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Archive : September

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.






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!