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, 14 July 2012

The Tour pt 20 - And the winner is……..how much?

As threatened, one more part of the blog for you to endure and then you can rest easy. We’ve put together some favourites and facts and figures as much for our benefit as anything else. So, without further ado…….

1) Best caravan site. Tricky this one, so we’re going to subdivide it in to three:

  • Best facilities. Easy. Our current site, here at Cherry Hinton. Recently refurbished and immaculately kept by the site wardens since. Superb.
  • Prettiest. Coniston in the Lake district. A large site but cleverly divided up and with beautiful walks.
  • Location. Edinburgh, easy to find and close to a bus stop.

2) Favourite Attraction.

  • For Trev - Edinburgh castle. Stunning views over the city.
  • For me - The Royal Yacht Britannia. I Like anything to do with boats and the tour was Informative  and fascinating.

3) Favourite bus tour.

  • No contest. Belfast. Informative, witty and enlightening.  The arctic weather wasn’t their fault!

4) Favourite town or city.

  • For me - Edinburgh. Just loved it Could have stayed longer and seen more
  • For Trev - Chester. Compact and beautiful.

5) Favourite area.

  • Tricky this one. We loved the valleys in south Wales, Snowdonia in North Wales, the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland and the Lochs in Scotland. but overall it was the Lake District. Stunning scenery, great beer, tasty sausages and free car parking!

6) Favourite drive.

  • For Trev - driving along side Ullswater in the lake District and stopping for a cuppa at a little cafe by the waters edge. Just  great.
  • For me - the road to Llanberis at the base of Snowdon from Betys-y-coed. And the sun was out too!

7) Favourite view.

  • Sitting with a pint at the bar in Luss looking out over Loch Lomond as the sun began to set. Breathtaking.

8) Best weather.

  • Edinburgh. My shorts came out for the first time.

9) Favourite cafe.

  • Overlooking the little harbour in Tarbet on the way back from the Mull of Kintyre. Great tea from a proper teapot and a lovely cheese and ham toastie to accompany the view.

10) Favourite pub.

  • The Craignure Inn on the Isle of Mull. Fizzy ale but it was a proper old fashioned boozer with a roaring fire.

11) Favourite draught beer.

  • Easy. Jennings bitter from Cockermouth. Divine and just as enjoyable bottled too.

So, that’s a few favourites. Now the facts and figures. We left in the early hours of 10th April and will have been away for 96 nights and 90 of those were in Patsy.

We had 3 nights in the Republic of Ireland, 6 in Northern Ireland, 18 in Wales, 31 in Scotland and 38 in England and stayed at 17 different caravan sites in total. The longest stay is at our current site which will be 14 nights. The shortest was Moffat in southern Scotland which was just for one night.

We took (and kept) 1,913 photo’s.

By the time we get home we will have driven 5,112 miles, however Patsy was only towed for 1,742 of them. The longest journey with Patsy was at the start; 203 miles from home to Cardiff. The shortest was from Scone to Edinburgh at just 43 miles.

Right, just some of the costs (gulp). The car was filled up 21 times and we will have burnt our way through £903 in diesel at a cost of 17.64 pence per mile. The car returned an average of 30 miles per gallon whilst towing Patsy and 48 mpg when not.

Site fees totalled £1,731.81, which works out at an average of £19.24 per night. That’s for two people and includes all water, shower and toilet facilities, and electric.

So there it is. The tour in a nutshell. We’ve learnt an awful lot about caravanning, most of it mind numbingly boring to non caravanners. However the experience in the early hours, before we even left Saltdean taught us a very valuable lesson; don't try and hitch up a van on a slope when it’s cold, dark, wet and windy and you’re both tired and inexperienced. Something will break (and it did - as you may remember!)

We’ve had a great time this week, catching up with friends and in turn looking after Greene KIng’s share price, if not our livers.

We’ve learnt a bit too about the small cross section of the British Isles that we have seen. Habits, customs and taste vary not only between the component countries but within them too. We’ve seen nowhere near enough of this beautiful country and have so much more to do at some point.

So Europe - the whole point of this caravanning lark. Is it still on? Most definitely, although we don’t know when yet. There’s lots to sort out first . If you want to get rid of us earlier, all donations will be gratefully received though! Patsy will not be at ease for long though. In a fortnights time, she will be pressed in to service again for a visit to Oxford - or ‘the other place’ as Cambridge University types call it. In September Patsy rides again - to the Norfolk coast for a wedding. And then? Who Knows!

See ya.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Tour pt 19 - They think it’s all over

And indeed it is in some ways. Our tour of the British Isles has finished, we have no more sightseeing planned but will be here until Sunday when we return to the south coast and sunny (yeah right) Saltdean. Do not rest easy though, there will be one more blog after this, clearing up the loose ends and looking back on the last few weeks. It is three months to the day since we left home in the early hours of a cold, wet and windy morning on this wonderful tour and quite honestly I don’t know where the time has gone. Right, time for the usual catch up:

Thursday and our last major sightseeing day. First up was the little town of Ely and in particular it’s stunning cathedral. Dubbed the ‘Ship of the Fens’ it is, because of the extremely flat surrounding landscape visible for miles on a clear day. The outside is beautiful and well preserved and inside  even more so. Sadly a private event prevented us from exploring further than the nave but you could still glance up at the ceiling and ornate carvings.

Next up and further north and now in to Norfolk was the Sandringham Estate, one the many homes of HRH - the real one that is, not Trev’s Mum. We stopped first at the little church, seen so often on TV when her Maj is about, and there are some royals from way back buried here. Inside was breathtaking but you’ll have to take my word for it as photo’s were not allowed. An attendant assured that this rule was strictly adhered to. Of course, pictures ‘were available to purchase’. I passed.

Entrance to the church is free but to get in to the estate gardens and house, a prising open of the wallet is required. Graham & Robert paid the extra for access to the house, but being skinflints, we stuck to the gardens, and first the museum, which gives an insight in to the history of, and life on, the estate. as well as a collection of some of the royal cars acquired over the years. The heavens opened just as we headed to back to the house and the boys came out from their tour. We stood under a tree for a while, trying to keep dry with varying results until it eased sufficiently for us to scamper back over to the museum. It was a pleasant afternoon by the time we left and strolled through the beautiful gardens back to the car park to continue our journey. Well worth a visit but come on a nice day and bring a picnic and you’ll love it - you could easily spend all day here.

Hunstanton was next - or ‘sunny Hunny’ as it is known affectionately. A popular seaside resort on the north Norfolk coast. I never holidayed here as a kid but I remember plenty of days out - morning and afternoon on the beach at Old Hunstanton, then a stroll along the promenade in to town and a go on the boasting lake if I was lucky. Great memories. It was early evening by now though so first stop was a cafe which satisfied both the belly and the wallet reasonably equally.

Continuing the trip down memory lane, our next port of call was Wells-next-the sea. A charming little port and seaside resort a bit further east. The harbour is the centre point of the town but this time we took the road down to the beach alongside the mile or so long sea wall that protects the lowlands to it’s west. At the end of the road is a massive caravan/chalet park and I had a couple of  holidays here as a kid and have visited many times since. A pine forest and sand dunes separates the park from the beach and the main channel out to sea. It is delightful and one of my all time favourite places. It is also famous for being used in the TV series ‘Kingdom’ starring Stephen Fry. Kingdom was set in the fictional Norfolk seaside town of Market Shipborough. The coastal scenes were filmed in Wells and the town scenes were filmed in Swaffam, twenty odd miles inland. We stopped there briefly to locate the house used as the office of the main character - a solicitor - and was tempted to sample a pint in one of the pubs nearby, also used for filming but resisted, somehow.

The resistance wasn’t to last long however. Final stop on was at a friends pub in Isleham, for a couple of well earned pints and brought and end to what was a day of discovery  for our friends, and a trip down memory lane for us.

Friday. Highlight of the day was nothing more than a trip to the supermarket during the pouring rain. It eased in the late afternoon sufficiently long enough to cook some bangers on the barbie. The evening things improved however and provided further insight for Graham & Robert in to the early lives of Trev & Rich as we took them to one (well, another one!) of our old ‘local’s’ in Histon for a nights reminiscing with some old friends. Much ale was sunk and a good night was had by all.

Saturday. Hmm. I was feeling a little delicate, not surprisingly but Trev too wasn’t in the greatest of shape either. Having opted to drive and so sticking mainly to cola, way too much caffeine was surging around his veins to allow sleep to come quickly. When it did, the torrential rain and my snoring ensured it didn’t last long.

The rain had almost entirely flooded our pitch, and whilst the caravan was fine, the awning was sitting in two inches of water. We decided to move pitches. The caravan part is pretty easy of course after three months practice but the awning can still be challenging at the best of times. What had started out as a mild headache and a feeling of general sluggishness had turned in to a full blown pounding hangover by the time we had finished. Given the forecast for the next week it had to be done though. The rest of the day was by necessity, quiet!

Sunday, and time for the boys to leave. We ensured that they would’nt leave on an empty stomach by doing breakfast, and the rain held off long enough to allow us to do most of it on the barbie. Soon after, they were off and on their way back to Brighton. We had a great time and particularly enjoyed showing them around our home town and old haunts.

Sunday lunchtime and some more friends came to visit. The plan was to cook on the barbie and enjoy some of the great British summer. Yeah right. We had a good time, but the nearby pub was called upon for the solid and liquid sustenance as the rain had returned. Again.

Monday. A thrill packed hour in the waiting room of  certain tyre fitters getting Jessie shod in some new rubber. We’d been putting it off but really couldn’t wait any longer. In the evening we had a delicious dinner at a friends house but not before calling in at another of my old haunts - Addenbrookes Hospital - to visit Trev’s brother who was unwell. Many will know that years back I spent so much time up here visiting one or another of my parents that I should have had my own parking space. It brought back many memories, none of them good.

So, that’s it. Watch out for the final blog at the weekend and then we will see some of you on Sunday. Wonder what the weather will be like?

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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Tour pt 18 - The end is near

Yes, our tour of just some of the British Isles is nearly over. We are at our last stop of the trip - at the Cherry Hinton Caravan Club site in Cambridge. Many will now that this is the town of our birth and we are very proud of that. Trev was born and brought up in Cherry Hinton, while I spent my first 27 years in Impington - to the north of the city. I bought a mobile home in Waterbeach and lived there for four years before we bought our first place together at Bar Hill. We had four good years there before heading south to Sunny Saltdean - the jewel in Brighton’s crown.

Right, catch up time. The weather features quite a bit (again) as does beer - how unusual!

Thursday last, and the car took the strain and if nothing at least we know it’s waterproof. First up was the National War Arboretum at Alrewas. Many of you will have seen the central memorial on the telly but there is so much more than that. one hundred and fifty acres in total, tree lined avenues with various memorials to battles and regiments in between.

Wooded areas and arbours allow space for quiet , but not necessarily dry,reflection - we soon found ourselves in the cafe when the heavens opened again after giving us  a brief respite.

Realising that our visit was going to be brief if we didn’t want to drown we headed over to the central memorial as soon as the rain eased. This really is a stunning piece of work. The name of every serviceman who made the ultimate sacrifice from the second world war onwards is inscribed here. Of course, there are many, but sadly, there is room for many more too. There is a gap in one of the central walls so that on the 11th hour, of the 11th Day, of the 11th month a shaft of sunlight shines through - weather permitting of course.

We drove next through Burton-on-Trent. Not particularly notable apart from the massive brewery which seems to cover half the town. Pausing for lunch at a transport cafe - no expense spare here we continued on to the charming little town of Stone, thankfully leaving the rain behind somewhere on the way. We walked along by the canal, watching a couple of boats go through the lock until, with the sun now beating down we decided that we’d worked up enough of a thirst to warrant a visit to one of the local hostelries. The beer went down extremely well and rather to quickly though somehow we managed to restrict ourselves to just the one.

We headed further north, to the home of the friends who had joined us at the site on Sunday, then adjourned to the local pub for food, chat and a half arsed attempt at the music quiz. We got about half right I think, thanks to some stirring of the grey matter and google. There is a certain  perverse satisfaction when you get a question wrong because you are too young to remember, but that rapidly evaporates when you can’t answer the next one because your getting older and don’t listen to all that modern nonsense! Oh well.

Friday, and an uncharacteristically dry day. The morning was spent on site doing, well, very little really. In the afternoon we went out first to Bridgenorth for a bit of shopping, then to Ironbridge to look at the famous erm, Iron bridge, apparently the first in the world. Another pretty little place that looked so much better simply because the sun was out.

Another friend arrived in his van in the evening  - bringing the rain with him - and we done the honours with our little bbq.

Saturday, and our last day at Much Wenlock, which meant among other things, taking the awning down, so predictably it was windy as I paid my morning visit to the toilet block. Somebody had clearly forgot to bring their servant with them as, on opening the cubicle door I was confronted with a very large brown object peering out of the pan. Several attempts to flush it  on it’s way proved futile, but a shove with the bog brush yielded more success eventually. Oh, the joys of camping.

The awning came down easily enough later on and after getting freshened up we all adjourned to one of Much Wenlock’s hostelries for some liquid refreshment. The beer was good - at least after the cloudy pints were changed - which proved more difficult than it should have been but provided for much hilarity. The story is  too long winded to tell here but no doubt Trev will tell you about it when you see him - more than once no doubt. The inevitable curry at the end of the evening went down really well too.

Sunday, and time to move on. A gutful of beer, a stubbornly indigestible curry and the resulting fragmented nights sleep were hardly ideal preparation for a one hundred and thirty odd mile journey,  but at least there weren't any surprises awaiting me in the toilet block as I went over for Ghandi’s revenge.

We left, pretty close to our planned departure time with Graham & Robert in convoy behind us. All was going well until we hit the A14 and pulled into a layby to swap driving.  It was then we discovered that one of the tyres on Graham & Roberts van had failed. No further damage was evident and when Green Flag eventually appeared and changed the tyre we were on our way again.

We were soon back in our old town and safely sited, tannin levels replenished and the last erection of the trip safely performed - that’s the awning for those who haven’t been paying attention. In the evening we went for a stroll around Cherry Hinton emerging unsurprisingly at a pub. Those watching the football on the tv proved a far more appealing distraction than the football itself….

Monday, and a brief flit around some famous landmarks - to us anyway. My old mobile home - sold by me in 2001 for eleven grand was now on the market for sixty. Ouch. My old family home and where I spent my first twenty seven years looked sad and neglected. The American Cemetery at Madingley was looking immaculately kept as usual. That evening a friend joined us for dinner in Chez Patsy - well the awning anyway. Much reminiscing ensued.

Tuesday, and Cambridge city centre was the target. Attentive readers will know that we were here a couple of years back with other friends. We done the usual tour of the colleges and the cafe at Marks & Spencer. We puffed and panted our way to the top of Great St Mary’s church tower for great views of what is still a stunningly beautiful city. We paused again for coffee overlooking the river cam and admired some of the punters below. The brollies, which had remained unused all day we pressed in to service as, late afternoon we scurried back across town to catch up with another friend that we hadn’t seen for many years. Yet more reminiscing and hilarity ensued and, after rather too many ales, and missing the last bus, we piled unsteadily in to a taxi and headed back to the site.

Wednesday - today. Lots of rain first thing, then sun, then rain again. It didn’t matter though as none of us were up and about very early. Later, as the sun appeared again and that delightful Cambridge humidity set in, we picked up HRH - that’s Trev’s Mum for those new to all this nonsense - fed and watered her at one of the village pubs and deposited her back at her bungalow a couple of hours later.

As I finish up now it is early evening and the temperature is just perfect - and that was always one of the few things we miss about Cambridge weather. It could be hot and extremely humid during the day, but you could sit outside late in to the evening. Pollen levels notwithstanding.

So, not much longer to go. Out and about in the car tomorrow showing the boys around the rest of East Anglia. They leave on Sunday to return to Brighton while we will remain for another week. Every evening next week is booked for dinner, bbq’s and pub visits. At this rate I’m going to need to go on the liver transplant list……..

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