This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Marstons - EPA

WP_20170413_20_47_55_ProWhat they say: “The taste of EPA is unique. Zing from the citrusy hops we use - Pow from its fuller flavour - Phwoar from the crisp finish that leaves you ready for more. It’s a refreshing, lighter blonde ale - 3.6% abv.

Ok, regulars will know that, given the description, this would not be one of my faves. But I quite enjoyed it on a warm spring day. Chill it a bit more than you normally would for a real refreshing drink on a summers day. Nice and light too at just 3.6% A.B.V.

April 2017

Monday, 15 May 2017

How it all began....

Caravanning, it seems is a hobby that’s often passed down through the generations. Your parents done it, as a child you went with them and as an adult you carried on with it. I would think MOST of my caravanning pals fall into this category. There are exceptions of course – an I’m one of em.

My family never caravanned – or at least toured with one anyway. Sometimes a holiday might be in a static on the North Norfolk coast, and a couple of times in the Lake District. Most holidays – and we were fortunate to have one most years – were at holiday camps or B & B’s

As an adult I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot – as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, hopping between motels. The USA got a look in too and we got into cruising as well, being fortunate to travel on such iconic ships as the QE2 and the old SS France.

When my partner and I moved down south we took on a courier franchise – mainly because I couldn’t get a job – and as the round developed and income grew  a patterned emerged. After the Christmas rush we’d head off to the Canaries at the end of January for a week for some winter sun. We’d take a week in June when things were at the quietest and then again in October before the build up to Christmas.

Don’t worry, I’m getting to the point – honest!

In June of 2011 we stayed in an apartment owned by friends of friends down in Calahonda in southern Spain. Having run a business for a number of years they had emigrated to Spain to enjoy their retirement. A notion that was, at the time, was stirring in the back of our minds too. It turned out that they were caravanners and spent six months touring Spain in their ‘van deciding where they wanted to settle. What a good idea. We’d also harboured vague thoughts of touring Europe – not just for a week or so but properly – and caravanning provided a much more affordable way to do it.

The Christmas of 2011 saw us have a busiest period ever on the parcels, but the company that provided the work were becoming impossible to deal with. We both hated the work and eventually along came the straw that broke the camel’s back and we jacked it in. On what - to date - was our last trip to the Canaries, we decided to sell the bungalow and downsize to release a load of cash, buy a caravan and go off into Europe.

A very knowledgeable friend took us around several dealers to give us an idea what was out there and what we could get for our money. We weren’t looking at new because we didn’t want to risk splashing a lot of money on something we might not like. That and my natural aversion to spending money on anything other than essentials. Like real ale. It was a month later after viewing dozens of ‘vans that we finally settled on one – a 2 berth Coachman Pastiche from 2004. The dealers couldn’t have been more helpful and set us up with everything we’d need as beginners.

Our first trip was only a short distance away – to London! As you do with a caravan. Our friends were with us in their ‘van and we followed them up the A23 rather nervously, arriving eventually at the Caravan & Motorhome Club site at Crystal Palace. We had a great few days there and it couldn’t have gone better, but then it was time to head out on our own. To make sure we could cope with living in the ‘van for such a long time we embarked on a three month tour of the British Isles just a couple of weeks later. It didn’t start well – I broke the jockey wheel handle before we even left – and the weather for a lot of that trip was appalling. But here’s the thing – it didn’t put us off – we loved it. We came home in July and shortly after the bungalow went on the market.

And stayed there. Come January funds were running low and we needed an income. Luckily a friend was Transport manager at one of the local private schools. Trev started first then I followed shortly after – driving minibuses on the school bus runs. Early starts and late finishes – but time in-between and lots of holidays. The house finally sold that summer and we bought a flat. To date we’ve been away in the ‘van for just about every school holiday. Whilst most have been in the UK we’ve utilised the long summer break to travel Ireland and make our first foray onto the continent into France. The holidays do mean that we do get away a lot and whilst we haven’t totally abandoned the idea of an extended trip to Europe it seems silly to give up work again when we have so much time anyway.

And that, is how we got into caravanning!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Fit2Go Tyre Pressure Checker

A while back I reviewed the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System very kindly sent by the good folk at Fit2Go. It was remarkably easy to set up and you can find my written review HERE and a short video showing installation HERE.

Recently Fit2Go released a Tyre Pressure Checker to complement and work with their monitoring system. To promote the new product they ran a competition - and I was one of the lucky winners!

So, lets have a look at what it looks like and how it works:

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It's around 100mm or 4 inches long. At the front is the on/off button, display and the tyre pressure sensor indicated by the yellow logo. It is powered by 2 x AAA batteries (supplied) and a magnetic holder with self adhesive backing for fixing is included.

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Operating couldn't be easier. Switch on the unit - the battery level meter will appear in the right of the display.

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Turn it over and touch the yellow logo on the tyre pressure sensor located on the wheel. There will be a slight magnetic pull and the red led on the sensor will light up to indicate contact. (Yes, I know the wheels need a clean - as does the rest of the car!)

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Wait for the unit to beep, withdraw and turn over. The pressure in PSI will be displayed. It's that simple. However it will also read in BAR - just press the power button five times quickly to change, then use as above.

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So, it's compact, handy and easy to use. But, you may be wondering, if you have the system installed, why you would need to check the tyre pressures. Surely the monitoring system does that for you? Well, the monitoring system is designed to warn you of potentially dangerous changes in tyre pressure and temperature, but this device will help ensure your tyre pressures are spot on and working at maximum efficiency - and if you're as tight, sorry, as careful as me - that's got to be a good thing! And you don't risk losing air from your tyre - unlike conventional devices that need to screw on to the valve.

The product retails at £39.95 and can be ordered direct. For more details and to order, have a look at the website HERE.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A pie, a park and a pint…..or two.

Blimey! It doesn't seem five minutes since we were trundling up the M1 on the way to the start of our spring getaway and now we’re back here in Sunny (thankfully) Saltdean.

The first school bus run of the term couldn’t have gone more smoothly – I suspect not all schools are back yet – and no overtime has allowed me to get stuck into the washing and ironing. And more importantly bring you the last blog of our trip away and our final stop, in Nottinghamshire.

The tow from Kilnsea was easier than expected. Fears that the A63 might have been at a standstill as it was when we went into Hull were unfounded. So, as usual we arrived at our final site early. Reception was closed for lunch but we didn’t have long to wait before we were pitching up.

Thornton’s Holt sits about five miles east of Nottingham and we chose it mainly because of the proximity of a bus stop which would make for easy access to the city. A new shower block was under construction and given our experience it can’t come quick enough, given the frequent lack of hot water in the showers. Once set up we pointed Rosie in the direction of the nearest supermarket thinking that it was about time we started having some meals in the ‘van again. The fact that the nearby pub was closed for redevelopment had no bearing on this whatsoever….

The city centre was the destination for a rather casual wander on Tuesday via the excellent bus service from the site. Sports fans will be interested to know that the journey takes you past Trent Bridge cricket ground and close to both Nottingham’s Football clubs – Forest and County – too.

There was no itinerary or plan, just a walk around to get a feel for the place - we have been before, a couple of years ago – and I didn’t even bother with the proper camera this time. To be honest I was not feeling inspired – which was weird after really loving it last time we visited. Nothing much had changed so it must have been me. The day wasn’t improved by deciding on lunch in Wetherspoons. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of cheep beer and love that they champion real ale. I just wish they’d train their staff to serve people in order, but when the Duty Manager can’t do it properly. Oh well.

We were back in the car Wednesday to an attraction listed in the site leaflet. Wollaton Hall and Park is a short drive from the site although on the other side of the city and is really worth a look, not least because, bar a couple of quid for parking, it’s free.

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Whilst the grounds are impressive, inside the hall itself is interesting too. Since 1926, when the hall opened to the public, the city’s Natural History collection has been housed here.

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There’s a cafĂ© to replenish reserves although on a nice day, bring some chairs and a picnic and make the most of the lovely surroundings. You might get to see some of the deer that roam the park too.

Nottingham’s Industrial Museum is also here – housed in the stables but opening hours are more limited and sadly we didn’t get to have a look but it was still a great place to visit.

On a week’s holiday I never get out of the habit of waking at silly o’clock, but on longer ones such as this, the body does start to adjust and longer lie in’s become the norm. So it was nearly lunchtime when we arrived In Melton Mowbray – about a 40 minute drive from the site.

We had the usual wander around town. The impressive St Mary’s church was undergoing extensive restoration both inside and out but at least some of the exterior was scaffolding free. Elsewhere in the town there were signs that times were not so good – closed up hotels and shop units up for let.

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The gardens and river Wye provided some more lens clicking opportunities though.

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If there is one thing Melton is famous for is pork pies, and one shop that was certainly doing ok was the butchers. We came away with a pie and some of their sausages and I can tell you now – the sausages were divine and I’ve not tasted a better pork pie. Delicious.

Good Friday saw us back in Nottingham and catching up at last with friends Chris & Pat who we hadn’t seen for far too long. ‘Lunch’ lasted most of the afternoon, so needless to say there was some extensive er, ‘research’ carried out too. We had a great chinwag and catch up, trying – and clearly failing by the looks of it – to put the world to rights. Oh well, another time!

Friends and food were on the menu again (sorry!) on Saturday as we had been invited to lunch with Peter & Pam up near Sheffield. An hours drive but if you’ve ever get to taste Pam’s cooking you’ll know it was worth it. Beautiful melt in the mouth roast lamb followed by home made cheesecake. I even got to take home what was left of the cheesecake. It didn’t last long!

And that was it for another trip. A nice early start on Easter Sunday and a trouble free trundle home. The Easter getaway is always my favourite and this one didn’t disappoint. Longer days, better weather – usually, but the pollen levels haven't risen sufficiently enough to try and make the lives of us hay fever sufferers a misery.

Right, what’s next? Cambridgeshire and Suffolk for the next half-term, then the continent beckons in the summer. Exciting times ahead!

Thanks, as always, for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.

Until next time, cheers!

Rich & Trev.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Getting to the Point - Spurn

Do you remember my first blog from York? I started it with 'And relax'? Well, that went well didn't it! Not that I'm moaning - we had a great time and am already longing to go back. However we finally got to relax - a bit anyway - at our next stop. Here's what we got up to:

Wednesday saw us make the journey south and east from York to the little hamlet of KIilnsea just a few miles from Spurn Point. Trev was happy to drive and I was happy to let him, but in truth we could have chosen a better route. Skirting the eastern side of Hull involved navigating about 300 roundabouts - ok, maybe not quite that many but I did lose count. Once through though it was pretty straightforward and despite said roundabouts Rosie returned an impressive 32 mpg helped no doubt by Trev's deft right foot.

The site we'd picked - Driftwood Caravan Site - came recommended by fellow caravanner David who'd stayed here a couple of years back, and we were not disappointed. Just eight caravan pitches, four of which were occupied by seasonals, and a small area for tents too. A real cosy little site that would do us just fine.The sea wasn't quite visible but it was close. Of no interest to us at all was that the only pub was just 150 yards away too.....

No sooner had we set up than we performed a reverse ferret - although this time without the caravan - back along the road we'd come in on to stock up on some bits and bobs and replenish Rosie's dwindling reserves. There was a brief visit to the pub - the Crown & Anchor - just to check out the menu options you understand. Timothy Taylor's Landlord was on draught. Obviously I needed to be sure it was up to standard but you may be shocked to learn that we only had the one. Each. Obviously.

Thursday lunchtime saw us in the pub again - for lunch with friends who'd come down from Sheffield to say hello. Prior we'd driven down towards the point as far as possible. The road has been closed since a storm in 2013 washed a portion away, but we'd gotten a taste of the area's beauty and looked forward to seeing more.

Friday saw us heading back towards and in to Hull. We wanted to get a fir20170407_120202st look at the city but first port of call was to pop in to say hello to the good folk at Solwise whose WiFi booster kit we reviewed in York.

Next up was Patsy's birthplace - Coachman Caravans are based in Hull - still in the same place as when she was built ten years ago.

Finally it was Hull itself - we headed for the old city and had a good wander around admiring some of the great architecture that managed to survive heavy bombing in the second world war. The Weeping Window of poppies display at the maritime museum was a poignant reminder of the true cost.

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Every town and city has a blot on it's landscape somewhere - normally thanks to town planners in the 60' and 70's. But the one we noticed in Hull really made us smile. Oh the irony!

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It wasn't just grog and grub that lured us to the pub Friday night - although both are a good enough reason to go. We were promised spectacular sunsets - weather permitting - looking out from the front of the pub across the mouth of the Humber towards Hull. We were not disappointed. No wonder the window tables are always busy:

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Saturday brought with it some glorious sunshine which was opportune as we were going on Safari. Let me explain. Remember I said that Spurn Point was no longer accessible by road? Well, you could walk it - it's around three miles, partially on the beach and it was a lovely day for it. However we chose the easier option of a ride on an ex Dutch army vehicle in the shape of a Unimog operated by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Twenty of us boarded and the growling five litre Mercedes engine up front made light work of the journey down to the lighthouse, much of which was across the sands. We could see the remains of the road and the parts where it had suffered during the storm in 2013.

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The views from the lighthouse - now no longer in use - were great but the arrival of the warm weather had made it a little hazy, so we were unable to see the Humber bridge. The frequent shipping ould be seen coming and going though - apparently around 16% of the UK's trade passes through here to and from ports such as Hull and Immingham.

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The Hull lifeboat is stationed here - and is, apparently, the only permanently manned one in the country. Houses were built-in the seventies to house the Lifeboat men and their families but the increasing remoteness made it impractical, particularly those with children. The houses are now only occupied according to shift patterns.

After a look around - and up - the lighthouse our guide took us on a walk to the very tip of the point, imparting a wealth of knowledge on the way. Old gun emplacements can be seen as can the remains of the railway track built in 1915. It's remoteness is obvious but it didn't feel so, though I would imagine on a cold windy day it would be different.

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Two and  half hours later we were deposited back at the information centre. It was a fascinating trip and for twelve quid, worth every penny in my opinion. The combination of sands, dunes and grasslands is wonderful.If you fancy it, make sure you pre-book though.20170409_200412-e1492075938332.jpg

Much of Sunday was spent at the laptop engaged in a battle of wits as I chased letters around the keyboard again. Sunday night saw us back at the pub for another meal. There was some excitement as young barman and keen bird watcher Jonnie was on the telly having been interviewed when the BBC's Countryfile team were down filming. Bird watching is big here on Spurn and you'll see plenty of folk with big binoculars and radios about seeking out our feathered friends.

DSC_0001Along came Monday and no soon had we arrived when it was time to leave. We both really enjoyed our stay here, it's remoteness being part of the attraction. We loved the site - full 16a hook up and a clean and tidy facilities room with books to buy or swap and info about the area too.

Its a great place to get away from it all - and I'm sure we will be back. For those who like to stay connected however there are limited options. We were able to pick up BT Wifi but only with the Solwise aerial kit. Mobile wise, the dongle picked up only 2g on Vodafone and 3g on EE. BT WiFi was available in the pub.

Right, that's it! Look out for the blog from our last stop near Nottingham coming soon. Until then, thanks as always for reading.

Cheers & Beers

Rich & Trev

Monday, 10 April 2017

Building Bridges - York Part 3

Whilt York's lure is considerable - I could have quite happily spent the whole week just ambling around the city - there's plenty around and about too, so Monday morning we fired up Rosie and pointed her back on the A64 and eastwards to Malton.

Malton's tagline is 'Yorkshire's Food Capital' helped by the annual food festival, regular farmers markets and independent food producers and is a haven for 'foodies' - whatever they are. People who like good food I guess but who doesn't - it's just that not everyone gets to taste it.

We found it to be a pleasant but quiet unassuming place on a bright April Monday morning and most definitely worthy of some photographs. However, some silly old blogger had forgotten to charge the battery on the DSLR and no amount of cursing or cycling of the on-off switch could coax it into life. So any pictures you see from today are from the phones.

Whilst it was seemed pretty quiet after the relative crowds in York, there were signs of upcoming activity in the shape of preparations for a livestock market or auction by the looks of it.

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Having circumnavigated the town centre we decided to sample some of the local cuisine in the shape of a sausage roll and a cuppa. Both were very nice and I must say at this point one of the things I've really enjoyed up here in Yorkshire - apart from the ale of course - is tea. Helped by the softer water I guess.

Charles Dickens fans may already know that 'A Christmas Carol' was apparently written whilst Dickens stayed in Malton.

Next on the list was a complete reverse ferret back up the A64 past York and into nearby Tadcaster. Trev's Mum aka HRH has regailed us with tales of her time in Tadcaster while in the forces 'during the war'. Several times. So we thought we'd come and have a look. In addition the bridge that bisescts the town had only recently been rebuilt after being washed away at the end of 2015.

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Of little interest to us, obviously, is that Tadcaster has quite a brewing tradition. In the town you will find the famous John Smiths whose tinned gassy brew I've come across at many a party as a nod to the ale drinkers. I finally got to sample the proper cask version a couple of years back when we last stayed in York. Nearby is Samuel Smiths brewery whose cask ale - still served from oak barrels - is one of my favourites.

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Also here - and something I only just discovered thanks to rare bit of fact checking - is that there is a third brewery - the Tower Brewery, once Bass and now owned by fizz merchants Molson Coors.

A couple of steaks thrown upon the mercy of the little Cadac provided the bulk of the evening meal before we headed back into York to meet our friends who were departing the next day. We went to a pub - quelle surprise - and the Slip Inn, just up the road from their site, was the no doubt grateful recipient of our patronage on a quiet Monday night. Five real ales too, but I didn't get through all of them, something which both my liver and wallet were grateful for.

Tuesday was our last day before moving on and a sad day for the people of York who'd had the presence of the Blogger in Black in all his er, finery, parading through the streets for the past week. Well, I gave 'em something to laugh at anyway.

First up was the York Dungeon. Being a lover of all things macabre I'd had my eye on this since we'd arrived and priced it up online - and with tickets starting from a tenner it was most definitely on the list. Plans changed though when we approached reception and discovered that tickets bought on the day were over 50% more expensive. I have a deep aversion to parting with more cash than is strictly necessary so we decided to postpone our visit for another time.

Our wanderings brought us around to the Castle area. Cliffords Tower - the original keep - stands on a mound and is managed by English Heritage. Whilst the tower itself is interesting it was the views it would offer from the top that we were after and we were not disappointed, gaining yet another prespective on this great city:

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More amblings brought us to the Merchant Adventurers' Hall in Fossgate. Existing now as a musuem, we didn't get any further this time  than the pleasant cafe sitting in the Undercroft but having now been on their website it's on the list for another visit. The tea and scones were nice though.

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Further wanderings brought us eventually back towards the Stonebow where we would be catching our bus back to the site. We'd just missed one it seemed but by happy coinicidence there was a pub across the road - the Black Swan. How considerate.

There was to be another stop on the way back to the site. Thus bus passes right by the Nags Head in Heworth and we thought we'd take a look - for research purposes obviously. We were a little early for food so took the opportunity to soak up some of the lovely late afternoon sun (and a second pint) and the back garden whilst we were waiting. The food when it came was lovely - good honest pub grub and excellent value. Worth noting is that is walkable from the site in around twenty minutes or so - and you can always hop on the bus back or vice versa.

And so our time in York was nearly at and end. We had a fantastic time - and I hope that's showed through in the blogs helped in no small part by our home for the week at York Caravan Park. A peaceful site with excellent facilities and so handily placed with the bus stops near by. The Caravan & Motorhome Club site may be closer, but I'd pick this one everytime for it's easy access, location, spacious fully serviced pitches and wonderful shower rooms.

For a closer look, have a look at our little slideshow HERE. and our Site Arrival Video is HERE

Fishing is currently free as is the Site Wifi which we took advantage of. I didn't use the Mobile WiFi dongle but we had no problems with Vodafone or Three on our respective 'phones.

Right, onwards and er, eastwards. Look out for my next blog, coming from the lovely Spurn Point.

Until then, thanks as always for reading,

Rich & Trev.