On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Holmbury Hill, Surrey


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The Old Oaks 17-20 November – for the Glastonbury Carnival 2017

Friday

The Old Oaks is one of our favourite campsites – we initially visited back in December 2009, for our first annual “Wrapping Weekend”, where we take all the presents we have bought, wrapping paper, tags and trimmings; and bottle of Baileys to a campsite and have a lovely weekend, wrapping the presents on the Saturday evening, quaffing Baileys and making fun out of a bit of a chore. This was back when the Old Oaks stayed open all year. It closes now – after the carnival until March. And it has just won Campsite of the Year, I believe? Well deserved.

Anyway. Paul had been away at the annual Marine Electronic Trade Show (METS) in Amsterdam and flew back on Friday morning. I picked him up from the airport and then we came home, loaded up and set off at about 1.30 pm for Glastonbury.

We had lunch on the journey and had very few hold-ups, arriving just before sunset. We  quickly set up on our fully serviced pitch and were soon sat down, cosy and warm with a cuppa in hand. We had a quiet evening, reading and playing cards, after I had made and Paul had cooked Pizzas – from scratch – on our Cadac. They were delicious – ham, mushroom and gorgonzola, topped with grated mozzarella. Yum!

We were both tired and so retired to bed by 10 ish.

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Sunset set-up at Old Oaks, Glastonbury

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Pizza being cooked

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Fato a Mano!

 

Saturday

After a lovely quiet night (owls!) we awoke refreshed and raring to go. We had a cooked brekker – again courtesy of the Cadac. I love the fact that you can cook outside with no stink/grease in the van! After a couple of coffees and a relax, we set off for a look round Wells. We have been before but it’s such a lovely place and with Market Day on Saturday mornings, it’s worth another visit.

We started with a coffee in a very pleasant little cafe – but not before I’d bought a couple of Christmas presents in a cute shop – Saint & Gray (lovely scarves and bags – must …resist…..). I had hardly walked a dozen steps from the car park before I’d made that first purchase! And then straight into another, well-stocked fabric and haberdashery shop for some lovely Christmassy fat quarters (in tasteful shades of grey ) to make myself a Christmas rag wreath. I was really motoring on the shopping front!!

After coffee we strolled up the High Street and round the market square. Loads of lovely smells. One fruit and veg stall looked particularly good, and was selling lots of really traditional old apples and pears. Paul said they looked a bit manky – he’s too used to perfect, waxed and polished supermarket apples. These looked like proper, unsanitised apples to me. And they had romantic names – like Egremont Russet,  D’Arcy Spice and Laxton’s Fortune. They smelt quite wonderful and reminded me of my childhood. Not a watery, tasteless Golden Delicious to be seen in those days.

We had a quick look at the famous bell-ringing swans (it’s true –check it out!)  and the at the Bishop’s Palace and then bought some delicious looking pasties for our lunch and made our way back to the van. We were being picked up by coach to go to Glastonbury for the Carnival, later in the afternoon. We had a comfy (snoozy!) afternoon and then got ready to go. Half way through the afternoon, Paul suggested we stayed another night (they had a special offer on) and I jumped at the chance.  He went and paid and it was settled. I love an impromptu decision!

The pick up was at 4.30 and rain was forecast. Boo! The coach deposited us right in the town centre (before all the roads closed in preparation for the procession) and we were left with a couple of hours to fill, before the pre-procession started at 6.30. We had a wander round and finally settled in a cafe – beers for Paul and coffees for me. The rain had started. And so it continued throughout the entire evening.

We found our viewpoint and settled in for a long wait. We had taken the opportunity to book tickets for a buffet in the Abbey Tea Rooms, which we could use as a base for the evening. But we could not go there until 8 pm, so we had a couple of hours of standing in the deluge. Luckily we had brollies, good rain-wear and walking boots, so it could have been worse! We had also thought to bring the backpack we use for Archie when we go road cycling. So we tucked him in there. Not sure he was very keen but we kept the rain off him with one of the brollies. Spirits among the crowd were high, despite the weather and this helped to make the wait more bearable.

The procession was awesome – in the very truest sense of the word. The work that goes into building the floats is unbelievable – as you can see in the pictures. And they are full of people, doing choreographed routines. Those people worked so hard! You would never have known they had done it all the night before in the neighbouring town of Wells! They must have been soaked and frozen to the bone, but they performed with gusto. Respect to them. They were amazing.

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The West Country is famous for its carnivals and some (e.g. Bridgwater ) date all the way back to the 17th Century. They are actually related to the Gunpowder Plot/Guy Fawkes, but today are more about raising money for charity. Information about the circuits can be found here.

About 8.15 we made our way across to the Tea Rooms. It was packed out. I guess the impact of the bad weather was that everyone wanted to get in out of the cold and rain. There wasn’t a seat to be had. Very disappointing The buffet was plentiful and the hot drink was welcome though – even though we had to juggle with plates, cups, brollies and dog.

The procession takes about 3 hours to go through and we eventually made our way back to the coach at about 10:15. We hung up all our wet stuff and fell in to bed. What an amazing evening. So impressive. I’d thoroughly recommend a visit. We will definitely return.

Sunday

We woke up quite late –  to sunshine. Typical. But we had an extra day. How lovely. We agreed that we would buy food from a supermarket for our unplanned supper tonight, rather than go out to eat and would thus factor that in to the end of our day.

It was a beautiful day and, after a very late breakfast, we set off. Our first port of call was Street – home to the Clarke’s Shopping Village. With Christmas in mind, I thought it might be worth a visit. It’s also dog friendly – they claim that 90% of the shops are, which is good news. Sadly it was absolutely heaving (what did I expect??) and we decided to give it a miss after all. We saw some lovely views on our way there, though.

 

We had spotted a monument on the hills, and a little research showed that it was dedicated to famous seaman, one Vice Admiral Samuel Hood – after whom the famous WW2 battleship HMS Hood was named. We set off to have a look for it and finally found it. It’s an impressive edifice and has quite an interesting history. We were glad we had made the effort to take a look.

Our next hour or so was spent exploring the Somerset Levels – which became quite famous after the floods in the winter of 2013/14. We were hoping to see (although not really expecting to) some Cranes, which are slowly being reintroduced to the UK after being hunted to extinction a few hundred years ago, What a sight that would be. Perhaps another day. We did see many birds of prey – largely red Kites –  but beautiful to see, nonetheless.

We made our way back to Glastonbury and bought our provisions for our supper and then repaired to the van, which was looking lovely in the sunshine. We spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and chatting through a project of which more news in a future post. We’d had a lovely weekend with a bonus day and are now looking forward to our next trip away – maybe a wrapping weekend ?  – although December is already looking busy. So unless we can squeeze one in, our next trip may well be after Christmas for our traditional New Year break. We are off to Chew Valley, near Bath this year. Bring it on!

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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?

Pigs!

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.

 

 

 

 

 


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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

 

 


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Devizes C and CC Site for a day on the K and A – 14-16 July

Friday 14th July

It was our friends’ big birthday year (50!) and we had got them presents to open “on the day” but the real gift was a weekend away with us in the van.

They did not know, but we had also booked a day boat on the Kennet and Avon canal as a surprise. These friends – Sue & Paul Rogers – always used to come away on my Dad’s boat with us every summer and we know they love their canals, so we hoped they’d be pleased.

They came over to us at at 2pm and we set off for Devizes (although they had no idea where we were going, of course!). It was a beautiful sunny day and we arrived at the Devizes site, where we had visited once before with them, and got set up. I had requested a specific pitch, and whilst they could not accommodate that request, they put us on a very pleasant pitch, backing on to the canal and with a fair degree of privacy. We got the sun shade out and settled down for a cuppa.

Our thoughts turned to alcohol and we popped into Devizes to get some supplies. We had a few drinks while we waited for dinner (I had pre-made a lasagne) to heat up and then we ate our dinner. During the evening, we told them where we were going the next day and we all went to bed reasonably early, so that we could be in Trowbridge by 09:30 to pick up the boat.

Our pitch

Relaxing

Arch relaxing too

Sat 15th July

We arose at 08:00 and had breakfasted and got ready, including packing the picnic and tea & coffee making kit, by 09:00.

We had hired the boat from ABC Boats at Hilperton Marina. Things have changed! When we arrived, I paid the security deposit and we then had to sit and watch a safety video – even though we are all experienced boat handlers. But then I guess, anyone could say that and if they had shown us the video, I guess they were absolved in the event of an accident. Such litigious times we live in, eh?

Anyway – we were soon away on the good ship “Cheers”. We had brought our bikes along on board. We wanted to give Sue & Paul a little time to themselves on the boat and also to get a little exercise for us and Arch.

Odge

Arch

Moind the Boikes

Wonder what I was swearing about?

Suzi – turning right?

The first (and only) lock of the day was the one at beautiful Bradford on Avon. It’s a lock we have done quite a few times and is always both a pleasure and a pain. There are usually a fair few gongoozlers, but the lock passes under the main road through the town so crew have to be very careful.  Today was the day of the Canal Fete and there were stands and a live band and someone had crocheted lots of pretty thing to adorn the lock surround. It was a real hive of activity – even more than usual!

Yarn Bombing 1

Yarn Bombing 2

The lock safely negotiated, we decided to get the bikes off and go for a cycle. Archie was very excited – despite his age (just a few days short of his 15th birthday) he loves a good run with the bikes. We left Paul R at the tiller and set off. The towpath through the town is well used and it was very busy as we started off, with people strolling, bikes, pushchairs, more bikes and dogs. Lots of dogs! The crowds soon thinned out, though, and we enjoyed our ride. As we were off the boat we took a few photos of the boat’s progress.

Broadside

View from a Bridge

After a while we re-boarded and pressed on towards the next big landmark, the Avoncliffe Aqueduct,  where the canal does a big dog’s-leg over the Avon itself and the main Bath to Westbury train line. There is a good  aerial photo of it here.  One of the Day Boats in front of us made rather heavy weather of crossing it, which slowed us up a bit – not that there is any point in rushing anywhere on the canal! But they were more intent on boozing and they let us overtake very shortly after that, which was a relief.

We hoped to get roughly to the Dundas Aqueduct before we winded the boat (canal-speak for turning round)  but in the end, we winded shortly before that and pulled over for a very tasty lunch (Scotch eggs, pork pies, quiche, home-made potato salad and salad).  We were joined at lunch time by a stowaway duck.

Quackers!

After lunch we re-traced our steps, back across the Aqueduct, where there were some signs of exuberance, and back through the lock – where we stopped for a lovely ice-cream, as it was now quite hot!

Dropping off crew

The Avon

Suzi – being exuberant

Motley Crew

There were still lots of people about at the lock and the band played on. We had a brief look round the stalls and – as mentioned – bought some refreshments and then continued our journey back to the boatyard.

This chap needs locking up!

In the lock

We arrived back at the boatyard a shade early, so went past for a while and then winded again, to maximise our time on board and then we dropped the boat off, collected our deposit and made our way back to the campsite. The campsite has commissioned a handy fish and chip delivery service and, as we had planned a fish and chip supper, this seemed like by far the easiest thing to do – especially as it meant that no-one had to drive. And they were yummy! We spent the evening chatting and laughing and drinking before retiring. All of us were pretty tired,. It’s the fresh air of course!

Sunday 16th July 

There was no real rush to get up this morning and we woke up and had a cuppa, before our gallant chef (Sumps) cooked us a full English. The picture below really doesn’t do it justice,  as we also had eggs and tomatoes. And toast. It went down very well. More sitting about ensued and then it was time to clear up and pack up, sadly. Weekends have hardly got started before they are over, it seems.

Nearly full English on our Cadac

WE were off site before 12 and home by about 2.30. Another great trip on the canal with our besties. Happy 100th Birthday, you two! And here’s to the next trip away in the van, which will be with our niece and nephew – off to Exmoor this year.

 

 


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Cirencester C and MHC site for the Cotswold Show – 30 June to 2 July

 

Friday 30th June

Quite a short hop in comparison with our last trip. A mere 2 hours up the A34/M4/A419 and we were there. We had read that the site  was difficult to find but we had no trouble at all. It has to be said that the access road could do with a bit of a make-over. It is very uneven with a few large potholes but, taken slowly, it presents no real issues.  Check-in was swift and welcoming and we set off round the site to look for a pitch. It is a big site and pretty full, but we soon found one that suited us and were quickly set up with the obligatory cuppa in our hands. And relaaaaax. I love that feeling.

We chilled for a while and then popped out to Cirencester town centre for a quick look round as we knew we would not have time on Saturday. It is very pleasant and looks to be quite a thriving centre, with few of those tired, closed-up shops that you see in so many town centres today.  It has a rich history and – in Roman times (when it was known as Corinium Dobunnorum) – it was the second largest city (by area) in Britain. On the outskirts of the town, there are the partially excavated remains of an Amphitheatre.  It was/is home to such diverse luminaries as Pam Ayres, Cozy Powell and Dom Joly. Also home the Royal Agricultural College  (now a University)  which was the first of its kind in the English-speaking world.

We also popped to Waitrose for essentials – i.e. Marmite! Thence back to the van and a bit of telly before bed. The site backs on to Cirencester College, where a leaver’s ball was being held. There was a faint noise of bass/drums but nothing to keep us awake. I woke later in the night and it was very quiet indeed. Not so quiet at 7.30, when some very inconsiderate and noisy people decided to start chatting quite loudly nearby. I do find that very bad mannered. We would never speak above a whisper so early but others clearly don’t care! Rude.

Saturday 1st July

Pinch, punch and all that! Can’t quite believe we are over half way through the year. It seems to have flown by. Today we were being joined by our old friends Bob & Barb. They were originally supposed to be there with us last night but had to change their plans last minute. We usually try and pitch next door or at least close by, but that had seemed unlikely last night, as we watched a stream of people who arrived after us driving round, looking for somewhere to put down their steadies. We were thus surprised – when we finally emerged from the van – to find that the three pitches closest to us had been vacated. I quickly texted our chums to let them know which pitch we were on, hoping that they could nab one of them.

We had agreed that we would go on to the show ahead of them and rendezvous when they arrived, so we set off on our bikes. The site is adjacent to Cirencester Park, which is where the Cotswold Show is held, but we thought we would have to go the long way round (hence the bikes). We noticed a stream of people walking by the site exit and they were all clearly on their way to the show. So we followed. It was a great short-cut and – to be honest – we didn’t really need our bikes after all, but no harm done.

We presented our tickets and chained our bikes to the fence and bought a show guide. It is quite a big show and there was loads to see. But first things first – coffee! And very nice it was too. One of our first sights was the beautiful Hook Norton brewery shire horses. We chatted to one of the grooms and he said they still make deliveries by horse to four pubs locally (to them in Oxfordshire). Beautiful creatures and so lovely that they still keep the tradition going.

We also watched a display of hawking in one of the show rings. We then made our way round to the traditional rural skills section, where we watched the Blacksmith and saw some traction engines and fascinating agricultural machinery.

Twankydillo

Mobile sawmill

The engine that drives the sawmill

Lister Type J engine (1617) – powering a “Bentle Root Chopper”

We watched a bit of the agility competition on the dog ring and then passed onto the fur and feather and livestock section. More alpacas! Such pretty creatures, but also ducks, chickens, geese, ferrets, pigs, rabbits and so on.

From here we passed on to the Hawkeye Falconry stand. Based in Ludlow, they are very knowledgeable and the birds are obviously very well looked after. We saw a live gyrfalcon which was a bit of a thrill. A while back, we had been involved with a production of Neville’s Island, for which one of the props is a dead gyrfalcon! Sourcing that was a challenge but, seeing the live one, I think we had a pretty good likeness!.

 

A live Gyrfalcon

Our prop

Shortly after this, we =got a call from Bob & Barb. They were here! We made our way back to the entance to meet them. By this time, we were feeling a little peckish and – as we were right by the food tent (part of the Food Festival) where you could buy anything from licorice to game pies, via cheese (lots of cheese) we decided to grab some grub. We had a slice of medal-winning “Ploughman’s Lunch” Pork Pie – which had cheese and chutney in it. Delish! And Barb had fixed her sights on a cider, so it was ciders all round (although I had water). As we were eating our lunch the parachuting display was taking place.

Action man!

Lunch over, we set off again. It was very warm by now, and we nearly tripped over a chap who had clearly imbibed a tad too much cider being griddled by the hot sun as he snoozed off the effects. Oops!

There were numerous stalls to poke around and so much to see, but as we were passing the Dog Ring we overheard the announcer saying “Any more entrants for the Best Veteran in Show class?”. Paul decide he was going to enter with Archie. A few tense minutes passed and our lovely 15 year old Border terrier (Archie) was awarded a green 4th place rosette and a small prize (dog biscuits).  He was robbed, of course, but we were so pleased and very proud of our veteran pup!

We went for a cuppa and a sit down after that excitement. Arch was beginning to flag (and so were we to be honest). It was hot and we had been there 6 hours so we thought we’d go back to the van. Bob & Barb stayed on as there was still stuff for them to see. It was a relief to get back – although I noticed that my bike was not working properly. The power unit would not turn on. Miffed. It’ll have to go in for a check-up when we get back. But we sat down and had another cold drink and then all of us had a snooze. When we woke up Bob & Barb were back and they came over for a cuppa and to make plans for the evening.

I had a table booked for 8 pm at a pub called the Crown in Frampton Mansell. We had a wash and brush up and drove off just after 7. We took a slightly longer than necessary route as we had hopes of spotting the Sapperton Tunnel on our way. This is a dilapidated but apparently restore-able (if expensive) tunnel on the the defunct Thames and Severn Canal. It was not to be. But we did appreciate the beautiful countryside in the early evening sunshine.

The view from the Crown

We arrived and parked in the large car-park, having passed the very impressive village church, which research tells me is a “Neo-Norman conventicle church”. Yes. It’s built of Cotswold stone and rather beautiful though. The Crown is a delightful pub and very dog friendly. I had plucked  it from the Internet and it was a lucky find. Nice food, well kept beer (I’m told) and very welcoming. We had a lovely meal in great company. We went back to Bob and Barb’s Motor home for a spot of cheese and biscuits and a coffee before bed. Quite tired!

Sunday 2nd July

We had to be off site by midday so we got up, had brekker and packed up. Bob & Barb (being properly retired) were staying on another couple of nights and were understandably keen to make the most of the day, so we shared a last cup of coffee before they set off on their bikes to explore. I must admit to being a tad envious. But we had plans for the evening (feeding Linda Mary) and so we left the site just before midday and made our way home. A lovely weekend and only 2 weeks before we are off again. Can’t wait.

 


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Pembrokeshire May 2017 – Little Haven and Beyond…….

Thursday 25th May

We set off early  – but not so early that we’d get tangled with rush hour traffic. We aimed for 09:00 and achieved 09:05, which is pretty good for us. We had done all but hooking-up the night before and thus all that needed to be done this morning was make widgies for the journey, hook up and go. Whoop!

It was a beautiful day and we had a very smooth trip up, stopping at Membury for coffee and Swansea for a post lunch drink and comfort break.  Our destination was Hasguard Cross, about seven miles south-west of Haverfordwest, the County town of Sir Benfro (as Pembrokeshire is known, in Welsh). We arrived on site – Redlands Touring Park –  by about 3 o’clock to find that it was pretty much empty. We were offered our pick of pitches and selected one with the best view of the sea. It was gloriously warm and sunny and we set up and got the kettle on in record time. Once we had got ourselves comfy and shipshape, we decided to make the most of the weather and go out for an explore and dinner somewhere.

We set off along the twisty roads that seem to characterise this part of the world to our first port of call – Little Haven. I should explain here, that my Aunty Vera and Uncle Roy had a holiday cottage in Little Haven and I spent many happy times there as a child with them and with my parents. We also came to the area when George was young in the caravan that we had at the time, so we both have lovely memories of the place.

Sand castles on Little Haven beach

Playing Golf by the van at Hasguard Cross

Little Haven – thirsty

Wet play at Little Haven

As we drove down the romantically named Strawberry Hill and on to St Brides Road I felt absurdly excited. It was such a joy to be back and I have to admit to a few tears of happiness as we passed through and up  very the steep turn towards Broad Haven. We hadn’t been back for over 25 years and it hadn’t really changed that much. Sadly the shop where we used to buy shrimping nets and mackerel spinners and ice-cream was gone. Long gone I suspect, but all three pubs seem to be thriving – no mean feat for a village with a population of not much above 1,000 – and that’s combined with the neighbouring village (larger) of Broad Haven! Obviously tourism is the key to their survival. There was a lot of work going on – repairing (or upgrading?) the little sea wall area where George is sitting in the third picture above. Good to see but a little disappointing to look at. There also seems to be work going on at the site of the old shop. Exciting!

We arrived at Broad Haven and this has undergone more change but is still  as charming as ever. By now we had decided to pop in at each of the bays along the coast, calling at Druidstone Haven,  Nolton Haven, Newgale (with its long stretch of beach creating a surfer’s paradise) and culminating in beautiful Solva. It was a beautiful evening for a drive and we relished revisiting all these familiar places.

Newgale sands at low tide

Solva – high tide

We had dinner at the Harbour Inn, which was doing brisk trade on this sunny evening. We both chose steak and mine was great, whilst Paul’s was tough – to Archie’s delight as he got most of it – so we shared. Not sure we’d hurry back  to eat there but the location is unbeatable and it’s very dog friendly.

After dinner and a short walk around the harbour we retraced our steps back along the coast and returned to Redlands. And on the way home we hatched a cunning plan! Solva was the perfect place to launch our little boat and try out the new electric outboard we had bought. It has a slipway and is sheltered – it’s also very lovely.  A check of the tide table showed that the tide would be high at 07:20, so it would mean an early start but the weather was looking good so – game on!

We stopped off at Haroldston Chins (between Broad Haven and Druidstone) for an evening photo opportunity. The car park here allows access for wheelchair users – what a great idea and lovely that everyone can enjoy the stunning views across St Brides Bay.

Cliffs as the sun starts to set

 

Archie enjoyed his walk

The setting sun.

 

We had had an early start and tomorrow would be even earlier, so it was no hardship to go to bed early. As the campsite was very quiet and it was hot – we went to sleep with the window and blinds at the foot of our bed open. Such a beautiful sight before we happily nodded off. Coming here was such a great choice.

Friday 26th May

The alarm went off at 06:00 and we sprang out of bed and threw our clothes on, had a quick spot of brekker (cereal) and were out of the door. We had packed everything we needed the night before so we tiptoed out of the site so as not to disturb the few people who were there and set off. Another cracking day and the hedgerows looked their best. Our half-hour journey took a little longer than planned as there was a road closure but we soon arrived at Solva. It was so early, the parking pay booth wasn’t even open. We picked the perfect space right next to the slipway. We use a pump to blow up the boat and it takes about 15 minutes. It buzzes like an angry little bee and we were worried about disturbing people slumbering nearby but it couldn’t be heard even from a very short distance away so it was fine. I blew up the seats manually (orally?) and we soon were ready to attach the outboard. We lifted the boat down to the slipway and popped it in the water. It felt pretty chilly (around 14 degrees actually)!

Early morning shadows

As I said, this was the first proper outing for the outboard. Of course we had tested it all before we left home so we knew it worked – but how good would it be? Nervous anticipation! I got in and Paul handed me Arch who settled down like the good boy he is. Paul joined us and off we went. It was eerily silent – there is a just a barely discernible hum. We were happy to find that it worked very well indeed. In case anyone is interested in a similar set-up, I have put the details of our kit and costs in a note here.

We had such a lovely time pottering around the harbour. Solva has a fascinating history. In the early 20th century, it was a thriving port with over 30 boats and 9 warehouses for cargo and you can still see the remains of the lime-kilns, where imported limestone was burnt. This was used largely as a fertiliser. You could also get a passage to America from Solva – for the princely sum of £4 (in 1840)!

There is quite a small window for the tide as the harbour dries almost completely. We had sought advice from the locals and were told an hour either side of high water should be fine. All too soon we made our way back to the slip way and got the boat out and reversed the process  Such fun though and well worth all the effort!

Lime Kilns

We packed up, paid for our parking as the booth was now open and were back in Broad Haven by about 9.30, where we had 2nd breakfast – a bacon butty. Yum! We then went back to the caravan for showers and to dry out the boat and pack it away properly. Once we were clean and showered we set off exploring again. We wanted to research other potential slipways and made our way along the coast, via Sandy Haven – as recommended by the camp-site owner, who had spotted our boat drying. It was beautiful but not ideal as you could not park at the actual slipway. We had a nice walk along the coastal path and then pressed on towards Dale, where I recalled much boating activity from my time here long ago.

Time had now passed, as it does, and it was now around 2ish. We had a very pleasant lunch at the Griffin Inn. I must admit that this was our second choice. We had tried the Boathouse Cafe as they were promoting a dressed crab lunch which had rather tickled our fancy. We had ordered our food and drinks there but they only took cash and we had need of a cashpoint. Oh calamity! We retreated, rather embarrassed and made our way to the Griffin Inn. It was lovely though, with a sunny upper deck overlooking the bay and dog friendly. We very happily fell upon a shared pint of prawns and some smoked mackerel pate. Delish!

Overlooking Sandy Haven

Dale from above

We made our way back to the van and, after our early morning exertions, a beepy (or siesta) was in order. I fell asleep in a chair initially and then moved to the comfort of the bed. Once refreshed, having awoken and had a restorative cuppa, we set out again for an early evening drive and explore.

Here are pictures of our pitch by the way:

 

I will go and fetch the water (with apologies to Jungle Book!)

The view towards Little Haven

Setting out the chairs

We called in at St Brides Haven and had a walk on the rocky beach. Loads of people there, all taking advantage of the evening sunshine.  Kayaking, diving and some even swimming. Lovely.  I had a little fantasy moment of living in the cottage in the picture below.

The next port of call was Marloes , where the beach disappears at high tide – beware! And finally Martins Haven, where you can catch a boat to Skomer Island, a haven for puffins and Manx Shearwaters. All aboard the Dale Princess – although not at this time of day. One for another visit, I think?

St Brides Haven

Martins Haven

Then it was back to the van for our supper of Mushroom Stroganoff. We have got into the habit of taking Gousto meals away with is in the caravan. We are big fans.  You get all the fresh ingredients and a  step by step recipe to cook from scratch.All delivered to the house. And they are always delicious! And the beauty is, if you like them, you can buy the ingredients and make them again and again using your own ingredients. We use it to try out new things and introduce new dishes to our weekly routine. Highly recommended.

We had another early night as it had been a long and action-packed day.

Saturday 27th May

The forecast rain started with a vengeance in the early hours of the morning. And it thundered and lightning-ed like it was going out of fashion! Poor Arch was terrified and we did not get a lot of sleep. My back was a bit troublesome too. Eventually the storm passed and we were left with the rain, which had knocked a full 10 degrees off yesterday’s max temperature!  It rained all morning but finally – around lunchtime – it eased off. We had passed the morning relaxing, reading and snoozing but were glad to go out.

We stopped off quickly – well that was the plan – as Paul wanted to get some screws for a quick repair on one of the drawers in the van and I needed some flour for tonight’s sauce (which I had omitted to pack. Tsk). It was gridlocked. We queued to get into the the supermarket car-park and then queued to get out and then we queued to get into B&Q and then we queued to get out. Saturday madness! Arrggghh!

We had decided to go to Angle, following the course of the Cleddau and across it to the Milford Haven side on the “new” bridge, thence to Angle. Well the first part was not too successful as the Cleddau is well hidden from the road, but we eventually arrived in Neyland,  where the Cleddau King plied its trade until the Cleddau Bridge opened in 1975. I remember it well. It could carry 24 cars and 250 passengers and was always a bit of an adventure. The bridge crosses from Neyland to Pembroke Dock. I wonder how much the ferry was? The bridge is now 75p to cross – each way.

The old Trinity House pier

Portsmouth’s own HMS Warrior once used to lie at Pembroke Dock, where she was rather ignominiously used as a floating oil-pontoon and re-christened “Oil Fuel Hulk C77”. She was there for nearly 50 years until she was donated to the Maritime Trust  for restoration in 1979. Lucky Portsmouth. Interesting fact – George was invested into the Sea Scouts aboard HMS Warrior! Sadly she is in a bit of a pickle again and needs funds to ensure her continued survival.

We then made our way to Angle, which I recalled as a lovely beach, and my recollections were correct. We had a very nice cuppa and cake from the smart Wavecrest Cafe before a spot of rock-climbing and rock-pooling on the beach.

Angle Beach from Wavecrest Cafe

Looking towards Chapel Bay Fort.

Not quite a young gazelle?

Selfie

It was then home. It’s odd how, when you poddle about, calling in here and there, you just don’t notice the time. But straight back took nearly an hour. Tonight’s dinner was another Gousto meal – a smoked fish gratin with champ. The green cabbage was sauteed in butter and garlic rather than boiled. We will definitely be doing that again!! Great work Gousto! And then we had another early night to catch up on our broken sleep from the night before!

Sunday 28th May

The threat of rain seems to have passed us by and the day looks set fair. Today would have been Mum’s 85th birthday and I took some time,  as we drove to our destination for the day, to think about her. I know she loved it down here too. I miss her. We stopped at Newgale for a picture opportunity, as the tide was out. Archie enjoyed drinking the freshwater stream that runs onto the beach!

Overlooking Newgale

Archie the beach bum

We were bound for St Davids – famous for being Britain’s smallest city and a little gem.  It is famous for the Cathedral and the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace – despoiled by one Bishop William Barlow, who sold the lead from the roof to pay for the weddings of his five daughters! That started its decline and by 1678 it was considered as being “beyond economic repair. Well worth a look, though.

St Davids seems to have been overtaken by yarn-bombing as you will see from the pictures below. I approve! We met a 17 year old border terrier whilst wandering around there. He was really showing his age, bless him but he gave us hope. Archie is 15 in July and we do begin to wonder how much longer we shall have him for. 😦

We had a big Sunday roast lunch (to save cooking tonight) at the Grove Hotel. They do a very reasonable Sunday sharing platter for two £21.95
“A trio of roasts including Welsh topside of beef, loin of pork and roast turkey with Yorkshire puddings, sage and onion stuffing, pigs in blankets, goose fat roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and rich gravy”. It was  rather too much, but I luckily had a plastic box in the car and we turned it into a meal for 2 + dog. He loves his veg, does Archie and there was a fair bit of meat left too. Lucky boy!

After lunch, we popped down to Caerfai Bay – just can’t get enough of this truly stunning coastline! It was heaving so we didn’t stay long. Glad we popped in though. There is a caravan site there but I’m not sure I’d fancy going, as it’s a very narrow approach and we had to stop and squeeze past quite a few times. It’s another lovely beach though and very popular.

Caerfai Bay

We turned for home and spotted the sign for the Solva Woollen Mill. We had a lot od Welsh tapestry articles (blankets, handbags, spectacle cases, purses, waistcoats – even a cape) and so I fancied a nose round. We took the turn, which told us it was only one and a half miles. Hmm. I think it may have been a shade further! Or maybe that was just the way it seemed? Anyway we arrived. To find that it was closed on Sundays!! Grrrr. But we did see some lovely alpacas (I want one) on the road back. Photo opportunity!!

Fringe trim anyone?

We stopped off in Broad Haven for an ice-cream and then it was back to the van for the last time before we leave tomorrow. Sadly.

We need an early start again, as it is a long trip, so we spent the evening packing up and preparing to up steadies and set off at a good hour tomorrow.

Monday 29th May 

Up early and at it. Breakfast and final clearing up. Boo. Our preparations yesterday stood us in good stead though, and we were away just after 08:30. A couple of stops and we were home by about 2pm. We have had such a lovely time in this beautiful part of the world. We will definitely be back – hopefully for longer next time and hopefully it won’t be such a long gap. Not sure I actually have another 25 years in me!  We highly recommend  a visit. Great for families. Evie and Lenny would love it. I wonder if we can borrow them for a whole week?

For our next trip,  we are off to the Cotswold for the Cotswolds Show, with our dear friends Bob & Barb. Can’t wait. As usual! I love this caravanning lark.

 

 

 

 

 


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Rivendale – Easter 2017 (13-17 April)

Maundy Thursday  – 13th 

We had a pleasant and uneventful trip up, with Paul taking customer calls on the way, as seems customary. The site is just North of Ashbourne – billed as the Southern gateway to the Peak District. We had explored this town on a previous visit to he Peaks and rapidly passed through on our way to Rivendale, our base for the next 4 nights.

Rivendale is set in a disused quarry and we had a pitch right by the children’s play area, which, long ago, we would have loved but as our child days are over we were a tiny bit disappointed. But not enough to complain and so we set up and got the kettle on and had a bit of a relax. The signal here was a bit patchy/non-existent and you can buy WiFi from a 3rd party provider (which we did) but it was pretty slow. It cost around £5 per day and was just about fit for purpose. Our pitch can be seen on the aerial shot below, marked with a red blob:

Rivendale

As you can see, it’s pretty close to the A515, but there was no noise to speak of.

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Our pitch

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The Rivendale Quarry

We had passed a pub on the way to the site where they had bragged that they have the best pies in the Peak District. As it was a nice evening, we decided to go for a drive to get our bearings, incorporating a short walk to work up some appetite and then pop and check out the pies.

We came across an impressive embankment made of rocks and a car-parking area for the High Peak Trail, which is a 17.5 mile walking/cycle track. We had stumbled across the Minninglow point of access and so we parked and set off. It was a sunny but chilly evening and the views were pretty good.

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The High Peak Trail at Minninglow

 

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What’s that down there?

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Hello!

The walk didn’t last too long as it was pretty breezy and we were getting peckish, so we set off on a circular route, via Parwich and Alsop en le Dale, to The Bluebell Inn, just outside Tissington. There were some goats in a paddock adjacent to the car park and so we stopped for a quick chat prior to entering the pub. It was warm and pretty busy, with a nice mix of locals and travellers like ourselves. It is also very dog friendly – always a good sign. We were soon seated and looking at the really quite extensive menu. In view of their boast we both chose pies, mine a steak and Stilton and Paul’s a steak and ale. They were richly filled with – a vital pie characteristic in our opinion – both tops AND bottoms. Neither of us care for those pies that are served in a pottery pie dish with just a top. Wrong!  But they were off to a good start! The meat was tender and plentiful and both pies were pronounced excellent and we both thought the chips were proper chips (rather than frozen) Unusual these days. We were happy to agree that their pies could very well be the best in the Peak District!

After dinner, we made our way back to the Van, watched a spot of television (pretty good signal, unexpectedly) and retired for the night.

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Parwich church

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The kids are alright

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Nibbling the straw

Good Friday – 14th April

Not so good actually, as it was flipping well raining! We thus didn’t rush to get out. Eventually, though, we decided to go to Matlock, via the scenic route. Matlock is a spa town and the County town of Derbyshire and has a very imposing County Hall, located on the site of the former Smedley’s Hydro. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a grander County Hall, to be honest! It really is huge and sumptuous looking and has a very interesting history.

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County Hall

There was a handy M&S Food, so I popped in for a few provisions and emerged with two coffees and some Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns. I had seen them advertised on TV and, frankly I had thought them a rather ridiculous idea. Well how wrong was I? They were delicious and I highly recommend them.

Matlock’s thermal waters were discovered in the late 17th century but they made a wealthy man of John Smedley, who recognised and capitalsied on the benefits of hydrotherapy in the late 19th century. His family home, the very Gothic Riber Castle dominates the skyline above Matlock. It’s huge and he must have made a pretty penny! Driving through the town we also spotted a tuk-tuk, used as an adornment for an Indian restaurant, which we thought was rather cute.

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Riber Castle

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Full size tuk-tuk

Our next visit was to Bakewell, where we had a walk round the town and bought a pastie each for lunch. Finally,  we had seen (online)  a scenic drive from Monsal Head to Longstone Edge, so we thought we’d give it a go. I have to say that the instructions weren’t too specific and we may not have done the exact route but the views were pretty rewarding, so we were quite happy – especially when we stopped and had a chat with the cuties below.DSC_0091DSC_0093As we were driving back to the van, I was looking at all the fields, bounded by dry-stone walls and it struck me that the number of hours of labour they had taken to construct must be absolutely vast. They are often really small parcels of land and look pretty amazing on the OS map of the area.

 

Easter Saturday – 15th April

Today looked like it would be the best day, weather-wise, so this was the day we made our planned trip to Carsington Water with our bikes. A few years earlier, we had visited there and hired bikes, and that trip had inspired my thirst for an electric bike. We now have one each. We had not cycled the whole route that time but were determined to do so this time.

We arrived and parked at the Visitor Centre. It was a fine but blowy day, especially on the exposed high bits of the trail, and we set off. The trail is roughly 8 miles in length and Archie (who will be 15 in July) loved his run. We had to put him in the back-pack from time to time, as there were sheep and also because he is, after all, an old chap!Carsington

We all thoroughly enjoyed our ride, and once again wished we had something similar locally, off road and safe with a great surface. Just the job. To celebrate finishing our circumnavigation, we treated ourselves to an ice-cream each. Yes each! For they had Doggy ice-creams, made by Frozzys. Archie thoroughly enjoyed his.

It was tad late for lunch, but we decided we’d toddle off to Wirksworth, which is also known as the “gem of the Peaks”, to see what we could find. Gem of the Peaks? Hmm. Well – it’s a pretty little town but a tad dead on this particular Saturday afternoon and we left empty handed and slightly disappointed. I was interested to see a possibly controversial (these days) pub sign in the Market Square (see picture) and resolved to find some of the history behind it, which can be found here.

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Market Square – Wirksworth

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Aficionados of 80’s music will smile when I say that this town made me think – somewhat tenuously –  of Tom Tom Club’s Wordy Wrappinghood.

After the excitement of Wirksworth, we repaired to van for a beepy and a quiet evening.

Easter Sunday – 18th April

Rain – again. We couldn’t think what to do so we decided to pop up to Buxton, Big mistake! Aside from the fact that it was drizzly Buxton was dead. Most of the shops were shut and the town was full of disconsolate tourists. We had a coffee and beat a hasty!

We decide to go for scenic and took a trip through to Macclesfield Forest and up on to the moors. It was a pleasant drive and must be really lovely on a sunny day. Visibility was not great though. LOL

 

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We dropped down off the top to Leek in search of sustenance but not a lot was open here, either! Remembering that the Caldon Canal terminated in Leek we had a fairly lengthy and ultimately fruitless search for the Canal. It was not our day!

We decided to run for home and the route took us through some very pleasant countryside, especially Shining Tor.

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Shining Tor

Returning to Rivendale, we popped in to the on-site cafe as we were still peckish and had a couple of toasties. Not bad but not exceptional.

We then went back to the van and had a game of Qbe – a really quite challenging word game. I’ll leave you to guess who won! We later noticed that the day was clearing up and that the sun was making a tentative appearance. Time to ride the Tissington Trail!

We drove to the nearest access point – the former Alsop en le Dale station car park  – and set off. Such a lovely ride – as it was evening we only did about 7 kms but thoroughly enjoyed it. Archie again loved it. Such a great resource and some lovely views.

We returned to the van for dinner and spent the evening doing a spot of packing in preparation for a reasonably early start home and watching the box.  I had a pretty uncomfortable night as I had tweaked my back coughing. Really annoying and pretty painful.

I spent the long journey home with the heated seat on, which made the pain a bit more bearable. A miserable end to an otherwise enjoyable long weekend. Here’s to the next one at the end of May, when we are Pembrokeshire bound.