On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells


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Orchard Bank, Claverham 16-23 Aug

Thursday 16th

Claverham is situated half way between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, in the Unity Authority of North Somerset and – more specifically –  in the Civil Parish of Yatton.  The reason for our stay was that Paul had some business to do for a few days and, rather than him zooming up and down the M4 several times, we decided that we would take the caravan and stay for the duration. Great decision! We chose a CL – Orchard Bank – as our base – another great choice!

We had arranged with the CL to arrive early (very often midday is the earliest you can arrive on a site and usually it’s 2 or 3 pm) – and this is one of the reasons we love CLs; they are much more relaxed and flexible than a “proper” site. They have fewer facilities but all we need is a electric hook-up, fresh water and somewhere to dump grey & black waste. This one ticked all the boxes and was only 20 minutes from where Paul needed to be.

We arose at 05:45 and were on the road by 06:20. We had a smooth trip – stopping for a quick breakfast on the run at Sutton Scotney – in the pouring rain – and arrived on site, to clearing skies, at around 09:15.  Access to the site was through 2 gates. There was one other unit on site and we chose to set-up in a quiet corner (as per the pic below). It was lovely. And all hard-standings – which we prefer. Quite rural too – as you can see.

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ORCHARD BANK CL

We soon got set up and then I dropped Paul off at work in Flax Bourton – the home of his company. And what a home it is, located as it is in the old Workhouse. A very imposing building, built in 1838 and used initially as a workhouse and then as a “mental deficiency colony ” a role it performed until the early 90’s – when it was closed as a result of the “Care in the Community” initiative. It was redeveloped as offices in 2005 but has retained its imposing buildings – thank goodness.

Farleigh Ct

So! Now I was left to my own devices and, as it was an impromptu trip, my first stop was at Waitrose in nearby Nailsea. I had thrown together a quick menu plan and I had a good list. Although I do most of my grocery shopping on line and have done for over 15 years, I do enjoy the occasional trip round a supermarket – especially a Waitrose. So much to discover. And a free coffee at the end to boot. Perfect.

By the time I had finished victualling I was a little peckish and so I decided to treat myself to a solo lunch in Clevedon – home of the iconic cast iron pier and a favourite of ours. It is located on the Severn estuary, with views across to Wales (probably Newport) –  and I’ve never seen the water looking anything other than murky, because of all the mud. It (Clevedon) was used in the filming of Broadchurch, by the way.

Parking was quite challenging – but I struck lucky after a couple of passes and whipped into a newly vacated space on the seafront. My destination was Tiffin Tea House, which we have visited on previous occasions.

The cafe overlooks the beach and it was – by now – pretty breezy! I had chosen one of th special – Mushrooms and Cheese on Sourdough toast. Shortly after it had been served, a gust blew my salad garnish off the plate! I had to weight down the napkins too.  Hilarious.The cheesy, mushroomy toast was delicious, but I felt it was all a bit over-priced though, sadly? £10.95 for a slice of sourdough, four mushrooms, a few blobs of cheese and some (horrible) frisee lettuce. Hmmm….

After lunch it was time to make my way back to the van in the lovely sunshine. This took about 20 minutes. In view of the early start, I rather fancied a nap – or “beepy”, as we call it in my family. I unpacked all the shopping and settled down with my book, thinking this is the life! I think I may have fallen asleep smiling?

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I was scheduled to pick Paul up but his boss very kindly dropped him back, which saved me a trip. He had a cuppa and then we put the awning up. I had done some prep for dinner, which was delicious – Corned Beef Hash, cooked on our Cadac. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

After dinner we watched a little Netflix and chilled. Our current favourite series is “Ozark” – highly recommended.

Friday 17th 

It was up early to get Paul to work – I just threw some clothes on and drove – figuring I’d sort out my toilette when I returned to the van, which I did.

I had a leisurely morning and then set off for Cribbs Causeway, for a little light retail therapy. For some years, my stepfather, Terry, had been based in Bristol at BAE Systems in Filton  during the week (home at weekends). My Mum often went to stay at his rented home during school holidays and had often mentioned visiting, but I had never been. Today was the day for me to visit.

I set off. Google Maps says it’s a 20 minute journey. Google Maps lies! Traffic was heavy and it took me nearly an hour! But I was soon parked and ready to shop.

I lunched in John Lewis (a cheese scone and coffee, thank you for asking). I wandered around the shops, desperately trying to spend money but nothing really caught my fancy. I did buy a couple of rolls of kitchen foil in Lakeland, though! I know how to shop, don’t I? Actually – I don’t really enjoy speculative or window shopping – I prefer to have a mission.

I set off for the journey home and it was then I realised my mistake. The M5 on a Friday afternoon is no picnic. Reader, it was rammed. The hour turned into nearly two on the way back. And even after I had left the motorway, i was happily tootling along when a guy came round the corner flashing his headlights. I assumed he was warning me of a speed trap (although I never exceed the speed limit – fact). But no. I rounded the corner to see a Police car parked across the road, blocking it. The policeman indicated that I should do a three pointer , so I turned round.

Not knowing the area, I was heavily reliant on the satnav, which was most insistent on taking me back down the route that was impossibly impassable! Nightmare.  I think it took me another hour to find a route that avoided the blocked road. Kitty Kia (the satnav) was next to useless. But I eventually made it back to the site. And in through the double gates – which I was growing to despise, even though I had developed a routine. Viz – drive up to the gate, get out, open it, walk to the next gate, open that. Walk back to the car, drive through both gates and then walk back to shut both gates. Get back in the car and drive to the pitch. We were alone now, by the way. Just how we like it.

Once again, Paul’s boss dropped him off, so it was a repeat of the previous evening . Dinner, tv and bed. Dinner was a slightly unorthodox full(ish) English – complete with home made hash browns. Delish though I say it myself. So much nicer than those flipping waxy triangles they pass of as Hash Browns in the freezer cabinet. Yuk. We first experienced proper Hash Browns in the States. They were a revelation!  If you fancy having a go, it’s very easy.

HASH BROWNS

  • 4 medium potatoes (maybe Maris Piper or King Edwards)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped finely)
  • 1 egg – beaten
  • salt and pepper – be generous or it can be bland
  • vegetable oil for frying

Grate the potatoes, put them in a clean tea-towel and wring them out. You will be surprised how much water comes out! I always am. Mix it all together with the other ingredients and then put it in “clumps” (about 1cm thick) on your frying surface. Cook until browned on both sides. About 6-10 minutes, approximately.

Saturday 18th

It had rained overnight and so we had a bit of a lie in after the recent early mornings. Our plan for today was to take the bikes along the Strawberry Line, in nearby Yatton. What a fab resource! It is a well-surfaced path along the route of the old Cheddar Valley Railway Line. The line – which runs 10 miles from Yatton to Cheddar was closed by dear old Beeching, back in 1963. But the first job of the day was to ring Linda Mary Wise and Nanny Lynne to wish them a very happy  joint. birthday.

We drove to Yatton station, where the track starts,  parked the car, got the bikes off the roof and set off through the lovely Somerset countryside. The area – part of the North Somerset levels – is criss-crossed by ditches – known as “rhynes” (pronounce reens) – which is basically a drainage ditch, or canal, used to turn areas of wetland at around sea level into useful pasture.

As we cycled, we met dog-walkers, walkers, runners and other cyclists. Our plan was to have lunch in Cheddar but we got as far as Sandford – about half way to Cheddar – when Paul realised he had left his wallet in the car. We were hot and thirsty and hungry and so decide to turn round and go back to Yatton. A shame but there it was. One day we’ll do the whole route as it’s lovely.

We cycled back. I had noticed that the hedgerows were particularly heavy with nature’s produce. Apples, elderberries, blackberries rose-hips (not to be confused with Haws) sloes and damsons. What a bounty!

ELDERBERRIES

APPLES

ROSEHIPS

HAWS

SLOES

BLACKBERRIES

DAMSONS

I wish I’d had a container to plunder some of those goodies. Crumbles, Elderberry Wine, Rose Hip Syrup – very popular for babies when I was a kid – remember Delrosa? But it’s nearly time to make a new batch of Damson Gin (which I prefer to Sloe Gin). Here’s the recipe – this is a quick way, by the way, which removes the need for pricking the damsons as is more usual. Note – you need to do Step 1 the night before you want to make the gin. And you’ll need one quite large or a couple of large screw top jars. :

DAMSON GIN

  • 500g damsons
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1l bottle gin

Step 1 – Wash the damsons all over, dry, put in a poly bag and freeze overnight.

Step 2  – Remove the damsons from the freezer and bash them a few times with a rolling pin to break the skins. Pour the damsons into the jar(s).

Step 3 – Pour in the gin and the sugar  and shake it all well – with the lid on!! Repeat the shaking process every day for a week. Then – stick the jars away in a dark cupboard for 2 or 3 months to allow the flavour to develop. Damsons are an autumnal fruit, so it’s usually ready in time for Christmas. Yum!

Step 4 – Strain the jars, discard the damsons (some folk eat them. I don’t. Yuk.) and bottle the now reddish-purple gin. Enjoy!

I digress- we arrived back at Yatton Station with only one thing on our minds! LUNCH! and a drink. So that’s two things. Whoops. Luckily there is a nice cafe right there that does a nice line in toasties and we fell upon them with relish. After (quite a late) lunch, we replaced the bikes on the roof and set off. Paul had a fancy to visit  Portishead. I was happy to concede, having never been there myself (that I can recall).

The end (and beginning) of the line

I’m not sure what I was expecting but Portishead was not as I anticipated. it was quite busy with people (holidaymakers?) and the beach area is quite dominated by a very 70’s looking orange and yellow open air pool complex. Again – very busy.  The business end of town was more as I imagined it although most of the old docks/power station buildings have been imaginatively redeveloped into a marina/housing complex – the housing area is loosely based on the Cornish seaside town of Polperro with narrow streets and multi-coloured houses. Quite attractive, we thought?

We had a yearning for an ice cream and spotted this place in the town centre  called Shanicattis Shakes – which looked interesting. It has long been an ambition of mine to try a “freakshake” and it seemed here was my opportunity! To be honest, I’d never even seen one. I’d heard that they had originated in Australia, were pretty popular and I just knew I wanted one. Aye Caramba! What was I thinking? I’d say a month’s calories in one hit!! A bit much in truth, and I couldn’t actually finish it,  but we are no longer freakshake virgins.

Yerp! That actually is a ring doughnut on the top!!!

We made our way home – stuffed to the gills. Cheese and biscuits – and not many of them –  for supper was the order of the day. In for a penny, in for a pound! But not before we had played a couple of games of Boules to work up something of an appetite! Other than that, the evening passed pretty much as usual,  until it was time for bed.

Sunday 19th

Big day today. Our best chums Linda and Anna had driven up to Linda’s sister’s house in Yatton,  after the show at Chichester which she was currently working on (Me & My Girl) and we were scheduled to have a day out with them, culminating in dinner at ours. Larks!

As they would not have arrived until v late, we were not scheduled to pick them up until 11:00, which also allowed us to have a nice lazy morning, too!

We eventually rocked up in Yatton and off we went. Cheddar was our destination but – as is Paul’s preference, we took an “interesting” route there. Suce routes are also known as “one of Paul’s misery tours”. Somewhat unfairly? Well those of you who have experienced one will know whether that is fair!!

Our first stop was at Burrington Coombe – location of the Rock of Ages – which is where the hymn of the same name is sometimes claimed to have been written. A perfect photo opportunity!

After this, we moved on to a bit of moorland for a bit of a scrabble round and – of course – more photos!

Thence – on to Cheddar Gorge, where we stopped for a while to watch some climbers and do a bit of clambering of our own. And even more photos….

We parked in Cheddar village and went to look at all the tacky souvenir shops and bought the obligatory lump of Cheddar Gorge Cheddar cheese. Then it was time for lunch at the White Hart – sandwiches only, as we had a proper meal later on in the day. A group of youngish potty-mouthed lads kept me amused – although their language was a bit over-ripe – even for me!!. My favourite saying was (in a rich West Country accent ) “Go down Bristol on a Saturday, get bollocksed, ‘appy days” – why it made us chuckle quite so much I don’t know. Nothing to do with the cider, I’m sure.

On the way back to the campsite, we stopped off at the Railway Inn in Sandford – home of Thatcher’s Cider – for more cider – although not for me or the driver! Well it was a birthday trip for that girl! It was a beautiful pub and we got to meet Pepita the Repeater – you had to be there!

Back at the van, we introduced the girls to the joys of boule and then cracked on with dinner. A Cadac Chicken, Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto, which went down really well. Along with the wine and beer! There was some Risotto left over for Linda’s lunch the next day too! Happy days! We had laughed a day away, as usual.

All to soon it was time for them to go back to Yatton, ready for their trip back down South the next day. We were quite pleased to go to bed too. Back to work tomorrow for Paul.

Monday 20th/Tuesday 21st

We had to pop back down, urgently, to Portchester for a couple of days on Wednesday for various compelling reasons and we had negotiated with the lovely owners of the CL (Charles and Diana – yes!) to pay and stay an extra couple of nights, leaving the van unattended for one night.  his was largely because we were coming up to Wales on Friday and it seemed silly to drag the van all the way back only to drag it back up on Friday.

I took Paul to work and then came home and pottered a day away. I did some work. – planning the Christmas show for Spinnaker and various other bits and pieces and it was soon time to get ready to go out for dinner. I picked Paul and his boss (Nick) up and we went to Clifton, where Nick had booked a table for us and the French Digital Yacht Sales Manager, Nico. We went to The Mint Room – an upscale Indian which was excellent and we had a very pleasant evening. I had a Biriani, which served very imaginatively. See below.  My review can be found here – it has already been read by nearly 300 people!  I drove home, dropping both Nico and Nick off on the way.

 

Lamb Biriani – served with a pastry lid!

I had a lie-in on Tuesday morning as Paul needed the car for work. I had a late breakfast and did some more planning work, before deciding to go out for a bike ride mid-afternoon. It had been a gray morning, but the sun had come out and I had a plan to go to Poppie’s Tea Room in Claverham. I punched the address in my phone and off I set. Only to find this:

Closed – and up for sale!

Very disappointing. Not deterred, I decided to set off to cycle to Yatton and I was breezing along when CLUNK! This happened:

Yup – the chain had come off. I was a tad annoyed. And I didn’t really fancy the walk home – it was hot! So I thought about it and I thought about it and decided that – as I have watched Paul put chains back on many times – I’d have a go for myself. After much swearing I managed it!  I was cock-a hoop! At least!! Thrilled, I got back on the bike and returned home to get washed up! No WAY was I going to risk it coming off again!

I had a quick beepy after my exertions and got ready to go out. Paul had arrived home earlier than anticipated and so we set off together to meet my cousin, Alice Legge, in nearby Backwell, at The George.  Alice had booked a table and we spent a really lovely evening chatting and catching up. It had been a while. We returned home to the van and went straight bed as we had an early start the next day.

Wednesday 21st

Another 5:45 alarm. We arose, secured the van and then set off for home. The owners messaged me to say that they would keep an eye on things and would add extra security to ensure the van’s safetyF. How very kind!. We arrived home nice and early, sad to have left – but knowing we’d be going back the very next day, after work.