On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

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Jun 20th to July 7th – The Lake District Part 1 – the arrival

Is our holiday ACTUALLY a go-er?

In our last post, we arrived home on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday evening, disaster struck! Paul was out walking the boys just as he has always done and the boys were playing, just as they have always done. He heard a loud yelp and Bill emerged from the bushes limping and unable to bear weight on his left back leg. He carried him home. We thoroughly examined his leg and could find no place from where any pain emanated. We cuddled him and then put him to bed for the night, resolving to take him the vet if things had not improved. By morning he really was no better so it was off to our vet (Portchester Vets). After a very thorough examination, the vet diagnosed that he had fractured his “tibial tuberosity” – effectively a broken leg. It is apparently a very common injury in puppies and is more often caused by jumping off a bed or sofa. As Bill had eaten that morning, he could not be X-Rayed and so we arranged one for the following day. He advised to keep Bill in his crate. Thank goodness we crate-trained them from the start!

The next morning (Tuesday) , the X-Ray was taken and he was proved right. We were offered a choice of veterinary hospitals and chose Anderson Moores in Winchester. They set up an appointment for us for that afternoon and we drove over with Bill, still drowsy from his X-Ray sedation. We had a consultation with the lovely and talented surgeon James Grierson, who explained everything in full detail and said that they would be keeping Bill in overnight and operating the next morning. He explained that Bill would need to be kept in a crate for 6-10 weeks after the op. That was a bit of a shock.

We said goodbye to Bill and – reassured by James saying he thought that Bill would be a big hit with the team and would not be lonely – we drove home. I think we both had a bit of a lump in our throats as we drove away. Poor Bill.

Before we left, we sought James’s advice as to whether he thought we should cancel our holiday or go – either way Bill would need to be kept in his crate. He said that if we were prepared to follow his instructions and only let Bill out for pee times, that he was quite happy for us to go. We had planned a walking/cycling/boating holiday and would have to modify our plans, but we could still go. That was a relief.

The op went well and Bill was kept in on Wednesday night too. We arranged to pick him up and be shown what needed to be done with regard to his recovery at 1 pm on Thursday. We decided to take the caravan to our appointment and continue our journey North from there.

Thursday 20th June

We spent the morning finishing our packing and set off for the hospital to pick up Bill. He was still a bit woozy and we were given instructions as to how to cope with the wound and the physio showed us what we needed to do, 3 x daily – to aid his recuperation. We popped him in his home for the next 6 weeks – aka his crate – and hit the road, bound for Woodstock.

Our destination for the first night was one of our oft-visited sites – Bladon Chains – just off the A34 at Woodstock. It was a smooth journey until the last leg, off the A34 – which was very heavily queued. Just before the turn-off to the site, on the verge was a couple of proper bow-topped Romany caravans and horses – they seemed to be producing wood carvings (by chain-saw) for sale. It was very picturesque, and I’d love to have taken a picture as it’s a rare sight, but it seemed a bit rude to do so.

When we checked in, the lady told us that there would be fireworks at 23:00 as Gladys Knight was appearing at Blenheim Palace (in the grounds thereof, which adjoin the campsite). Great! But at least we now knew what the queue was all about! We use a very basic set-up for one night stops which comprises a 5 litre water container for drinking water and a bucket for our grey waste, so set-up was pretty quick.

We needed to go and get a few bits for Bill – such as a “cone of shame” and some natural calming tablets so we set off for Oxford. It was rush hour and took longer than we had hoped, but we did see some bits of Oxford that we had never seen before. We got all we needed and made our way back – through the queue – again. Then it was supper and an early night as we were all tired. The fireworks were very loud indeed so we didn’t get to sleep early! That one night cost us £24.30 by the way.

Friday 21st June

Up and at it. We had about 180 miles to do today, so we wanted to get on the road as early as possible and breakfast en route. With such a basic set-up it doesn’t take long to get ready and soon we were off, heading further North.  Our destination was The Old Barn in Heskin, near Chorley, Lancs. – very near Charnock Richard services, for those of you accustomed to travelling the M6.

As we left we noted very heavy traffic heading for another event at Blenheim Palace. We were very glad we were heading in the opposite direction!

We stopped at the first services to get breakfast and then continued our journey, stopping as and when we felt the need for coffee/pees etc. We arrived at our destination at around 14:30. The access was very narrow indeed and my heart was in my mouth for the last 10 minutes or so.

The site was very basic – although it had hard-standings and everything we needed and even a shower if required. The farmer helped us with a longer lead for the hook-up and then set off on his mower to mow a path round the field to act as a dog walk! How lovely it was.

Our view from the van

Poor old Bill

Ted chillaxing

As it was a lovely sunny afternoon we relaxed and read. There was just one other van on site and they had some very yappy dogs. As I walked to the path the farmer had so kindly mowed, I was assailed by 5 very noisy and aggressive seeming chihuahuas. I quickly scooped Ted up, and in the ensuing kerfuffle my favourite necklace got broken. I tried to tell the lady who had, by now, come to gather up her unruly pack. She didn’t hear me, it seemed, so I said it again a little louder. “Your dogs have broken my necklace” quoth I. All I was met with was the lady rapidly beetling off with her little yappers in tow. I was NOT amused. But her husband was very burly and – even though they were right across the field from us, e could hear him effing and jeffing non-stop. The flipping dogs should have been on a lead, as ours were. But I wasn’t going to tell him, coward that I am.

A cuppa soon assuaged my temper and then, when the sun had waned a little, we decided to go out and explore the surrounding area. We set off for Parbold, through which the Leeds and Liverpool canal runs and were rewarded by the sight of a very quaint old ex-Windmill. And then it was on to Chorley, home of the famous Chorley cake and of course, this being Lancashire, cotton mills. It’s quite a pretty town. We then pressed for home, stopping at the local shop where I found some fabulous delicacies, made by the famous (locally) Handley’s Bakery, of which more tomorrow. I also bought a couple of beers – an American Shipyard IPA (smooth and not too hoppy) and a  Buster IPA from Clitheroe-based Bowland Brewery (refreshing clean taste). Some food, a bit more reading and bed. It was going to be a lovely quiet one, with virtually no noise from the M6.

The Old Mill at Parbold

Leeds & Liverpool Canal – Parbold

Chorley – in its summer finery

Sat 22 Jun

After a good night’s sleep, we were raring to go and decided, as we only had just over 100 miles to do today, we’d have a pleasant breakfast in the “garden”. Mr Burly of Burly’s Chihuahuas walked by and I went to smile at him. No dice. No eye-contact. No pleasantries. We were quite glad when they left. And then, just before 11:00, it was time for us to go. And we had found another, rather less scary way of leaving the site with easy access back on to the M6, so we were soon under way. First stop was at the Lancaster Services, with it’s rather space-age tower.known as the Pennine Tower. Some fascinating facts about it here.  Coffee time and a Handley’s “Courting Ring” each. Yum. Courting Cake is a Lancashire tradition and you can find a recipe here. But they seem to vary between a slightly firmer Victoria Sandwich to being made of Shortbread – or a combination of both. Ours was rather less elaborate and very definitely shortbread based – more like a Scottish Empire Biscuit (one of my favourites).

The Pennine Tower – Lancaster Services M6

We rolled further North and were soon getting glimpses of hills as our destination loomed ever nearer. For lunch, we had a Handley’s Beef Pie – very similar to a Pork Pie, but made with Beef. Delicious! Soon we were nearing Keswick – at the opposite end of Derwentwater to where our campsite is. As luck would have it, we couldn’t get a decent signal so could not check the the instructions provided for very rural sites. And typically, our sat-nav took us down what looked like a reasonable route, initially, but soon looked a bit foolhardy. We stopped a taxi driver who told us that the route was madness with a caravan, so the ever cool, calm and unflappable Mr Sumpner found a place to unhitch and turn the caravan round. We went the way the taxi driver advised and once in Keswick we got enough signal to follow the prescribed instructions. A salutary tale – I should have loaded the page earlier, while I had some signal. Lesson learned!!

Even following the proper route, It was pretty hairy in places and – just as we turned into the site we met a Dutch couple who really weren’t sure what to do so they passed on the wrong side! No problem though. But it was good to be at the site. We found a lovely spot, right at the end of one of the roads with a clearing that was very much “ours”! We were very pleased. We thought we’d like it here.

Rough location of our pitch

It was very peaceful. I had been too stressed to look at the Lake on the very narrow approach to the site. I was actually dry mouthed!! So, after we had done a “full” set up, we decided to go for a circumnavigation . I was excited to see some of the islands, such as Rampsholme, which feature heavily in one of my favourite plays “Neville’s Island” by Tim Firth.  We stopped in Keswick for beer for Paul –  Keswick Bitter (a little too bitter). We then made our way back to the site and had a barbecue. I really think I might be over barbecue? Both of us felt the same. And then it was time for SHOWERS! Reader – we had not showered since Thursday morning – although we had washed of course. It was utter bliss. The site has no facilities, as it’s a forest site, so we used our own, which I prefer anyway.

Our glade pitch

Derwent Water

Little Rampsholme on the right

And then we watched a little telly, after which we started the new bedtime routine which, with Bill’s injury to be attended to, is rather lengthy! We have ice for as long as he will stand it (between 10 and 20 minutes) and then do some simple physio, the boys both have to be taken out to pee and then (and only then) we can settle down for the night. It was so quiet – and yes – there was an owl or too. My favourite. And the holiday stretching out for days and days to enjoy. Happy dreams…………


to be continued………..


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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.


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.