On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

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The Isle of Wight – with kids 2-6 April


Our first proper outing in the new van! Quite exciting – especially as we are taking our 9 year old niece (Evie) and 5 year nephew (Lenny) with us. Although it’s a teeny bit annoying that they will get to sleep in out lovely new bed and we’ll be on the double in the dining area which has to be made up every night. But it’ll be good fun and we are really looking forward to it. There’s a few jobs to be done – like fitting the big feet to the corner steadies and making room for the kids and all their accoutrements plus all the “in case it’s a rainy day” stuff. We pray it won’t be but it has to be said –  it’s not looking too promising as I write this (Tuesday 30/3). Still  – que sera sera.

We are catching a slightly later ferry than we would have ideally caught, because our budding actor, Lenny, has a drama workshop that finishes at lunchtime on Thursday. To allow time for them to get down from London we put the ferry time back to 5 pm. Fortunately, the clocks have sprung forward so there should be enough daylight to set up although we may have some hungry children on our hands as the ferry crossing takes roughly an hour and then it’s about a half hour drive to the camp-site and then at least another half hour to get dinner on the go.

We are using Red Funnel from Southampton as we did last year,  as they are much cheaper than the Wightlink service. The ferry goes to East Cowes and then we have to drive to the camp-site – Whitefield Forest –  just outside Ryde, where we also spent last Easter.

Thursday – 2nd April

The kids and their Dad arrived around 2.30, allowing us plenty of time to get to the ferry. I had anticipated that there might be a touch of separation anxiety when Dad left, but no, thank goodness. Too excited for that! Being Easter, the ferries were pretty much fully booked and so even though we actually could have made the 4.00 ferry as it turns out, we had a bit of time to kill. We waited in Mayflower Park, were there was a handy ice-cream van plus a very well-appointed kids playing area. The time thus soon passed and we joined the queue to board. The kids were pretty excited and there were quite  few questions about how the caravan would fit and so on, the answers to which soon became clear. We spent the first half of the journey up on deck (before it got too chilly) looking at all the sights and the crossing passed very quickly.

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It was grey and overcast but not actually raining, as had been forecast, which was a relief. I had warned the site that we expected to be late and they had, as promised, pinned our details to the door.  I had asked for a pitch nearby the one we had used last year and we had been allocated the one next door. Perfect.

We quickly got set up, with the aid of the kids, and dinner was soon on the table. Pre-prepared spag bog accompanied by garlic bread disappeared quite quickly and we had a quick couple of card games and then it was slightly late to bed for the kids and slightly earlier than usual for us. This turned out to be a very smart move indeed, and one which we adopted for the the following few nights. It rained quite heavily over night.

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Good Friday – 3rd April

So it was an early start. 6.23 to be precise! There followed a period of Evie shushing Lenny and LOUD stage whispers from Lenny of “What time is it Evie?”.  Bless. We held out until 7.30 and then gave permission to rise.

We had our breakfast and then, upon dressing, we discovered a sock shortage for Evie. A quick trip round the very handy Tescos nearby soon sorted that (plus new pants for both, new books, a present for George and bottled water for the car  – well for the kids and Archie). As it was a grey and chillyish day, we went to Seaview for hot chocolate at the The Old Fort. Whilst there, Paul was delighted to find a couple of Marine Electronic “relics” being used as decoration for the walls for the cafe (yaaaawn!).

There followed a session beach-combing on the pebbly beach. We founds lots of nice shells which Evie was delighted to collect. There was a superabundance, as there always seems to be on pebbly beaches,  of Slipper Limpet shells. We mostly ignored these and found some pretty bits of oyster shells, scallops and periwinkles and some really big limpet shells. Lenny amused himself by throwing “pebbles” into the sea.

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It was back to the van for lunch and then we set off for the Donkey Sanctuary, which is near Wroxall. As the weather had been inclement, all the donkeys were in the barns and we all fell in love with every one of them. There seems to be a fascination between Archie and donkeys and vice versa.  We all had a great time and we let the kids choose a donkey to sponsor. They chose a cute white one called Daisy and they received an adoption certificate. They also each chose a donkey cuddly toy. Evie called hers Star (after my now deceased adopted donkey) and Lenny – well he called his a different name every day but seems to have finally settled for Jigsaw. You’ll see why later.

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We stopped off on the way home at Yaverland beach (a favourite of mine). The kids went for a long scooter ride (a cunning ploy to tire them out!) along the prom and then we went on the beach and did some sand writing – even Archie.  who seems to love a sandy beach, got in on the act!

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Then it was back to the van for a fish and chip supper, which we had picked up on the way home. It was very nice indeed and we all tucked in with relish (mayo and ketchup anyway!). We managed an earlier night for the kids on this occasion and we followed after a quick coffee and relax.

Saturday 4th April

We had a slow and meandering start to the day, although it was another very early one. Showers and a squirrel hunt plus picnic-making took us until around 11 am and then we set off for our day out.

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We were off to Carisbrooke Castle, which we knew the kids would love. We walked all round the battlements and whilst on one leg, we found a ladies handbag. I stayed at the site of finding it and Paul and the kids rushed off to the gatehouse to hand it in. Just as they got back, a very worried looking couple appeared and I asked if they had lost something. It was the handbag owner – and she was jolly grateful that it had been found. Our good deed for the day! We got half way round and noticed that the next donkey demonstration was about to start, so we joined the queue. The donkey that was to draw up the water by treadmill (click here to see a short video) was none other than Jigsaw. (Lenny’s eventually chosen donkey name).  The kids loved the demo (well I did too!) and then we had our picnic, eyed by avaricious crows, who descended the very moment we left to complete our battlements walk to see if we had left any crumbs or goodies for them.

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We had arranged to meet my old school chum, Julia,  and had decided to go for afternoon tea at The Old Smithy, near Godshill.  We thought it might be fun to take the kids on the chain ferry as it was more or less on our route from Carisbrooke to Godshill. They loved it as much as I do.We had just arrived in Godshill when I got a message to say that Julia had been taken ill on the way there and had gone home. We decided to have a cream tea anyway as we were on holiday. The kids had ice creams (it’s the law that you have a daily ice-cream whilst on holiday in our family).

On the way home, we passed the Garlic Farm and decided to pop in as we saw that they had the Birds of Prey there again for Easter. The kids chose to take a ferret for a walk – not something you get to do every day! To our delight, we also spotted a couple of red squirrels.

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We made our way home and the kids had fun in the forest – and a close encounter with a peasant (or so I was told!)  while I cooked the dinner (Curry) after which, we settled down to watch The Voice and then bed.

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 Easter Sunday – 5th April

Another day, another adventure. This time we were off to Robin Hill but not before it was discovered that the “Easter Chick” had been overnight and left some surprises (although, rather disappointingly, not for the grown-ups ).  We stopped off on the way to feed some ducks – a really beautiful assortment of unusual ducks plus the ubiquitous Mallards.



We arrived at Robin Hill and spent (a small fortune and) several hours there on toboggan rides, tractor rides, slides, trains, swings – so on.  We even tried to lose themn in the maze but they came back!! Ideal for kids. For grown-ups – not so much.


We still had some time to kill, so we set off for Shanklin for an ice cream and bit of sand play. The sun came out fully while we there and it was delightful. There were loads of people having an Easter stroll along the prom. We went to our favourite ice cream parlour – Toppings – and gave the kids their choice out of 28 flavours. Evie chose Bubblegum flavour (Yuk!) and Lenny wet for the more classic Strawberry. I think Uncle Paul got rather carried away with the size of the kid’s ice creams!!


Home and some jigsaw fun followed and then it was time (this is a few hours later by the way!) for a Roast Dinner, a bit more play and then off to bed for our last night.  I think we managed ti=o stay awake until gone nine pm. Oh yes!

Bank Holiday Monday – 5th April

It was a chilly start but the sun was shining the brightest that it had for the entire weekend. Typical! The kids helped pack up and then we were off to pick up the ferry. It was a beautiful crossing – so warm and sunny and we had a picnic on board. Then it was home and unpacking – the worst bit of going away –  and washing and dinner, bed and baths for the kids. They went off to sleep quickly and our lovely weekend was over. It remained for the kids to be picked up by their Mum and Dad ( and a pleasant lunch at Cams Mill) before it was back to the normal routine.  Despite the slightly miserable weather we had packed a great deal in and Lenny pronounced that a caravan was his favourite vehicle. A hit I think? her’s to next year. But first – our next trip to Herefordshire on May bank holiday weekend with Mum and Uncle D. That time will fly.

Voyage Home


I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the lovely, peaceful site – where the birdsong is beautiful.

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Isle of Wight – Easter 2014 (17-22 Apr)

So for our Easter break this year, we chose the Isle of Wight as neither of has spent more than a day there and we wanted to explore more fully. It was also an opportunity to meet with my dear old school chum Julia and meet her husband. We have  recently become re-acquainted through Facebook after a gap of 40 years or so. Bizarrely, and also quite annoyingly, it was actually far cheaper to catch a Red Funnel ferry from Southampton to the Island than from Portsmouth, so we set off and arrived in plenty of time for our sailing, despite dire warnings of hold-ups caused by roadworks in Southampton. It was quite exciting – almost as exciting as going to France and the weather was kind-ish.


Molly & Mr Munsch

Molly & Mr Munsch

Nervous anticipation

Nervous anticipation

"Our" ferry approaching

“Our” ferry approaching

We had a pleasant crossing and were out on deck for the entire journey. It was only a couple of weeks earlier that I had passed that way aboard the Azura on a short cruise to Belgium with my dear old ma. There are some lovely sights along the way. You can see from the photos below that the weather was not quite perfect but bearable.


Netley Abbey

Netley Abbey

Netley Castle

Netley Castle







We drove the short distance to our campsite just outside Ryde. The campsite, Whitefield Forest Touring Park, had been well chosen. It was, as the name suggests, set in woodland and there was plenty of wildlife in evidence and the promise, too, of red squirrels.

Julia and Nigel were expected for dinner and I had made a curry before we left home. We were just getting ready for their arrival when disaster struck. We noticed that we had a leak under the sink. This meant that we could not pour any liquid down there. Lots of stuff had also got wet so we were in uproar when they arrived. Notwithstanding, we had a pleasant evening and eventually did the washing up in the sinks provided by the site. Very handy.

The next day (Friday) was quite pleasant and we set off to explore. Our first port of call was Seaview and we loved it there.  It was quite a clear day and we were able to get some good views of the Solentforts from the other side than we usually see them.



Spitbank Fort from Seaview High Street


Spitbank close-up


Spinnaker Tower and probably our house!


From Seaview we went to Ryde and found Hursts – a brilliant hardware store, where we bought the stuff needed to effect a repair on the leaky sink. While Paul was deep in conversation with one of their advisers, I took the opportunity to have a good rummage round. I ended up buying – a bucket! As were returning to the car, we saw a bridal party in horse and cart.


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Our next port of call was The IOW Garlic Farm, where we had been charged with obtaining some – yes you’ve guessed it- GARLIC. We were in luck.  There was garlic and garlic products galore here and we bought some for family and friends – including some amazing smoked garlic. Our car reeked for several days after it had been removed! We lunched here and then had a look at some birds of prey. Also spotted the local peacock.


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Then it was off to Fort Victoria for a quick look round and some more views across to amazing  Hurst Castle and Lymington.

Fort Victoria

Fort Victoria


Hurst Castle


Finally we went home via Yarmouth. A very full days exploring.

On the next day (Saturday) , we had arranged to meet Julia again at Carisbrooke Castle – where she works from time to time. The last time either Paul or I visited here we were both in junior school so we were pretty excited. We were not disappointed either. We had a great time exploring the battlements, seeing the famous donkeys and so on. We also learnt quite a bit about its history. I was clearly not paying attention on that school trip. What’s new?


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We’d highly recommend a visit. Feeling a bit peckish after our exertions on the battlements, we made our way to Bembridge for a crab sandwich at the Crab & Lobster Inn. Perfection – and a lovely view from our table.




Post lunch, we had a stroll on the beach and then eventually home by working our way along the North-east coast. After a snooze, Paul took the dog for a quick walk, for the first time minus his camera. As he left he said “I’ll probably see a red squirrel now!” He never said a truer word and was soon back to grab the camera.


Tits like coconuts




After dinner, the evening was still quite pleasant so we decided to go out in search of ice-cream. And boy did we find it! Toppings in Shanklin. Outside of Italy I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different flavours plus 4 flavours of Mr Whippy style! I had a banana split to go. Fab. We ate them overlooking the sea. We called in at Yaverland beach on the way back. Lovely.


The Shanklin Cliff lift


The front – Shanklin


The last rays at Yaverland beach

Easter Sunday and of course eggs for breakfast. Duck eggs. Lovely, a slow start today as we were meeting Julia for lunch up on Culver Down. Prior to this, we popped back to Yaverland to have a walk on the beach. Really love this beach.







Lunch was a pleasant affair and afterwards we went for a stroll round the battery. Amazing views were hampered by a sea mist, sadly although it did eventually lift a bit.






Apart from the journey home, on Tuesday, that pretty much wraps up our IOW vacation. We thoroughly enjoyed it and vowed to return. We’d certainly be glad to stay at Whitefield Forestagain. Lovely location, peaceful and well laid out and with good amenities. It richly deserves its awards.