On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells


Leave a comment

France – Summer 2018 Days Part 3 Days 8-11

Friday 6th July

Time to move on from our lovely blue lake. Such a lovely campsite. Reluctant to leave but there’s a whole France out there, waiting to be explored. Maybe some day we’ll return?We said our goodbyes to our camper van friends and exchanged contact details.

IMG_8810

We did not have to be off site until midday so we had taken our time, but finally we were on the road. It was just a short hop to our next destination – Le Lac du Bourget, near Aix les Bains, a famous spa town. Our campsite was again at the southern end of the lake, in Le Bourget du Lac. Confusing!

It took just over an hour and we were soon pulling in to the site – L’Isle aux Cygnes. It had been a bit tricky to find and was not well (if at all?) signposted). Google Maps got us there, though. As it was lunch time, the Reception was resolutely closed for lunch. Luckily “joining papers” were provided in a little cabinet and we were able to access our lovely pitch. Another great spot. Booking early really pays off.

IMG_8812

Immediately outside our door. Our own little bit of beach!

IMG_8827

The lake at sunset

Once set up, never ones to hang around, we popped out for a bit of orientation and headed to Aix les Bains. Some amazing Belle Epoque style buildings but, sadly,  an air of faded grandeur. Oddly – we seem to have not one photo of the town.

We did a bit of provisioning on the way back and – among other things – we picked up a couple of bavettes – reduced to €3.40 – a real bargain! We cooked them – with some mushrooms and new potatoes – on the Cadac and they were a couple of the nicest steaks we have had for a long time. Tasty, juicy and tender. And cooked to perfection.

Of course before the cooking we had a swim. Thank GOD for water shoes. Hellishly ugly but a godsend on those sharp stones.  And no worries about what’s under foot. Ugh! How on earth did we manage as kids?

Saturday 7th July

Life seems to have dropped down a gear since we got here. I really do seem to have a problem with just relaxing. It takes me a while to get a point where I can just exist without rushing/planning/over-thinking/anticipating/worrying. But today? I think I’ve cracked it! We had a lie-in, got up and spent the day swimming, reading, dozing and generally just kicking back. I know that this doesn’t make interesting reading but last week was pretty full on and it felt really good to do nothing.

IMG_8823

The shady bit of our pitch

There is another cycle-path around this lake, which goes from Aix les Bains to Chambéry  and which passes the campsite. We had forgotten to order bread/Viennoiserie for our breakfast so Paul hopped on to the bike and cycled into the small town (which boasts 2 patisseries) and picked up some fresh stuff while I prepped the fruit for our breakfast. It was a hot ride so he had to have a quick swim before food.

IMG_8946

We had a visit from the Patrouille several times and also on Sunday. Tricky to capture – no sooner had you heard them then they were upon you. I absolutely love that “crackling” sound a jet engine emits. SO exciting. Apparently they were appearing at the  Grenoble air show – my dear friend Tim told me. The power of Facebook and Google eh? It’s only 80 kms to Grenoble from here (or about 5 mins in a  Northrop F-5E Tiger II!!!) We did get a few puffs of the Tricolor!

DSC_0102

We both went for a cycle along the cycle path in the early evening, before we settled down to wait for the main event of the day – the fireworks. Right on the town beach which was next door to the campsite.

It has been a long time since I have been able to purely enjoy a good firework display. I have always adored them but poor Archie hated them. Seeing what he went through kind of took the shine off for me, but I was quite excited for the display. And we were not disappointed. They started on the dot of 11pm – it’s not really dark enough for them until then, bearing in mind that France is an hour ahead of the UK at the moment. We seem to have a plethora of pictures but a sample of them follows. Beautiful. and LOUD!!!

Sunday 8th July

We both cycled into town for the bread this morning. A beautiful sunny day (Again) and a real pleasure. I love the French way of life – they got so many thnigs right. Why on earth did we adopt the Chorleywood way when we could have had baguettes/flutes/ficelles/pain au levain/pain complet or just plain old pain – to name but a few. We  really missed a trick there.  And that’s without mentioning the joy of a Nutella Brioche! Delightful! The Chorleywood model meant the death of decent bread and it spread all around the world. They have us to thank for tasteless pappy, bread. Thank goodness proper bread has made a come back in recent years. Sourdough (Pain au Levain)  being a personal favourite. Until I wrote this article, I didn’t realise what a bread snob I am.

Anyway – back to the holiday. It was another reeelaaaaxing day although I got a bit restless in the late afternoon so we went for a drive up in the hills/mountains along the western bank of the Lac. The lac (very busy on a Sunday) is overlooked by the Dent du Chat mountain. You really can see why it is called that (although maybe not from the angle in this picture?)  and it was towards this we set off.

IMG_8979

Lots of serious cyclists looking for their PB on the climbs. And motorcyclists out for a Sunday afternoon randonnée. We got a good view of the camp site from a viewpoint on the way up. It was a heat haze kind of a day.

DSC_0104

At the top of the lake (North) there is a short canal which leads from the Lac to the mighty Rhône. I say mighty because it is one of the major European rivers and at over 500 miles long, the fourth longest in France. It discharges into the Med at Arles at a rate of 1,710 cubic metres per second!!

The canal – the Canal de Savières (note that this link is translated from French so reads a bit oddly in places!) has just one lock which raises you onto the Rhône. As we had ended up near the that end of the lake (and even though we have a trip planned, of which more later) we thought we’d go and have a quick reconnoitre. And maybe come within a whisker of getting a parking ticket – after all – we were only stopping for a minute at the lock – right? Yeah.

The way home was vineyard central. I wonder if this where they grow the grapes for the Côtes du Rhône wine? although it’s a long river?  Maybe that’s a little further South. But there are lots of “dégustation” (tasting)  opportunities,  which we eschewed.

We arrived home, had dinner and then re-inflated the boat and had a little trip out on it. A great end to the day.

Monday 8th July

I awoke early to a really beautiful morning. It was properly warm at 07:15 and I sat outside, reading and feeding my cute sparrow and duck chums until my Lord and Master (!!) awoke.

We both rode into town for bakery items and – over breakfast –  decided that we would visit Mont Revard,  a ski resort and another Tour de France climb. It overlooks the Eastern shore of the lake. It was a lovely Alpine drive and we were soon at the summit. Great views and a glass observation deck. Brilliant!  We loved it. There was also another summer luge but sadly not open.

 

Mount Revard is home to Nordic Skiing and as we were driving back down, we came upon quite a few amazingly fit people with long roller blades on their feet and ski poles (which we presumed were summer versions of the Nordic ski?). They were “skiing” UP the mountain. UP it! In this heat! Amazing stamina and drive. I take my hat off to them.

As were near Aix-l-B, we decided to pop  into town to check out where we need to pick up the boat for tomorrow’s planned trip and also where to park. That mission accomplished, we returned home for a lazy afternoon, reading. swimming and an evening boat trip. We went via the supermarket, to pick up more supplies of our new favourite soft drink. Volvic Touche de The – Peach flavour. So refreshing.

We had a pleasant evening and retired quite early after the (my) early start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

France – Summer 2018 Days Part 2 Days 4-7

Monday 2nd July

We awoke, breakfasted and over breakfast, had a quick discussion about possible contenders for our next day out and eventually plumped for the “Gorges de Fier” near  Lovagny, which is about 10 km from Annecy.  It was another lovely day and we were pleased to see that one of the routing options was via the Col de Forclaz again, so off we set. Somehow, we had a much better appreciation of the road and views today!! Whilst we had enjoyed it all the day before, it had been slightly overshadowed by fear of the unknown.

It was a hot day, and the gorges were actually a great place to visit on a hot day as they were cool and shady. The Fier is actually a River – short (just under 72 km) but very powerful, which has channelled a deep chasm through the rocks, forming the Gorges.

They were turned into a tourist attraction by an enterprising Victorian chap who created a series of suspended footbridges in 1869. The men who built it were transported inside barrels moved via a system of pulleys to fix the path to the rock face, we were told. Having walked on it, I can’t quite envisage how that worked, as it is suspended some 20 to 30 metres above the current path of the river. The path is around 250 metres long, so was quite a feat of engineering.

It’s a long way down

Gorgeous

Floods

The Fier (pronounce Fee) is a tricky old river and can rise from its normal, placid state to a raging torrent in minutes, during heavy rainfall. There was a graphic which showed the height of the river during flood conditions. You would not want to be caught on the path at such times as it is clearly totally submerged!

The main Albertville to Annecy SNCF line runs next to and indeed crosses the gorge. It is so close you could almost reach out and touch it! Quite exciting when a train whipped past!

Entry to the Gorge was very reasonably priced, so that was a bonus. We stopped at the cafe on the way back and had a very nice ice-cream. We considered – briefly – popping into nearby Montrottier Castle but it was so flipping hot, we decided to run for home and our lovely cooling lake. Sadly, though, we needed a few provs for tonight’s meal so we popped into a supermarket on the way home. Not that I mind – I love a foreign supermarket!

Montrottier Castle

Back at the site we were delighted to see that we had been joined by an English couple we had met on our last visit. It was so nice to see them again.

We spent the remainder of the day relaxing, reading, swimming and boating. Blissful. We were also entertained by the local schoolkids showing off their newly acquired musical talents on the land next to the site. Some were very good, others were enthusiastic, let’s say.

We cooked a pizza on the Cadac – enough for lunch tomorrow too. Delicious. And – in attempt to work this off – we went out for another cycle ride – this time around the nearby town of Doussard. And very pleasant it was too, on a lovely sunny evening, with the sting of the sun cooling off. Another lovely day. Gotta love holidays!

Tuesday 3rd July

Today we had decided to visit the ski resort of La Sambuy.  I had read about it and sounded just the sort of place we might like. We arrived at about 10:45 and jumped straight onto the chair lift. We were the only 2 people on it (I think the operating assistants were quite glad to see us!)  and when we reached the top, we were the only two people there too! We had the place to ourselves to explore. To be honest, there’s not that much – other than breathtaking views – to see, so we walked around, read all the info boards and then made our way back down. There were more people on the lift by now and we were glad to have got there early.

One of the other things there is a summer luge. We have been on one before and loved it. We had thus bought tickets to enable us to have five goes each. What larks! You get dragged up the slope on a rack & pinion and then you come down – this ride had 9 big bends and 3 “jumps”. You do have brakes – but they’re for sissies, right? We had such fun. And then Paul spotted – The Devil Buggies! These are 4 wheeled buggies which are dragged up the mountain by a modified ski-lift contraption, which hooks onto the front of the buggy. Once you’ve been dragged up, you make your own way down a marked path at whatever speed suits you. I think you can guess! There was a slight hitch while they found a helmet to fit my beloved’s rather large bonce and then he was off! He absolutely loved it. But it took up two of his luge tickets so he only had two more goes left on the luge, whereas I had FOUR!! We stopped for a coffee and some luscious caramel “pain perdu” – aka eggy bread. More cycling required!

The Devil Buggy

The Devil Buggy lift – Paul disappearing in to the distance!

Going up on the luge

A section of track on the ascent

Kay – on a roll!

 

Once all our tickets had been used up, we went back to the site for more RRBS – Reading, Relaxing, Boating and swimming. The lake was quite choppy today and we bounced around a fair bit. All good fun.

Tonight was the England game versus Columbia, so Paul went off to the bar to watch the game. There followed an evening of cleaning and – yes – a bit of boredom for me. And it went on. And on. Extra time, penalties. The lot. But we won so I had a happy hubby. And so to bed.

Weds 4th July

We spent the morning RRBSing and then went out in the early afternoon. We had a cycle ride into Annecy planned but we wanted to do it later in the day, once the heat had died down a bit. Obviously we weren’t going to drive straight to Annecy. Far too predictable. We went up to the Crêt du Chatillon on Mount Semnoz, high above the western shore of the lake. It’s quite a famous climb for serious cyclists and was, indeed, the penultimate stage of the 2013 Tour de France. From what I can gather, a “crêt” is cliff or edge of the mountain.

There are some fantastic views from the summit – Mont Blanc can be seen. We saw snow capped big mountains but were never sure exactly which was the great white mountain!

Eventually, we made our way back down the mountain and found some parking with no height restrictions in Sevrier – roughly half way along the west shore. The path is so brilliant and very heavily used. Rightly so. We had a very pleasant 5km cycle into the town. We chained our bikes to the railings and had a gentle wander, stopping for a drink next to the very famous and much-photographed Palais de L’Isle. Then it was home, supper and bed – but not before sitting outside to witness the thunder and lighting we could see over Annecy. We had a proper grandstand view. It was brilliant. Literally! Eventually it started to rain so we nipped indoors and retired.

Thursday 5th July

The thunder had rolled around all night but the next morning dawned clear again. We had a proper lie-in – the first of the holiday.  It must have been gone 9!  We had a lazy day planned in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  A bit of RRBS interspersed with tidying stuff away. Nothing too strenuous!

Around lunchtime, we popped to Doussard for stamps. Just too late! The sacred lunch-break of France had struck. We were, however, just in time to pick up a lovely Reblochon and Lardons quiche. As we had an hour to kill, we went up in the mountains. We spotted a “Dangerous Road” sign, so of course – we took it. We drove as far as we could before the road petered out and then, on the way back, Paul had a hankering to paddle in a mountain stream, so we stopped and ate our quiches and did a bit of paddling (him,not me).

IMG_8799

Sumps having a paddle

IMG_8800

Getting boulder

IMG_8801

These mossy trees were amazing. Took a real fancy to them.

We passed the remainder of the afternoon alternating between relaxing and packing the boat away and generally tidying up.

In the early evening, we cycled to Duingt – about 10km each way. We went to the Spinnaker pub/bar restaurant. Fab location. Regrettably we left not having had anything to eat or drink. Paul’s review here will explain why. Very disappointing. But their loss. We took the photos we wanted, had a rest. They could have made money from us but they chose not to. And I really fancied a Pina Colada!!

We bought some drinks in the local Tabac and sat and gazed at the lake for a while and then we heard a rumble or two. We decided to make a run for home. It was not to be. Half way back the deluge began. It was actually really funny and quite refreshing! But we were pretty soaked. All credit to the team at the Auberge Du Boucanier (which I had re-dubbed Pirate Pete’s) for allowing us in. Nice meal and then home and eventually – bed.

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

France – Summer 2018 Days Part 1 Days 1-4

Thursday 28th June – Home to the Tunnel

We set off a little later than planned, for a variety reasons, with which I won’t bore you, but finally arrived at The Drum Inn (our first overnight stop) in Stanford, near Ashford at 17.30. The last time we were here, two years ago, we were pretty much the only people on site, but word must have got around and tonight it filled up pretty fast (15+ Units) but we had managed to get a prime spot thus avoiding the need to unhitch. Setting up was a quick matter as all we had to do was hook-up and put the steadies down.

Our table for dinner was booked at 19.00 and Paul had high hopes of watching the England v Belgium Match but to his disappointment, it was a World Cup-free pub (they DO exist!). The food was reasonable but slightly over priced for pub grub and we finished our meal in time for Paul to catch the 2nd half back at the van. Unfortunately, Belgium won 1-0 so not the best 45 mins of the first day of the holiday for Paul.

As we had a very early start, we went to bed early, feeling quite excited at the thought of being back in France for 2 weeks.

Fri 29th June – The Tunnel to Troyes

6.15 arrived way too quickly and we both leapt in to action, preparing breakfast to eat in the tunnel, upping the corner steadies, unplugging the electric supply and moving off. Several other campers were departing at the same time and we all made our way to the terminal in beautiful sunshine. We arrived in plenty of time for our booked crossing and managed to grab a coffee before being called – which was just as well as the queues for customs were particularly lengthy for some reason.  As we were waiting to board, a delay of 30 mins was announced and so our breakfast (Special K with Red Berries) was devoured in the car, rather than in the tunnel.

The Approach – lovely morning

Waiting to be called to board

Starting boarding

The obligatory inside the train shot

Boarding and crossing were as efficient as ever, aside from the delay, and we soon found ourselves heading south through the French countryside. We traditionally stop at the first services to savour some proper French coffee and a pastry (in this case a crispy, sweet Chausson du Pomme).

It was a reasonably long drive (c. 400km) but we weren’t in a hurry and we made plenty of pit-stops. We eventually arrived at Troyes at around 17.00 about an hour later than expected, as Paul had to make a business call.The campsite – Camping De Troyes – was very easy to find, pretty popular and very conveniently located. There were not that many pitches left but we managed to squeeze between a couple of  other English motor-homes and all was well.

After a restorative cuppa, we set off to explore Troyes, which was “shut” the last time we visited – due to Bastille Day preparations. It truly is a beautiful city and after a couple of circuits and a pop to the Supermarket for a couple of provisions, we partook of some fine dining courtesy of McDonald’s, albeit with a French “Royale” flair.

The campsite is set in woodland, with good facilities, swimming pool, onsite bar/restaurant and spotless showers/toilets  – which we took advantage of, it having been a long hot drive. We then retired, ready for a slightly longer (c. 450km) hot drive the next day.

Our spot at Camping de Troyes

At the gates of the site

One of Troyes’ beautiful fountains.

Another fountain

A church……

 

Sat 30th June – Troyes to Doussard

We left Troyes at 09.00 and after another long and hot drive, we arrived at our campsite – Le Lac Bleu –  in Doussard, at the Southern end of the beautiful Lake Annecy. around 17.00. This was the second time we had visited the site. We rarely vist the same site twice but we had liked it so much in 2016, we decided to return and had booked the exact same pitch. Our arrival seemed to cause much consternation, there was a lot of staring (maybe it was the motor-mover?) and we actually had to politely turf off a sunbathing couple who had a taken a fancy to our pitch. After quickly getting setup, we immediately went for a swim to cool off.

Our pitch at Le Lac Bleu

Once dried off, we went for a bike ride to survey the “Voie Verte” a fantastic cycle path that runs all the way along the bed of a dis-used railway line from Albertville (site of the 1992 Winter OLympics) to Annecy, with access directly opposite our camp site. We rode up to the landing field (or “atterissage”) for the Paragliders, and whilst downing a cool biere, we watched as many landings took place – this being a really popular centre for Paragliding, Hang Gliding and Micro-Lights.

Whether it was the tiredness, alcohol or sun, we will never know but we found ourselves signing up for each of us to have a tandem flight the following day and with a €50 Euro deposit paid there was no going back!

Excited but with a large dollop of apprehension, we rode back to the site and had dinner at the on-site restaurant, which was a very pleasant end to the day. We had resolved to go to bed early and get up early to make the most of the daylight and so with every window open, plus a fan we settled down for the night with the temperature still in the high twenties. The last time we had visited this site, Archie had been with us and I could not help but think of him as I drifted off to sleep. We had loved taking him on holiday with us and gladly accepted the restrictions his presence placed upon us. We had resolved, as we knew it would be a bitter-sweet time, to do as much as we could to holiday differently, so that his absence would be less marked. I think we may have made a good start?

Sun 1st July – Le Lac Bleu

Our jump was not scheduled until 13.00, so we had some time to do a quick provision shop at the nearest large Carrefour. After getting everything stowed, we cooled down with a quick swim before heading off to the landing site for 12.30 check-in.

Me looking apprehensive!

We were transported to the launch site, along with 3 other jumpers, the instructors and all of the gear in a “Delta Evasion” (very macho) transit van. The launch site is at the Col De La Forclaz.  It was quite a narrow, steep and winding road to the top of the mountain giving everyone lots of time to chicken out! We were made of sterner stuff though and on arrival at the summit, grabbed our harnesses, hiked the last few hundred yards  and lined up on the launch pad. This was basically a large section of astroturf  – a runway that took you over the edge of the mountain.

Us and our instructors

I went first, with my crazy instructor Patrice, who had over 30 years experience of flirting, sorry I mean flying. Once hitched together and the para-wing laid out flat on the ground, Patrice told me to start running, which I duly did and within seconds we were airborne. It was all so fast I didn’t have time to feel nervous!

It is absolutely amazing…. I could bang on about it for hours but I’d run out of superlatives! And it ended all too soon. I had told him we were staying at Le Lac Bleu and he took us over there. He also let me fly the thing for a while, which was fab.

Paul, who had followed me in to the air with an equally experienced, but rather less flirty female instructor (typically he cannot remember her name) actually landed before me and managed to film my landing, which was very graceful (if I say so myself!) and not at all bumpy. We were both exhilarated after our experience and celebrated with a beer and a hotdog – French style. Here’s my landing!

Still smiling like Cheshire Cats, we returned to the campsite for another swim and then started to prepare the boat for our first outing on the lake. The electric outboard quickly took us out to the middle of our section of lake and from our vantage point, we could really appreciate the beauty and splendour of our surroundings. The lake is like a bowl, with its sides fashioned from mountains, including the landmark “Teeth” (as I call them), which are more correctly known as “Les Dents de Lanfon“.

The Teeth!

With the outboard turned off we gently drifted, whilst catching some rays and reading our Kindles. Once we had reached the desired temperature, we returned to shore and had yet another swim – so refreshing.

Next job was building the Cadac to cook our Chinese Pork dinner, which was delicious and then a quick bike ride to work off our supper, which made us a little hot and sweaty, so guess what – we went for another swim. Seems like I spent most of today getting dressed and undressed, but that really was our last swim of the day and we happily retired to our bed, wondering what adventures tomorrow might bring.

 

 


6 Comments

Sad news 13th Jun 2018

It is with a very heavy heart that I announce the passing of of our adored travelling companion, Archie the Border Terrier, after a short but sharp illness. We will miss you so much little one.  There have been and will be many tears at your passing and our travels will not be the same without you. Life was more difficult for you towards the end, with cataracts, deafness and your body starting to let you down. But not as difficult as our lives will be without you. The tears are flowing as I write this. You were the best dog any one could ever have wished for. Night night pupskip.

The Rainbow Bridge

inspired by a Norse legend

By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,

Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.

Where the friends of man and woman do run,

When their time on earth is over and done.

For here, between this world and the next,

Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.

On this golden land, they wait and they play,

Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,

For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.

Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,

Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.

They romp through the grass, without even a care,

Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.

All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,

Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.

For just at that instant, their eyes have met;

Together again, both person and pet.

So they run to each other, these friends from long past,

The time of their parting is over at last.

The sadness they felt while they were apart,

Has turned into joy once more in each heart.

They embrace with a love that will last forever,

And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.

held

A very young Archie

DSC_0724

One of the last pictures of our beloved boy. 9/6/18

 


Leave a comment

Twilite Leisure, Banbury 8-10 June

Friday 8th

We had viewings on the house and set off right in the middle of one so it was all a bit chaotic, but we were soon trundling up the A34 as we have so oft done before. This weekend was our “Bob & Barb” weekend. Regulars will recall that we met them on our RV trip in Canada back in 2012. We became firm friends and generally meet at least twice a year, now,  to spend some time together and have a good catch-up.

They generally arrive on site well before us as they are fully retired but their journey had not been the smoothest (five and a half hours from Worthing. Oops). They did beat us there, but only just.

“There” was the Twilite Leisure Caravan and Camping Park, which is handily located exactly opposite Twyford Wharf, where we had a day-boat booked for Saturday. It was very easy to miss the site entrance, which could do with some additional signage, we thought. Luckily, we had hired a boat from Twyford Wharf last Autumn so we knew roughly where it would be.

It is an attractively landscaped site with some interesting (ex) industrial buildings. Notably the spotless shower block, which has been built inside an old-brick kiln. Very enterprising.

We got settled and had tea (a CREAM tea for some! Not me. I’ll leave you to guess.) and got nattering. B&B are very easy company and we get on like a house on fire. There is always plenty to talk about. And laugh about. 🙂

It was my turn to cook the Friday evening dinner and I had pre-prepared a Smoked Fish and Spinach pie, which we later ate with some lush Purple Sprouting broccoli. Yum. It was so warm we sat outside for our first course, although as the sun went down the air chilled and we went inside for dessert. Barb provided an array of desserts. And cheese. We went to bed stuffed!

We retired early as we had a reasonably early start the next day – although Bob had got up very early indeed and we found all the previous evening’s washing up done and dried and deposited outside our door when we got up. How nice!!

Saturday 9th

Up early to have breakfast and pack our food, drink and bits and pieces for our day on the boat. Usually there is a short drive to pick up the boat but today, it was walkable! Even with all our gear. The handover was swift and we were soon off towards Adderbury and beyond, heading south on the lovely Oxford Canal.

The weather forecast had not been too promising, predicting an overcast day but it was so much better than anticipated. The countryside looked summer-fresh and it must have been mating day for damsel flies as they were legion! The dog-roses were particularly pretty, too. It was very much a case of being glad to be in England now that (meterological) summer is here (to knowingly and defiantly misquote Robert Browning!).

 

Bob is a natural at the helm and we whistled through the locks, all three of them,  including the unusual diamond shaped weir lock just near Aynho, where the River Cherwell nudges the canal and disappears through a lovely brick-built weir.  This lock has a fall/rise of just 1foot (or 30 cm for younger people among you!). Thence onward to the winding hole that lies just before the impressive Somerton Deep lock. So-called because, yes, it IS deep. In sharp contrast with Aynho weir, it has a fall/rise of 12 feet, which makes it the 16th deepest lock on the waterways. In case you are wondering,  the deepest lock we have ever done is Bath Deep lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal, which is a whopping 19 feet 5 inches (5.92 m) deep. And that is not even the deepest! That crown falls to Tuel Lane Lock on the Rochdale canal at 19ft 8 1/2 inces (6m) deep. It must be said that both locks are cheating a bit, because they were both originally two locks, rebuilt as one.

 

We turned at the winding hole, although being short, we did not really need the width. Which was just as well as a boat had annoyingly moored just north of the turning “arc”, which would have made it tricky for a longer boat.

IMG_8631

Paul spotting the lunch stop!

We had spotted a pleasant spot for lunch, overlooking the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside and, now we were on the return leg of our journey, we moored for lunch. Quiche (rather tanned as I had left in the oven too long, but nonetheless tasty) with a delicious Greek salad, prepared by Barb. A very nice lunch indeed.

We called in at lovely Anynho Wharf for ice-creams and then continued retracing our steps in the lush HOT afternoon sun. We had noticed a sharp decline in Archie’s ability to get about both on the boat and ashore. He needed help. It highlighted his age and the ever-present thought that that he won’t be around for ever. But we still have him for now and he does seem to still be enjoying his boating.

 

All too soon we were back, handed over the boat and made our way back to the site where our vans were. Time for a G&T! And then it was time to get spruced up for dinner at a local hostelry.

I had booked the Red Lion in Adderbury, and as we sat down and ordered both Paul and I realised – almost simultaneously, – that that this was the pub where we had eaten lunch some 15 years ago, when we went to view Archie and Freddie, with Sue and Paul,  as very young puppies. They were born in Sibford Gower, which is not too far away. We actually took Arch to see his birthplace a few years back. He wasn’t bothered!

We had a nice meal and then made our way home. We had a trip round this beautiful Cotswold village and also to Kings Sutton, another attractive village. Many beautiful houses and privileged people.

IMG_8648

Kings Sutton Church at sunset

Back at the van, we had coffee and more chat and then eagerly hopped into bed. It had been a long day in the fresh air!

Sunday 10th

Another nice day but, sadly, time for us to go home. We had breakfast and another last coffee with B&B. They were staying another night and planned to cycle into Banbury town along the towpath (perhaps not such a good idea in hindsight, as it was not without incident – including a puncture and even a couple of falls; one with rather damp consequences).

We bid them a fond farewell, they cycled off and we packed up and set off on our journey home.  Another lovely weekend in their company. And only 17 days until we set off for our summer break. Woo hoo!

DSC_0732

 

 


Leave a comment

Lady Heyes Caravan Park, Frodsham, Cheshire 24th – 27th May Plus Crick Boat Show 27th- 29th May

Thursday 24th May

I had booked this site (Lady Heyes)  so very long ago (early 2017) as demand for pitches, complete with their own hot tub is – not unsurprisingly – high! And it was in a part of the world that neither one of us has explored,  so we were really looking forward to it. Although perhaps not to the journey but time would tell. As it was a bank holiday weekend, I think we made the right choice to set off on Thursday. We rolled off the drive just after 09:00 and arrived at our destination at around 15:00 – including a couple of stretch and comfort breaks, for us and Arch, so not too bad, really. The M6 was – by and large – pretty reasonable traffic-wise. We do wonder what the cows make of all the traffic, though!

IMG_8489

It was a really beautiful day and we were excited to finally see our pitch with its really quite private hot tub. Larks! We had to sign forms and get a lesson on operating it but it wasn’t too complex.

DSC_0673

We had a quick cuppa and then set off on an orientation trip. On the way to the site we had spotted the River Weaver (or the Weaver Navigation), so we popped for a quick look round Frodsham ( whose famous residents include Gary Barlow (who was born there ) and Daniel Craig (who lived there at the Ring o’ Bells pub as a child), before heading off to the waterway. It was BIG. A really big boat (trip boat The Daniel Anderson) and high bridges – maybe one day we’ll give it a go, who knows?

As it was such a lovely evening, we thought we’d pop and have a quick look at the nearby  Anderton Boat Lift – a marvel of Victorian engineering which lifts boats down from the Trent and Mersey Canal to the River Weaver below (and vice-versa). Archie (our elderly Border Terrier) had a great time. It was out of commission for quite a while in the 80’s and I have never been up or down it. That’s definitely one for the Canal bucket list.

 

We were peckish by the time we had finished looking round and so we made our way to the pub where we had dinner booked – The Tigers Head in Norley, just south of Frodsham.  Thursday night is Steak Night so, of course that’s what we had, with all the trimmings. It was pretty good. Then it was home to our hot tub and fire pit. What fun!

After this, we retired quite early, as it had been an early start.

Friday 25th May

Lovely peaceful night and I awoke early. I didn’t want to disturb the boys, so I grabbed my towel and shower accoutrements and went off to check out the shower block – of which I had heard good things (award-winning). Had a lovely shower and then settled down for a read until the boys were ready to get up and carpe that diem. Arch always used to be eager to get out and start enjoying himself, but these days he prefers to snuggle in bed as long as he can. Sad to see him getting old.

After such a beautiful day yesterday, the forecast was not so good for today. I had always fancied a visit to Alderley Edge and so we set off in a light drizzle towards “the golden triangle”. This is an area of Cheshire, much loved by WAGs and made famous by the awful “Real Housewives of Cheshire”. The Beckhams, the Rooneys and even Ronaldo have all lived within the area. It is bounded by Wilmslow at the apex and Alderley Edge and Prestbury in the lower two corners.

Wilmslow was actually the first placed we reached. It’s a pretty town – also known as the home of Umbro sportswear. We weren’t tempted to stop though. As we drove through the lush Cheshire countryside, I recalled from my geography lessons that Cheshire was famous for dairy-farming (Mr Bradley would be proud to know) and one can see why. You may be interested to know that Cheshire cheese was once the nation’s favourite, before being taken over by Cheddar.

We arrived in Alderley Edge (average house price just under £700,000 compared with Fareham at £320,000 and nationally around £230,000) and parked in the Waitrose car park. Well we did need a few bits – as usual! We then had a walk round and I had a good poke around the charity shops. My best find was a Coccinelle  – an upmarket (ish) Italian brand – handbag for £50. Even though I love a designer handbag, I didn’t buy it. They’re not really my style.

We have noticed – on our travels – that there are many fine and imposing churches in the area and the one in Alderley Edge is no exception. After the Edge, we pressed on to Knutsford – named after King Canute, he of the failure to stop the tide coming in story, that every kid knows (or maybe not these days?). His bones apparently are in Winchester, by the way. Nowadays, it’s allegedly home to comedian Sarah Millican. We didn’t see her.

It’s another pretty market town with some lovely buildings and looked very festive as we drove through. The weather was not conducive to much exploration, although it did look to be improving. We thus decided to press on towards finding the Trent and Mersey canal – location of many a happy holiday. We passed one of the imposing gates to Tatton Hall on the way. We’ll save a visit until next time.

 

One of the other things Cheshire is famous for is salt. Very handy for that salty, tangy cheese! In fact over-zealous salt-mining (since Roman times)  has been the cause of much subsidence in the area. As you pass along the T&M you can still see piles of salt on the bank and one of the most famous old workings (Lion Salt Works)  has now been turned into a museum.  And Northwich has – even in this century been given aid to stabilise the old workings.

Anyway – it was to the “The Salt Barge” just opposite the museum that we repaired for our (late) lunch. Which was – OK. We passed some flashes – small lakes/meres caused by salt or lime workings – on the way there. They are now a fantastic resource for wildlife and recreation. Much like the canals, their industrial beginnings are now to our advantage.

Next we stopped at a couple of marinas to get some idea of how easy casual moorings are to come by and the costs thereof – for a “future project”. One of them  – Venetian – we have visited quite a few times by boat, but the other is relatively new, we think? Venetian is on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal – which is currently the victim of a serious breach and which must surely have had a bad impact on their trade.

A hot-tub, cuppa and perhaps a gentle snooze beckoned, but not before we had popped to have a quick look at the famous Bunbury Locks – a staircase lock, which causes a few puzzled frowns and scratched heads when people first encounter it. The signs are very useful for first-timers!

 

Bunbury

As you can see – it was still a bit grey and overcast but that didn’t stop us having a lovely warm, bubbly soak! Which we repeated after dark, just because we could . The rules dictate that you are out of it by 10.45, which I think entirely reasonable.  It’s very pretty at night,  with a variety of colours to choose.

 

Saturday 26th May

Another grey day, so we decided we’d go and have a look at the mighty Mersey before a cycle ride round the Delamere Forest.  But first – a full English, cooked on the CADAC. De-flipping-lish – and plenty left over for our sandwiches for tomorrows trip down South. Note the omnipresent and ever-hopeful canine!

Suitably fortified (OK – well stuffed!) we set off for the Mersey. Well one thing led to another and we eventually ended up in Birkenhead, where the ferries across the Mersey ply their trade. It’s quite an exciting waterfront and we took plenty of pics – of which a selection below.

DSC_0687

The Liver Building

DSC_0688

Ferry

DSC_0689

HAMILTON SQUARE – Birkenhead

DSC_0693

Birkenhead Priory

We made our way back up the estuary and stopped at Eastham – site of one of the earliest crossings of the Mersey (since the Middle Ages) for a coffee. There is a cafe in the former ticket office and a very friendly and knowledgeable chap runs it.  He is obviously –  and justifiably – very proud of his heritage. Eastham was, by all accounts, quite the place to go in Victorian times, with pleasure gardens and even a zoo! Apparently the bear pit can still be seen. Sadly it’s heyday was many years ago, now. But it’s pleasant spot and has been designated a Country Park.

Our next stop (for this was turning into a full on expedition!) was Ellesmere Port  – not to be confused with pretty, sleepy Ellesmere in Shropshire. We had visited Ellesmere Port by boat so it was interesting to see it from a different perspective. It was very much as I remembered, being the terminus of the Shropshire Union Canal and also the site of the tail end of the Manchester Ship Canal, before it merges with the Mersey. It’s quite an exciting place to come by boat as it is also also the site of the National Waterways Museum, which we have explored in the past.

Time was ticking away now, and if we were going to do that bike ride in the forest, it was time to press on. We were still quite full from our breakfast, so had not bothered with lunch. It was a bit late to do the planned 7 mile Whitemore trail route, so we chose the shorter 4 mile Hunger Hill trail. Maybe it would help us work up an appetite for an ice-cream?

It was such a lovely ride. Once again we found ourselves wishing we lived closer to such a great resource. Archie had a great time although his enthusiasm and stamina have sadly decreased quite sharply in the last year. He still enjoys it but flags quite soon. In his youth he’d just run and run all day.

By the time we had finished our circuit, the ice-cream booth had closed. And we were SO up for it! Shame. Still – we stopped at the Delamere Station House Cafe Tea Rooms (very mixed bunch of reviews on Trip Advisor) and had a cream tea instead. Naughty but very nice! It’s a real working station on the main Chester to Manchester line. Feels odd sitting there in some ways – you’d expect to see a steam train but it’s a modern diesel that comes thundering through.

We made our way home and had a relax before starting some packing for leaving the next day. Later, I cooked a Chicken and Mushroom Risotto in my new Paella dish on the Cadac – delicious it was too. Although it was a bit beige – hardly a surprise, as all the ingredients actually are beige, but I usually put some peas in it at home – to cheer it up a bit.  And then it was a bit of telly and a hot tub  and shower before bed.

Sunday 27th May 

Thanks largely to our packing efforts last night, and a simple breakfast, we left the site by 09:45 – even after taking time to make sandwiches for the trip. Egg mayonnaise with sausage and bacon. Yum!! We will miss our hot tub and I’d definitely visit again – still plenty to see in the area. And it was such a contrast to the site where we had spent the early May bank holiday. We didn’t feel at all over crowded or hemmed in – even though trade was clearly brisk.

The journey down to our next site was not quite so smooth. For some reason, the M6 was shut near Coventry and we had to make a lengthy and slow detour on alternative roads. But we arrived by about 1.30 pm and got set up. Our new site was a small one – with no hook-up – in the village of Kilsby, situated between Rugby (Warks) and Daventry (Northants), but more importantly, just a stone’s throw from Crick, where we were attending an event the next day. It is called Shire View and my goodness, you could see why. It was approached by means of a bumpy and steep-ish track and surrounded by fields. Our nearest neighbours were sheep  and chickens and there was a beautiful panoramic view our over the lush countryside. Delightful.

I had been a little worried that it might be a bit noisy, as it was sandwiched between the M1 and M45 and also right on the West Coast Main Line, but there was only a little road roar and Kilsby is the site of KIlsby Tunnel (2,400 yds) and thus we were also protected from train noise. You pass one of the tunnel’s recently renovated ventilation shaft on the track up to the site. We were very pleased to be there.

We were not alone – there was another seasonally sited caravan (not occupied) and a camper van (occupied) on 2 of the 5 pitches. But it still felt roomy. Set up was achieved and then we went out for a quick explore, as there would not be time the next day. As neither of us had ever been,  we decided to aim for Rugby, home to the famous Rugby school and – of course, the birthplace of Rugby Football.

Rugby School

A Rugby pitch – in Rugby

Rugby School motto

I had not realised how central the school is, imagining it on the outskirts of town or even in countryside. It has some fine buildings, but the beautiful main building is not easy to photograph. We went for a walk round and found – to our intense joy – a proper Italian gelato shop. This called for a stop. Maia Gelato is a fairly new addition to Rugby town centre, which in common with many other town centres today, looks a little tired. We sat outside and enjoyed our delicious ice-creams – although the experience was a just slightly marred by a strong smell of urine from the alleyway just nearby. Shame.

Yum! Salted Caramel.

That stinky alleyway!

 

On the way back, we popped to Crick to check out the location of the Boat Show we were scheduled to attend the next day. There had been a lot of rain, locally, and it looked a bit muddy, so we resolved to wear walking boots.

The air was quite sultry and as we arrived back at the van, we could hear the vague rumble of thunder and thus followed and hour or so of constant rumbling as the storm approached (as demonstrated in the video above). I have never known anything like it. As it drew nearer, one crack of thunder was so loud the caravan actually shook! Luckily, Archie is now a little deaf or else he would have been terrified. There was rain of biblical proportions, and it later transpired that Birmingham, in particular, had experienced flash floods. This did not bode well for conditions under foot for tomorrow.

 

The storm eventually passed and we had supper and retired early (no TV!) ready for the next day. Missed the hot tub. Such a great relaxer.

Monday 28th May

This day would have been by dear old Mum’s 86th birthday and I sent her some happy birthday wishes, wherever she is.

The day had dawned warm and we decided to take risks by not wearing – or even carrying – waterproof gear. The thought of wearing it (too hot) or carting it around (too heavy) all day was too much. So we set off in our boots with a pair of umbrellas (our trusty Fulton Tornados)  which we hoped would see us right. If they’re good enough for HRH they’ll certainly do for us!

We set off for Crick, site of the Inland Waterways Boat Show for the last 18 years. We arrived very shortly, parked and set off across the vaguely muddy fields. Luckily the organisers had laid walkways everywhere so conditions under foot in the show itself were better than anticipated. We had a good look round before meeting with our boat builder. Reader – it can now be told. We have decided a life on the canal is our future goal and we hope to be happily ensconced on our new-build boat within the next year or so! Exciting times. After much research over the winter, we chose Ortomarine to build for us. They were showing their most recent build at the Show and we had an appointment to view and meet with them again. Them being Caroline and Rob, a very nice couple, with whom we feel we can work. Their latest boat had some innovations which were were very interested to see and we came away from our meeting feeling very happy and with the sense of having chosen well re-confirmed. It had been worth attending the show for that feeling alone.

It was NOT worth attending for the food however. We had a very lacklustre and overpriced lunch before exploring the rest of the show. By mid-afternoon it was HOT! We had definitely made the right decision about coats, too. Archie had had enough of being dragged about and so we left and went back to the van for a snooze. Dinner tonight was home-made pizza on the Cadac. Versatile piece of kit, eh? And it was delish – despite forgetting the pizza peel, which made moving it (from work surface to pizza stone) a bit of challenge! We overcame. We ate. We enjoyed.

We read for a while  and then went to bed, tired, happy and relaxed. Nice feeling.

Tuesday 29th May 

Home time. We set off early and Paul was back at his desk by lunchtime. A lovely break. Looking ahead, we have our annual “Bob & Barb” weekend – on the canal again , this year. On the Oxford again, but this time near Banbury and – at the end of June – France beckons. Can’t wait. And exciting, sometimes stressful times ahead too, as we put our house on the market and find a new, smaller shore base. Watch this space!!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

The Hop Farm – Kent, May 4-7

We selected this site for a variety of reasons  – for its closeness to (Royal) Tunbridge Wells,  because it was sited on the River Medway and lastly because of its proximity to my brother’s home in Beckenham.

I had been looking forward to visiting RTW at Easter, the year my lovely mum died, but, before we had a chance to visit, we had to turn round and come home after an urgent call to say she was fading fast. I could not face going back to the same site and the Hop Farm looked interesting – particularly as it was by a river and we could take our boat.  We also had a plan to hook up with my sister -in-law and the kids as my brother was away. SO – it all fitted.

Friday 4th May

We left at about 10.30 and had a quite surprisingly traffic free journey – considering it was A) a bank holiday weekend and B) much of the journey was on the M25! We arrived at about 12.50 – just 10 minutes early – but were permitted on site with no problem. We were located on Camping Field C – and when we arrived we were pretty much unaccompanied. As the afternoon wore on, though, more and more people rolled in. Somewhat oddly though, we had a spare pitch either side of us. Perhaps our reputation had preceded us?

We went though the well practiced set-up routine and were pleased to note that there was a handy tap on each power point. Not too far to fill up. After this – lunch, a bit of a relax and then a trip to the nearest Aldi, near Maidstone with a view to possibly buying a new water barrel as ours has a slight leak. Alas they had none (although there had been plenty in our local store the evening before. Doh!). A little research showed a caravan and camping shop not too far away, and we popped in there too – to see if we could buy a new seal instead. This tale may have a familiar ring to it, as we bought a new seal last time we went away (at Easter) but – annoyingly – can’t find the flipping thing now.

We noticed that traffic in the area was very heavy , and we experienced this phenomenon, which we dubbed “Kentish Queuing”, quite a few times in our travels around the area.

We arrived back at the van and set about relaxing. The site (which has 300 pitches) had filled up even more in our absence. But we still had no neighbours! Nice. It was a pleasant evening and we were excited to notice that an air balloon was being inflated in the adjacent field. Judging by the wind we estimated that it would fly right over us. We were right! I was very envious of the passengers. It’s a wonderful thing to do (I did it for my 40th birthday ) and it was the perfect evening for it.

We had a delicious dinner and retired early as we were both tired.

Saturday 5th May

Wow! What a lovely day! Filled with a desire to get out and about in the sunshine,  we breakfasted, washed and got ready in record time, and set off for RTW. I particularly wanted to visit the Pantiles  as I had fond memories of a trip many years ago with friends Alsion (then Stewart) Deacon, Sharon and Tania. We parked nearby and walked to the Pantiles. It had not changed too much – from memory. People were out and about in droves, lured by the lovely weather and the numerous street cafes.

I had a recollection of “taking the waters” at the “Chalybeate Spring” and I thought Paul should try them too. My recollection was that they were vile! Nothing has changed – it still tastes like sucking a rusty nail!

IMG_8405

The “Dipper”

IMG_8406

For the princely sum of £1, we were treated to a short and informative talk by the “Dipper” in her Regency costume. The water was presented to Paul who quaffed. And then grimaced. It’s awful stuff – but was believed to have beneficial properties and is one of the reasons why the Wells of Tunbridge  came to prominence. Interestingly – the Spring stopped flowing for 7 months in 2014/15, putting the Dippers out of work for a while. The reason why the spring failed doesn’t seem to have been fully determined, but low rainfall has historically had an effect on flow. This was the first time in 400 years that they had actually stopped altogether. One wonders whether climate change may have been the culprit?

Welsh dandy Beau Nash certainly saw the business opportunites in RTW! Fresh from his success as MC in Bath, he declared himself MC of RTW and it became a very fashionable place to take the waters. I’d love to go back to the mid 1700s and attend a ball,  in a sprigged dimity frock with gloves, fan and dance card, all presided over by Richard “Beau” Nash himself.  I imagine it might be a bit stinky though?

We browsed the stalls and bought some interesting Scotch eggs – Curried, Chorizo, Chicken and bog-standard, with a view to lunching on them. We also paid a visit to a magnificent cook-shop (dog-friendly!) where I bought a whisk for the caravan. This was because I had made Polenta the previous evening and had to use the fish-slice to mix it! Not a disaster but a whisk would have been so much easier! We also bought Arch some Peanut Butter and Banana, hand-made dog biscuits as a treat.

By then, it was coffee time and we had delicious flat whites and a scrummy pain au chocolat each – a Hobbit-style second breakfast!

Another place I had a yearning to visit was Toad Rock. On that same holiday, many years ago, we had visited it and gone egg-rolling (it was Easter). There are rocks all around RTW  and it was while I was researching their provenance, I came across this – possibly the BEST ever local news story:

https://www.kentlive.news/news/someone-keeps-abandoning-cucumbers-tunbridge-633695

Anyway – back to the rocks. It has previously been speculated that the rock was man- made – including some rather fanciful ideas that it wafashioned in the shape of a rocket (!)  to appease the space men who came travelling. Yes. I know. More modern thinking is that it  was eroded into its current shape by wind action during the Ice Age. I think that’s a tad more likely?

The site wasn’t quite as I remembered it – it had seemed to be more open in my memories, but perhaps time and buildings have encroached? Or – more likely – my memories were dim and I filled the gaps with fancy. Whatever – it was nice to visit and take a few photos to keep the 70’s memories alive. Wish I’d noticed the bin when I took that picture, though.

IMG_8413

As they day was getting on a bit now, we decided we would follow the route of the “Heart of Kent Scenic Trail“.  We had noticed a prancing horse on several signposts and it seems that these mark out the trail. We made our way to Wateringbury, where it starts. We went through some very pretty towns and villages – most notably Mereworth, fab church,  built in the Palladian style; beautiful West Malling  – key features are a Cascade and St Leonard’s tower – probably built by Bishop Gundalf (he of the white Tower at The Tower of London) to name but a few.

Kent Tour

DSC_0641

The Medway at Wateringbury

DSC_0642

St Lawrence’s, Mereworth

DSC_0644

West Malling Abbey Cascade

DSC_0646

St Lawrence’s Tower, West Malling

We then arrived in Tonbridge, another Medway town. We decided to have a look round as there seemed to be a lot of stalls and goings-on at the Castle. We spent a very pleasant hour or so there. The “goings-on” were a food festival (too full of Scotch Egg!) and a demo of the 18th century army (think Culloden) and the various roles each type of soldier played. Perfect location and weather.

We decided to abandon the trail after Tonbridge and pop back to the van for a siesta before our big evening out!

We snoozed, cooked dinner and then popped out to Waitrose in nearby Paddock Wood to buy a few bits for a picnic tomorrow and then came back to the Moonlight Drive In. I felt like a 50’s teenager – although there was very little in the way of “making out”.  Prefer comfort these days!! And there is no need for PDAs!

The film (which started at nine, as dusk fell) was OK – I knew it wouldn’t be great but it was the experience I was after rather than a great movie (which it very definitely wasn’t). But we had popcorn and coffee and our comfy car seats. A very enjoyable experience. The film, by the way,  so that you can avoid, was called “Truth or Dare” and starred no-one in particular!

And so to bed.

Sunday 6th May

Rudely awoken by the yappy dogs at 07:30 from our new neighbour’s (one side only still!) van, we dozed for a while. Mel and the kids were due to arrive late morning so we had no need to hurry. We had the usual eggs’n’sourdough toast combo and then got ready for a picnic on the boat. As soon as we had notification of Mel’s departure, which was swiftly followed by a return to home for Evie’s forgotten swimming costume) we set off down to the river. By the time they called to say they had arrived the boat was blown up and ready for the off.

It was a bit of game getting aboard as there was no pontoon or anything  – just the river bank,  but we were soon afloat. 5 people and a dog plus picnic. It was cosy! But so lovely to be on the water. Jolly fine boating weather. Mel didn’t realise we were using the outboard until we had been underway for some time. She thought we were being transported by the flow of the river, it was so silent.

We were going upstream as far as the first lock – Oak Weir Lock.  (see the map on this link (Part 2) They are BIG locks! All went ashore while I stayed with the boat. And then we turned round and went back to the Sluice Mill lock, passing the campsite on the way. Our final leg was back to the campsite, where we disembarked and deflated the boat with our very clever pump. Rather than pack it away wet, we stuck it on the roof of the car and drove back to the caravan, where we laid it out to dry and had a cuppa. Needless to say – we had grazed our way through the voyage and the heat was quite enervating. Mel and the kids went off to check in to their hotel for the night and we had a snooze. We planned to meet for dinner at 7.

 

Our evening destination was The Chequers in Laddingford – pretty much equidistant from their hotel and our campsite. It is dog-friendly and has a large garden for the kids to run around in. The food was average (I thought). But we had a pleasant evening and made plans for the next day before going our separate ways.

Monday 8th

We had arranged a late check-out and again had a leisurely morning reading and relaxing until Mel and the kids turned up. They had been making good use of the pool at their hotel. We had decided to go to Teapot Island – a nearby tourist attraction/cafe. Its claim to fame was that it was once on the Guinness Book of Records for the largest teapot collection (7,600) but that was a short-lived moment of glory as their record was smashed (ha ha!) by a chap in China (ha ha!) whose collection number a whopping 30,000. I read a review from the funny “Crap Days Out” book  – “”It’s awful if you don’t like teapots. But it’s probably all right if you do.” I think that about sums it up?

We had a nice coffee and a walk around by the river, where we watched people on Hobie stand-up paddle-board. They look like really good fun. The kids had a go on dry land. And then it was time to say goodbye – we went back to the site to pack up and they went home. Our journey home was a little more congested than our journey there but we were soon home, unpacked and looking forward to our trip to Frodsham (childhood home of Gary Barlow, no less!) in Cheshire on the next Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May. Where we have a pitch with our own personal hot tub! Larks!