On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Holmbury Hill, Surrey


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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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Glastonbury – 27 Mar to 1st April

In view of the unusually cold weather and risk of snow, we decided that Herefordshire was possibly too risky and had a last minute change of plan. A quick call on Wednesday (the day before we were due to set off) confirmed that a fully serviced pitch was available at The Old Oaks near Glastonbury and so we quickly snapped it up.

We set off at lunch time (fortified by an abundance of sarnies!) and, stopping just once for coffee, we arrived at The Old Oaks around 3 o’clock. We quickly pitched up, made a quick cuppa and then set off to have a quick skirt round the shops in Glastonbury town. We being Paul and I plus our old buddies and veterans of many holiday with us, Sue & Paul Rogers and their dog Fred (Archie’s brother).  This is the first time we have shared Mr Munch with anyone else and thus a new experience for all of us. Not being in the market for any crystals or other new age accoutrements,  which seem to be the main items on offer in Glasto, we returned armed only with some extra alcohol.

Since our last visit to the site in January 2011, a new facilities block had been built and we could not resist a quick look around on our return. It is indeed magnificent. Warm, spacious and scrupulously clean, with individual shower rooms complete with basin, mirror and toilet – all with underfloor heating.  Marvellous! And an indoor washing up area to boot. Whilst the overall block is larger and grander than Daisy Bank‘s I have to say (sorry Old Oaks – this is being VERY picky indeed) Daisy Bank’s just have the edge, for me, because they have a shower head you can actually remove rather than a fixed one.  This really is just a personal preference and the facilities cannot otherwise be faulted. The grounds are beautifully maintained and there is a real sense of privacy on the pitches. There are also great views out over the surrounding plains of Somerset.  The Old Oaks have honestly thought of everything –  from freshly baked cakes every day to a hot water dog washing facility. They even lend you a bird feeder so that you can do a bit of close-at-hand twitching on your pitch. Free wi-fi – good signal too! And quiet? You could hear a pin drop at night. No road roar at all. Just how we like it. It really is worthy of the AA Campsite of  the Year 2013 award – which was presented to them just the day before we arrived. It is interesting to note that both Daisy Bank and the Old Oaks are part of the same , adult-only campsite collective – a group of 28 sites which rank among our favourites. It would be nice to visit all of them (we have done five to date). Maybe one day?

With new amenities block behind.

With new amenities block behind.

Good Friday dawned fair but with a biting wind. Wells  – dubbed the smallest city in England – was our first port of call. I had forgotten how beautiful the cathedral is. A stunning edifice and little wonder that it took a couple of hundred years to complete.  Sadly – with dogs we were unable to enter.  Wells is also famous for swans, who are trained to pull a bell rope when they want feeding! True! Read this.

There are some nice independent shops and we commend the council for the stunning loos! The old-fashioned sweet shop caused a bit of a stir among our party with squeals of “Floral Gums” and “Cinder toffee”!!! and much smacking of lips. I also bought a rather nifty spatula in a fab cook shop. Just right for Welsh cakes.

PaSuPa SUnny Wells cathedral Wells Bishops palace

Next on our itinerary was a trip to Cheddar Gorge which was – ahem – gorgeous.

We had a quick scale of its slopes but it was bitter – as witnessed by the icicles you can see in the pic below.  Sadly tawdry, tacky tourism has taken its toll(some fine alliteration there, I feel!) on the village. It’s pretty awful and even has a Costa (globalisation at its worst). We had a look round but it was not really to our taste. Scarecrow figures (like this)seem to be very popular this year. The good Lord in heaven only knows why. Clearly others like it as it was heaving and Trip Advisor bears witness to that fact. We prefer it “au naturel”.  Again – dogs prevented us from visiting the caves, which is a shame. I can’t recall much about them as I must have been no more than 8 when I did visit them!

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Saturday took us to Bristol – specifically Clifton, via the Suspension Bridge of course. I loved Clifton  A very cosmopolitan feel with lots of niche shops and an abundance of coffee/shops/eateries. I would definitely return – preferably sans chiens.

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Can you spot Archie in that pic on the left? Camera shy!

After a couple of hours in Clifton,  we set off for the coast, with quaint little Clevedon our destination. We managed to park although it was pretty busy with Saturday afternoon strollers. Also pretty chilly again, mind you. We strolled along the prom and down on to the historic pier. Fact Time! Clevedon’s elegant pier is 312 metres long and made of cast iron. It experiences a difference of 47 feet between high and low tide –  the second highest tide in the world. Construction on the original pier started l in 1867 and was completed in 1868. More info here. Love their logo.

Whilst on the pier the sun came out – albeit only briefly and we had a bit of fun with the – what are they called? Photo cut-outs thingies? You’ll see what I mean below.

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After our stroll, we popped into Tiffin Tea Room for a cuppa (Assam) and cakes, courtesy of our dear friend Linda Mary Wise. Thanks Bab.  Highly recommended.

So Easter Sunday. Guess what we had for brekker? Yeah. I’ll spare you the detail.  So – there was a Medieval Fayre on in Glasto so we thought we’d pop along. It was £7 for the entrance fee and sadly didn’t seem to be very large so we decided (after a team conflab) to give it a miss. Lots of medieval types plodding around the town though. I’m sure they had great fun and I imagine a lot of work went into the organisation so please don’t think I’m knocking it.  Had to make do with sitting outside a pub in the sunshine instead.  We popped back to the campsite for a couple of hours in the sun, which was best described as transient. Lovely when it was out but b freezing when it went behind the clouds.

After tea and sustenance we strapped on our walking boots and set off for the Tor, home to Gwynn ap Nudd aka the King of the Faeries.  We didn’t see him, but there were loads of folk making their way to the top and it was well worth the climb. There are some great views over the Somerset levels and all around. A superb vantage point.  The dogs loved it, being allowed off the lead and they behaved like puppies, running madly up and down. Lovely to see. Words cannot express just how icy it was at the top. I lost all feeling in my earlobes. I doubt you’d last an hour up there without hypothermia setting in, it was so cold. Maybe we’ll visit in summer another time?

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Do you come here often?

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Don’t let go!

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The tower on the Tor

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We had a lovely stay at Old Oaks and I’d be very glad to return any time.  Our next trip is to Brighton over the May BH weekend. Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in! A bientót.