On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Holmbury Hill, Surrey


Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

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.