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.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Festive Threesome part 3 – A Walk in the Park photo special

Decent weather provided the opportunity for a look around the beautiful Crystal Palace park this morning. Incredibly this is our 4th visit and the first time we’ve actually walked around the whole of the park. It’s not just grass and trees – but boating and fishing lakes, kids play areas and the popular dinosaur trail too. Very little remains of the original Crystal Palace but some rich Chinese businessman apparently wants to build a replica. Anyway, without further ado:

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Theakston – Masham Glory

WP_20131223_006 From the brewers of the delightfully different ‘Old Peculier’ a more traditional bitter with a lovely dry taste. I really enjoyed this. 4.7%

Greene King – IPA Reserve

WP_20131223_005A stronger version of GK’s IPA. Similar taste but with added oomph. 5.4% Part of Tesco’s 4 for 6 quid deal (at the time)

Friday, 27 December 2013

Bass – No. 1

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Have come across this on tap on cruise ships and enjoyed it – although it may have been a case of any port in a storm when everything else was lager. The bottled version was equally as pleasant but as is often the case, stronger than it’s cask equivalent. 2 for 3 quid at a One-Stop in Cambridge and worth every penny.

Badger – Blandford Flyer

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I’ve always enjoyed Badger beers and this one was no exception although a little different – a hint of ginger and very nice it was too though I would suggest it’s more geared to summer served colder than you would normally an ale. One of Tesco’s ‘4 for 6 quid’ deal running over Xmas.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

A Festive Threesome Part 2 - A Confession

Yes, I have something to tell you, something that I need to get off my chest, before you find out some other way. But it’ll keep a bit longer.

Part 2 of the Festive Threesome should have come, appropriately, from our second stop; Cambridge, our home town or at least place of birth. I’m proud to say that although I wouldn’t want to move back. It’s changed a lot over the years, is bigger and busier, but not necessarily better. The classic view of Kings College from the backs is still one to be savoured though.

But no, time has flown by and we are now back in dear old Crystal Palace for the final stop in our trio. We will be here for new year but have made no plans as yet as to where and how to see it in.

Right, time to get you up to date, so here goes.

Thursday 19th, and Tunbridge Wells was the destination of the day for the Blogger in Black and his Portly Partner – that’s Trev by the way. 22 miles or so northwest, the pot holed and crumbling roads making old Jessie's suspension clunk and bang even more than usual. Finding parking proved easy enough and we soon emerged in to the city centre.

Now, We’ve been through Tunbridge Wells a few times, on the way to or back from Cambridge when we’ve had enough of the M25. In fact when we were doing our place up nearly nine years ago we were backwards and forwards from Cambridge to Brighton every week. It seemed an attractive place, and we’d mentioned several times about coming to visit.

Anyway, we strolled down to The Pantiles – possibly Tunbridge Wells most photographed feature and paused for photos. A Georgian colonnade with cafes, restaurants and specialist shops, it was pretty enough but very quiet and not particularly enticing on a cold December morning. I am sure on a summers day or night with the terraces full there would be a great atmosphere but to be honest we were a little disappointed.

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There may have been more to see, but with neither of us having slept particularly well thanks to the raging winds – and before you ask, no I didn't have a curry - we headed back to the town centre for caffeine replenishment before heading back to the site. The Kent countryside is well know for it’s oast houses – used for drying hops and we at last managed to get some pictures of them. A large penny farthing bike mounted by the roadside announced our arrival in the pretty village of Sissinghurst which counts Private Eye editor and Have I got News for You stalwart Ian Hislop as one of it’s residents.

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Back at the site, we were able to use the barbeque for the first time this trip – for some lamb burgers procured in Hythe.

Friday and with more rough weather forecast we decided to up sticks a day early for our journey to Cambridge. The crisp bright morning gave me the chance to grab some photos of the site before we left. Certainly a pretty site in a great location but more geared for better weather.

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The journey up to Cambridge was pretty unremarkable, with mercifully short queues at the Dartford Crossing. We had planned to pull in to the services there and swap over driving but having gone around the roundabout and glanced at the queues we continued round and rejoined the road north. Trev was driving and was happy to continue – and I was happy to let him.

Our home for the next week or so was the Caravan Club site at Cherry Hinton. Some may recall that this was the last stop on our three month British Isles Tour last year. We elected to put the awning up – the big inflatable one had travelled with us – and the light was fading by the time we declared job done.

To  be honest the next few days went by in a bit of a blur – and not entirely due to too much  er, ‘research’ either. Saturday morning we went to see friends up in Bury near Ramsey and had a good catch up fuelled by copious amounts of tea – and surprisingly few biscuits. Lunch time we called in to see Trev’s Mum, aka HRH for the first of many visits. We were to return later on in the day to summon a doctor as a chest infection had taken hold. Not good news at any age but particularly when you’re 88, however antibiotics and HRH’s resilience have done the trick.IMAG1297

We utilised Cambridge's excellent Park and Ride service to do a bit of shopping in the City Centre – or more precisely to change something that Trev had bought in Tunbridge Wells, because it was too erm, small. I wasn’t planning to buy anything but, Trev encouraged me to try on a pair of jeans, which I ended up buying, and it is here that I have to make a confession. They were slim fit of course, more suited for someone 20 years younger, but I’ve never cared about that. No, the things is, they were NOT black. Yes, you read it right. NOT black.

Ok, so now that has sank in, I can tell you that they were grey, which at least is related to black and and are very nice. Trev reckons they really suit me and they were even the chosen attire for Christmas Day Lunch at a pub north of the city, and a WHITE, yes white shirt. I know, standards are slipping everywhere. A black tie, jacket and gloves helped to partially resume normal service, or at least my melanophilic version of it!

More heavy winds bought another sleepless night and questioned our reasoning in putting up the awning. We were up several times during the night, re-pegging and securing the edges with anything heavy. the winds eased around 4am but performed a spectacular encore a short while later with rain, the ferocity of which we’ve never seen before in the ‘van. And Pasty has seem most weathers as regular Nonsense! readers will know. To our relief daylight revealed no damage.

Of course travelling always presents new opportunities for research into my hobby and that research has been quite extensive. Check out my new dedicated ‘Ale Archive’ blog here.

We managed to meet up with another friend for a visit to the cinema and a couple of visits to the pub but due to circumstances our free time was limited and we were unable to catch up with as many people as we would have liked. There will be another time though.

A couple of more opportunities for photographs presented themselves. Great St Mary’s Church, overlooking the market square in Cambridge is always snappable as is the village green in Histon, where I was born.

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So, almost there. We travelled down from Cambridge to Crystal Palace this morning along the M11 and through the Blackwall Tunnel, another journey surprisingly free of traffic. Once sited and with tannin and sugar levels restored to usable levels we walked up to the shopping area for a few bits and bobs and a quick haircut – for me anyway. A quite night in is on the cards for this evening but planning on a walk in the (Crystal Palace) park tomorrow and a meal out (with some accompanying ‘research’) later on.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Young's - London Gold

A golden ale somewhat spoiled by the fact that it was out of date and a little cloudy. Check your dates!

Skrimshander IPA

A tasty Kentish ale that's not too hoppy. Another local find whilst in Kent.

Courage - Directors

Brewed originally for the directors of the brewery (funny that), widely available and consistent, the draught is nice too. 4.8%.

Whitstable Pale Ale

Light and easy drinking pale ale. 3.9%.

Hardy & Hansons - Rocking Rudolph

From the Greene King stable, a great winter seasonal ale. A full bodied bitter at 4.2%.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A Festive Threesome Part 1 - Kent

Good evening, from a chilly and increasingly windy St Michaels, Tenterden in Kent. The weathermen have got it right again – gits – and after a glimpse of sun this morning we’re in for a rough night. Tomorrow is forecast to be better – let’s hope they’re right again. Our wish for bright crisp days has so far not been granted, and whilst it has not been cold – up to now – there’s been a lot of the wet stuff about. Still, we and Patsy have got pretty used to that, as regular Nonsense! readers will know!

Right, well, we’ve been here since Saturday, hauling Patsy the 55 miles or so across the border from East Sussex along the regions crumbling pot holed roads. And we did cheat a little too. Rather than collect her ladyship straight from storage we picked her up Friday and plonked her on the Caravan Club site in Brighton, less than five miles up the road from us, to give her an airing and load up – just as well as it took more than one visit. We’ve never really got the hang of travelling light but at least with this caravanning lark there isn’t the airlines stingy baggage limits to worry about.

The site is a CS or certificated site and so is only available to members of the Camping & Caravan Club. These are not generally full service sites but often spare fields or paddocks put to good use by enterprising farmers. This sits on the edge of Ingleden Park and offers eight hard standing pitches as well as a grassed area for tents – all with terrific views. Having had a drive around we settled on the pitch nearest the entrance – and toilet block. Two other ‘vans were on site at the time.

We decided not to put the awning up – the pitch wasn’t that level and withe the forecast of high winds didn’t want to risk damaging it, so the set up was fairly swift – if a little muddy – and we soon had the kettle on.

An excursion in to the village was called for, in search of both liquid and solid sustenance, but first it was time to make use of the on site facilities. Basic, but functional – there’s loos and showers and both performed their respective tasks adequately. It’s gets mighty chilly in there though so you won’t be standing (or sitting) around for long.

Once scrubbed up we headed out, calling first at The Crown to check on it’s offerings. Food was served until 4:00pm – which was a pity as it was half past when we got  there. It would have been rude to walk out though so we took the opportunity to do a little er, research. Three real ales were on offer – London Pride being one which, as some of you know is one of my favourites. I’ve got to tell you it’s one of the best pints of Pride I’ve had outside of London. Or in it.

A bit further up the road was The Fat Ox and again, we were too late for the normal menu although we could have had pizza. We settled instead for a pint and some crisps whilst contemplating our options.

There was a chippy next to the post office where I decide to replenish my wallet and the decision was made. We went in and ordered. Now, everything was in the cabinets ready but for some reason we had to wait. A glance around revealed other individuals in the same boat, some looking as though they were losing the will to live. More people came in and ordered and joined the queue. After three days – ok, about twenty minutes but you get my drift – we were on our way back to the site, drooling in anticipation. Well, it was ok, but we’ve had better. A glass or two of wine was required to wash it down with. And we’ve no shortage of wine either. Thanks to the generosity of the parents of the kids on my school bus we have a fine selection of both red or white to choose from. Out of all the drivers at the school I yielded the most – by some margin. Something I’m quite proud of  as clearly I’m doing something right.

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A welcome lie in Sunday and with rain promised for later, a quick look at Tenterden was the only sightseeing of the day. A pretty town although sitting on the A28 suffers from a lot of traffic passing through. Provisons were procured at Waitrose in what was my first – and if my wallet has anything to say – my last - visit to one of their stores. Lots of nice looking pubs though for some research later in the week.

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A late afternoon fry up, courtesy of the Portly Partner, AKA other half Trev went down extremely well. Our neighbours had left and were were the only ones left on site – and still are.

Monday, and with more of the wet stuff promised we had planned on nothing more than a visit to the Cinema at Ashford– and that was exactly what we did, taking the opportunity to have a walk around the town before the rain came. Surprisingly quiet given the time of year, the nearby outlet centre was only a little busier. I came away with a new shirt from M & S – I’ll let you guess the colour.

For the record the film was ‘Saving Mr Banks’ – the story of Walt Disney's attempts to secure the rights to Mary Poppins. Entertaining and great performances from two very watchable actors – Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

Tuesday, and back in to East Sussex and Hastings – and the first outing of the trip for my trusty leather trench coat too.  Hastings has had some bad press of late – another crumbling seaside town etc etc, and there certainly were some shabby bits – particularly along the sea front – but the town centre shops seemed to be doing well. Work has started on the pier – hit by a fire 2010 – and is scheduled to reopen in 2015.

Along from the pier is ‘Bottle Alley’ – so named because of the wall made partially of glass bottles in the 30’s forming the lower level of a double deck promenade. It was featured on the BBC programme ‘Coast’ a few years back and it looked much more impressive then. Still, it’s a remarkable feature even today.

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Further up the coast is Rye and we stopped here, pausing first in the harbour village and then the town itself for a cuppa and teacake. The town is really pretty – lots of independent shops and with daylight beginning to fade and the Christmas lights coming on it looked really good.

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More research later on and then an evening in front of the telly. Reception is fine with little break up – and that’s on a relatively old circular aerial. Radio reception is ok, but not great. There is no Wi-Fi – hardly surprising – it’s not something you expect from these type of sites - and a mobile signal depends largely on your network. For our phones we’re both with Virgin. You can make a call and that’s about it. The mobile Wi-Fi adaptor – a recent addition to the Nonsense! communications arsenal – running with a ‘Samba’ SIM (who piggyback ‘3’) is providing a usable internet connection. I usually use a giffgaff (O2) SIM but, that yielded only an unusable 2G signal.

Anyway, enough of the technical drivel and back to today. Dungeness was the main attraction today. A headland formed largely of shingle and sheltering the nearby Romney Marshes it’s one of the most unique landscapes in Britain. Lighthouses, cottages and boats vie for the attention of your camera lens but ever present in the background is the hulk of the nuclear power stations providing a stark contrast. It can be bleak and very windy (like today) but there is still something special about it.

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Further up the coast we paused at Littlestone for a couple of photos and then at  Hythe for some sustenance and a stroll along the pleasant high street before returning, by a somewhat unorthodox route – and a much needed petrol station.

So, we’re up to date. We have a couple more days here before moving up to Cambridge for Christmas. A visit to Tunbridge Wells may be on the cards – weather permitting.

So, until next time….