and are very willing helpers. They can always be persuaded to pop to the bin with bags of rubbish, as required, too. Very handy.

Lenny putting down the corner steadies
Lenny putting down the corner steadies
Our lovely pitch
Our lovely pitch

It was very hot indeed and after we had set up, we went out in search of a paddling pool and the obligatory (when on holiday) daily ice-cream. We ended up in Lymington and had fun at the quay, watching people crabbing and boats coming and going. That finished off the rest of the afternoon, so we made our way back to the caravan. We had decided to keep a count of the number of New Forest ponies we saw, and the journey passed quickly as we spotted ponies.

I had made a Cottage Pie for dinner and while it was cooking, Paul had a go at coaxing Lenny to ride his bike – without much success, sadly. It is slightly too big for him and I think he has a bit of a phobia about it, which is a such a shame. Better luck next time. The weather was so nice, we decided to eat in our “garden”. Although all you can see in the picture is the aftermath!

Result! Ice cream AND a paddling pool.
Result! Ice cream AND a paddling pool.
Dinner at the bench

Before bed, we played a few games of cards and Evie and I went for a bike ride round the large site. We got lost – but only temporarily. Great fun. Soon it was bedtime again and we decided that we would go to bed at the same time, so they slept on the front beds and we had our lovely fixed bed, as usual. It worked well and we were soon all in the land of Nod.

Saturday 27th

The next morning dawned and we were delighted to see that they had both slept in late again. We had all had a restorative night’s sleep and we were all raring to go. Paul took the kids out with Archie while I restored some semblance of order and prepared breakfast and a packed lunch. Evie went on her bike again but Lenny was very firmly on foot.

We set off to our first destination of the day – Keyhaven, where we planned to catch the ferry to Hurst Castle.  We passed the amazing Sway Tower (aka Peterson’s Folly) on the way and stopped to take a photo. It’s currently on the market for £2 million. Sadly not quite enough bedrooms for us…. We arrived at the ferry embarkation point, parked and took our place in the queue. There was only a small queue , though, and we were soon on board for the short but enjoyable trip.

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The Castle is a great place to explore and we were soon climbing up and down and around the walls.  There was an underground section, which Evie didn’t fancy (nor me actually!) and so I stayed with her while the intrepid boys went off. It was stinky apparently. And dark. Who knew? There are a lot of interesting things to see and – especially “what is believed to be the only surviving World War 2 ENSA theatre created by the troops themselves during wartime” on the site, which has recently been restored. Exhausted (OK – bit of an exaggeration!) by our exertions. we stopped at the cafe to refuel. Then more exploring.

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By now, it was lunch time and we caught the ferry back to Keyhaven and then made the short trip to the spit/nature reserve where we were lucky enough to find a space as someone drove away. We went onto the beach and had our picnic there. We played on the beach for a while and then made our way to Beaulieu to see the donkeys and perhaps find an ice cream.

We were not disappointed on either front! We had some very close encounters and spent a quite a while there (at the Hatchet Pond).  I’m not sure who was more excited! Me, the kids or Archie – who loves a donkey. There was a foal too and they were all pretty tame and it was a lovely experience for us all. Then we went off the to the village itself for a look round the shops and an ice-cream.


We went back to Setthorns for a cuppa and a relax before dinner. Evie and I went on a bike ride. Got lost again. Found ourselves again. All good. While we were sitting at the bench drinking tea and playing, something magical happened. We were visited by some deer. We were all enthralled to see them so close. We were worried about one who seemed to have a poorly leg, but he looked in reasonable condition. Paul planned to mention him to the warden later.


After our deer encounter, we ventured back to Lymington for a fish and chip supper, which we ate by the river and then went to the  kids playground, before rushing back to Setthorns for the guided ramble, which started at 8pm. I dropped Paul and the kids off, with their coats and torch and went back to the van for a shower and a bit of  “me” time. I had a whole hour to kill. I went back to pick them up at 9 and they had had a great time although not seen any wildlife.They were full of tales of owl pellets and mouse bones as we put them to bed, good as gold. Also very sleepy. As were we. An action packed and full on day! Roll on tomorrow. We read for a while, and I was returning from the loo, there was a car returning to its pitch and – caught in the headlights on our pitch – was another stag. Stunning. I love it here.


Sunday 28th

A repeat of yesterday morning – except that the weather had taken a turn for the worse. It was a bit grey and pretty blowy. We had planned a trip to the beach today and decided to go ahead regardless. We are British! We piled into the car – with coats today – and drove to Hengistbury Head, where we parked and scuttled aboard the land-train. This takes you on a short trip to the end (pretty much) of Mudeford Spit. There is a lovely beach here and the most adorable set of very covetable beach huts. Caveat emptor however, or you might find yourself with a massive hole in your pocket. They have been know to fetch prices in excess of £200,000, as this article from the Daily Mail notes. I have found one for £250,000 today! They are adorable and owners can stay overnight between March and October. They have no proper toilets, mains water, or electricity by the way. I’d still buy one if I had the money, though,  because of their amazing location.

We pottered about on the beach for a bit but the wind was both strong and chilly, so we repaired to the Beach House Cafe for hot chocolates and – in some cases – brownies. 2nd breakfast in true Hobbit style.

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We decided that we would drive round to Mudeford Quay on the other side of the spit (at the mouth of Christchurch harbour) and go crabbing. This is a favourite spot of ours anytime – we like to watch the tide racing through the narrow gap. We managed – sheer luck again – to grab a parking space overlooking the beach and sat in the car to eat our lunch, it being a tad too breezy to sit out. And as we ate – a drama unfolded before our very eyes. We saw the RNLI rib go out and eventually return with a sadly disabled yacht. It looked like the boom had broken – possibly as a result of the high wind.



We decided it would not be pleasant to be out crabbing in the inclement weather and instead the kids had a play in the play area. And then we went off in search of the mandatory ice-cream. We ended up at the Old Station Tea Rooms in Holmsley and drove back to van slurping on our ice-creams. We have learnt two new songs on this trip, by the way. My Old Man (which had me regaling them with the concept of doing a moonlight flit) and K-k-k-katy – a song about stammering. Hmmm. The pony count is getting higher – although I am pretty sure that there has been some double-counting!

We stopped on the way back for a run around with Wilson (the football). They enjoyed the Castaway story and happily christened the ball Wilson (although Lenny also like to call it Baby). We had talked about the importance of refraining from feeding wild animals because of the potentially negative effect on them. We told them the story of the bear that had been shot on our campsite in Canada,  because it had become a nuisance because people – despite being told not to – persisted in feeding it. They were scathing in their comments about the people we saw who were feeding the wild ponies – they had clearly taken that point on board. Bless them.

We went back to the campsite and Evie and I went on the longest bike ride yet. And yes we got lost. And yes we found our way back – eventually. It’s becoming a habit! We had booked a table at the Rising Sun in Bashley – which had an amazing kids play area and so off we went, spotting ponies as we went. The pub was heaving but we had a very nice meal, a couple of games of cards and then it was home to bed. I think we had worn them out. And ourselves!

Monday 29th

Going home day. The usual morning walks/cycles (no further luck with Lenny who refuses point blank to get on his bike, poor lad) and then it was time to gather together all the myriad bits and pieces that 2 children can position around the caravan. Lenny then amused himself by sweeping the leaves off the picnic table so that it would be nice for the next people. Cute! We had plenty of willing helpers and were all too soon packed up and on our way home.

My brother (Bruce) and  his wife Mel  had been staying at our house while we were away as they had been visiting the Victorious Music Festival in Portsmouth. They were preparing a lovely lunch for our arrival home – which was a shade later than anticipated, due to the sheer volume of traffic through the Forest. After lunch, it was time to transport the kids’ accoutrements into their parents’ car and wave them off. We had such a lovely time and I’m pretty sure they did too. We will miss them. Until the next time.





Setthorns – for a 50th Birthday party 22 – 24 July

The party of the year! Hopefully. And it’s in Brockenhurst/Sway, so what better place to stay? We love Setthorns. We decided to pitch up on Friday evening and get ready in a leisurely manner on Saturday morning. Our friends Linda and Anna are staying the night with us tomorrow night and we will share a taxi to and from the venue. But back to tonight. We had the usual drag though to the Forest and got set up. We had selected a select pitch for the first time – complete with picnic bench. I say! It was actually quite difficult to find one but we eventually did. Very busy here this weekend!

We decided that we wanted to buy a couple of china mugs as we are a bit tired of melamine. I know it’s practical and safer, but after 8 years of caravanning, I find I prefer to drink out of china. SO – off we went to Waitrose in Lymington and bought a pair. Mine has birds on and Paul’s has dogs and they are quite large. Very pleased. We had dinner on our return and then spent a pleasant evening reading and chatting, before retiring early, as we were both snooze-ridden.

Such a lovely quiet night. And Paul got up early to go to the barbers in Lymington and left me snoozing. Lucky me. 🙂 When he got back, he walked tired (lazy?) puppy and then we broke our fast. I pottered around getting ready, while we waited for Linda and Anna to arrive. As luck would have it, they got really snarled up in traffic. We had booked a taxi and had to put them back by half an hour.  But they soon arrived and deposited their overnight stuff and off we went.

It was a stunningly gorgeous day. How lucky. The company was great, the food was great, the steel band was great and so was the singer. All in all – it was (you’ve guessed!) GREAT!! Thanks to Kate and Paul for a lovely day at their Joint 50th Birthday. It had started at 1 pm (although we were a bit late) and we did not realise it was scheduled to last all evening as well. But it had been a long day and we left mid-evening as we were all tired. The taxi took us back to the entrance and we picked up the car (which we had left at the entrance) and drove back to the pitch.  We had coffees and got settled down for the night.

Another peaceful one and a hearty brekker to follow. The girls had to be off early, but we had a quiet morning before we set off for home. Another really lovely weekend. Here are a few pics from the party. Did I mention it was great?

Anne, Linda and me
Anne, Linda and me
Lenny and friends
Lenny and friends
Our favourite showbiz couple
Our favourite showbiz couple
Steel band
Steel band
A beautiful sunset
A beautiful sunset