On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

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Somers Wood for the Caravan Show – 17-19 October

Another quickie report – this time to visit the Caravan Show at the NEC and another repeat visit, too. This time to Somers Wood Caravan Park, just outside Meriden in the West Midlands. It’s the perfect location to stay for a visit to the NEC. We realised this fact when we stayed here for the New Year. It’s a lovely site too, set (as the name might suggest) in a wood with plenty of wildlife to spot. The welcome you get at check-in is great, too. Like greeting an old friend.

We had a good journey up, other than having to queue from the Peartree Interchage to the M40 sliproad – some 7 miles. But it was Friday afternoon and there were roadworks, so it was only to be expected.  We soon arrived and again we got set up in the daylight and were soon relaxing with a cuppa before the rain started.

A34 Friday traffic

A34 Friday traffic

It was not a quiet night. The rain was often quite heavy and it always seems noisier when it is falling off trees – must be some scientific explanation for that?  It was also windy (a legacy from Hurricane Gonzalo, which had hit Bermuda earlier in the week) so even when it wasn’t actually raining, the wind blew the rain from the trees onto the roof.  It happens occasionally and is not the end of the world – in fact we were chuckling about it – initially at least.

We were up early as we wanted to get in and do what we wanted to do and get out again, so after a quick breakfast we hopped in the car and set off for the short journey (see below) to the NEC.


There was very little queuing and we soon parked and made our way to the halls where the show was being held, intent on a cup of coffee and a show guide so that we could plan our offensive. Our son, George, had gone to a lot of trouble to get free passes for the show for us. Sadly, someone (OK it was me) had left them at home. He was very understanding when I “fessed up”, bless him, but it did mean that we had to buy tickets too.

We were through the doors on the dot of 10 and the first vans we clapped eyes on were Bessacar – something of a Rolls Royce when it comes to the caravan world. They are  relatives (rich Aunt) of our favourite brand, springing from the same manufacturer, but very luxurious and bristling with mod cons.  Looking at them was a grave tactical error, though,  as they raised the bar very high indeed. But they aren’t within our price range, being about £30,000, so we moved on! Oh and they are heavy so we couldn’t tow one anyway! Minor detail.

We looked at a very nice van early on and I was all for doing the deal right there and then. My ever-prudent husband had other ideas and insisted we wait until we had exhausted every possibility (and ourselves!). He was quite right and there were a couple of other possibilities but we kept coming back to the first one we had seriously viewed. And so we went back. And bought it. We take delivery in the new year. Another one, you might exclaim? Yes. And this one will have to be with us for a while, but it is pretty much ideal. I guess we have been looking for this van since our first one and now that we know exactly what we want, it should be a keeper.

It was abou 3.30 by this time and we made our way out, calling in to see, in person, the chap we have been dealing with for our USA adventure next year, of which more nearer the time. It was nice to put a face to a name.

So it was home, television and an early night after our taxing day.

The next morning was beautiful and the wood looked lovely, resplendent in its Autumn colours. We set off for home about 10.30 and arrived back in good time. No lawn mowing this time but it WILL have to be done again before the season ends.

Somers Wood in Autumn

Somers Wood in Autumn

The toilet block

The toilet block



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Meriden – Dec 29th to Jan 1st

Another first for us! Spending New Year’s Eve in the Caravan. Sounded like a nice idea and so we looked for somewhere nice to stay. Being child-free, we are big fans of adult only parks and in particular this group of 32 quality child-free sites throughout England & Wales. We have visited several near(ish)by and decided to try a little further afield. Somers Wood looked very nice and seemed well-placed for a spot of exploring and so we booked for a 3 night stay. We set off at around 10 am on a beautiful day (especially in comparison to the hideous pre-Xmas weather) and had a stress free journey to Meriden, home of the Triumph motor-cycle factory until the early 80’s.  There was a friendly welcome and a swift check in and we soon got set up in the attractive woodland setting on our fully-serviced pitch. Archie was particularly interested in the many squirrels – he has an ambition to catch one but never will!

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In complete contrast to the day before, the next day started off horrendously. Blowing a hooly and lashing with rain. We thus had a slow start and enjoyed the lack of urgency to get out. By late morning, the squall had passed and we set off towards our destination – Royal Leamington Spa. As is our wont, we took a circuitous route, via Kenilworth to have a quick squizz at the castle. We were impressed.

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After a short wander (it was VERY muddy under foot) we retired to the local hostelry, the Queen & Castle,  for a spot of lunch. A very nice pub with tasteful décor and even tastier food. Would recommend.


Lunch devoured, we resumed our journey to Leamington. This a a pleasant, leafy town with wide boulevards and some beautiful Edwardian and Georgian houses.  We toured the town, which was bustling with post-Christmas sale shoppers first by car and then parked near the Pump Rooms and took Archie for a stroll round Jephson Gardens.  More squirrel action here for Archie. He was very excited indeed and actually wrneched his lead out of my grasp in his futile efforts to catch a squirrel.


The Pump Rooms (comedy name?)


Jephson Gardens


Archie not wanting to leave the squirrels of Jephson Gdns


Bridge over the River Leam

Much more rain has fallen since we were there a week ago and the river is very high, as can be seen in this link. A terrible start to 2014 for so many people.

As Warwick is almost touching Leamington, we had a quick visit although the daylight was on the wane and we have visited before. I can confirm it is a still beautiful.

Mediaeval Warwick

Mediaeval Warwick

We also stopped on the way home at Hatton Yard – mid-point of the infamous (to me!) Hatton Flight of 21 locks, which raises the Grand Union a mere 45 metres for a very great deal of effort. Those who know us will be aware of our love of canals but Hatton is our most detested flight on the whole system. Here is an aerial view of the yard:

Hatton Yard from the air

Hatton Yard from the air

It still made me feel very nostalgic though. I miss the canal so much.

We passed a quiet night at the lovely wooded site, Although it is only a short hop to the motorway it is very quiet and there seems to be little in the way of traffic passing the site. All we could hear was owls, which we love.

Raining again in the morning (which was New Year’s Eve) and thus another slow start. In fact we went straight out for lunch. This time to the  Orange Tree in Chadwick End. Once again, great décor and great food and another recommend.

After lunch we bashed our way down to Stratford-upon Avon. Stratford was absolutely HEAVING, as it probably always is. But parking was a bit of an issue., We ended up parking on the other side of the river and walking back across the river to the town.  The last time we came to Stratford was by boat. It was an amazing experience, coming down the  13 mile long South Stratford Canal, with its 35 locks, and out into the basin via the very low bridge which can be seen in the 1st picture below. It’s so low that you basically have to aim the boat through the bridgehole and then crouch down and hope for the best. We emerged from the bridge and what seemed like a thousand Japanese camera, toted by a thousand  Japanese tourist went off! It was like (I imagine!) being papped! A never-to-be-forgotten experience. 

Entry to Stratford Basin

Entry to Stratford Basin

There has been extensive redevelopment of the basin since our last visit and we enjoyed a wander. One of the trees has been designated a Remembrance tree and has loads of crocheted squares hung on it. Quite a sight and much photographed, not only by us!




Bridge over the Avon


Remembrance Tree


The lock down to the river



As you can see, the light was again fading fast so we made our way home, nipping quickly over to Wilmcote to see one of the South Stratford locks (there’s a short flight of, I think, 12 locks here) – nostalgia again – and them home to the van. We were hoping for a peaceful firework free night for Archie, but no such luck. As midnight struck it sounded like a bad night on the Gaza Strip! Luckily, it was short-lived and pretty much all over by 12.30. Upon which we retired.

Guess what? Yep. Rain again the next morning and poor Paul got pretty drenched doing all the outside jobs, while I pottered around doing those essential indoor jobs and kept nice and dry.   It was a pretty beastly, gusty, squally journey home. But – would we do it again? Hell yeah! We had a great time and this may become a regular date in our caravan calendar – although we’ll go somewhere different every year. Somers Wood is highly recommended and we’d definitely be regulars  if it were closer.