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.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Bath & Bristol pt 3 – A new beginning

Hello again. The third and final part of my blog of our stay in the lovely Chew Valley and also the last blog of the summer. The time has simply flown by due in no small part to some stunning weather. And it looks like it’s going to continue too. Lovely.

To be honest, there’s not an awful lot to tell you since the last blog – mainly because we haven’t done much except enjoy the sun. On Saturday however it was cloudy, so we fired up the old crate and headed out past the south of Bristol to the coast, first to Portishead. A pretty enough town with a high street and a shiny new marina development. Trivia time here: Remember the ITV series called Vice a few years back starring Ken Stott? Well, the theme tune was called ‘Sour Times’ by a band from the area called…..Portishead. Click here for a link to the song if you want a reminder.

Next up, and just down the coast was Clevedon,  a largely Victorian seaside town with a quaint little pier that’s been well restored – although you have to pay £1.80 for the privilege of walking on it. More recently Clevedon was the setting for the town of ‘Broadchurch’ in the popular ITV drama series of the same name. We stopped for lunch at one of the eateries on the front. South Wales could be clearly seen across the Severn estuary.

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Final stop of the day – well almost – was Cheddar Gorge, although we didn’t really stop for long. The main car parks were all full and opportunities for pulling over for photos were limited. Further up the gorge there were more parking areas but stopping for more than a few seconds attracted the attention of a man in a hi viz west and a ticket machine. It’s a stunning place to spend a few hours but maybe not on a Saturday afternoon of a bank holiday in August. Tourists eh? We did spot another gromit though!

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We paused for some liquid refreshments at a couple of establishments on the way back to the site.

The awning came down on Monday evening and it folded away remarkably easily then we returned to the Ring O’ Bells in the evening for another meal. Both grog and grub were excellent again.

Our final research expedition was on Tuesday night to the Bear & Swan in Chew Magna. Another pub featured on the site’s list and again it was excellent. Not the cheapest but worth every penny.

So, Wednesday was upon us and time to leave and head home. Patsy was tractored to the entrance and re-united with Jessie. The chap from the site said he’d reading my blog and remarked that two of my comments were inaccurate. Visitors do not have to leave the site by 6pm as long as reception is informed and the £2.00 per person charge is only levied if visitors are not ‘booked in’ at reception. Clearly both myself AND Trev misread the leaflet but I am happy to set the record straight. Don’t forget the there is a comment box at the bottom of each blog online where anyone can comment about any of the drivel I come out with. Compliments are always welcome, but even complaints if I’ve got my facts wrong!

Journey wise, the idea was that Trev would do the first leg as I was expecting a phone call from the solicitor to tell me contracts had been exchanged. We paused for coffee whilst I chased up both solicitor and agent and Trev ended up driving all the way, bless him. We had no trouble finding the site of course but unusually for a camp site there was security on the gate as well as the usual Wardens in reception. The site was full and we discovered that there was an evening meet at the nearby race track too. Anyway we got booked in and found our pitch and got set up. As we were having a look around the site, finally the phone call came that I had been waiting for. We had exchanged contracts on the flat at last and would take possession two days later. A further piece of the jigsaw fell in to place.

Later that  night we met up with friends from the midlands who were also staying on the site. We went to our local club and had a nice meal and catch up – all over a few beers of course. A guest ale was on so I could even claim to still be doing some research!

So, that’s almost it, almost there. Just to bring you bang up to date, we were back at work for half a day today for a welcome back from the headmaster. We picked up a friend from hospital and got the keys to the flat. We’ve been around it with a tape measure and a note book and have a pile of brochures from a certain DIY chain to peruse. Patsy has got another couple of weeks work before she goes in to storage for a well earned rest. Until half term when we will be back at Crystal Palace for more ‘camping in the capital’.

Keep an eye on the blog for some ‘in progress’ pictures of the flat in the meantime. I’m off to open the champagne now. Cheers!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Bath & Bristol pt 2 – Take two

Blimey, where has the time gone. It doesn’t seem five minutes since we made that night time trip down to Cornwall at the start of this wonderful summer. But this time next week we’ll be back at work, although thankfully it’s only an INSET day so no alarm clocks going off at silly o’clock – that’s not until the following Tuesday when school starts again.

Earlier in the week we had a call from the estate agent selling the flat we are buying. She was making positive noises about a possible exchange of contracts today with a view to completing next week. This would be nigh on perfect for us but given our experience when selling, we won’t be holding our breaths! So as it stands, Patsy is still our main – well only - residence. Anyway, back to the trip:

Monday evening and the Ring O’ Bells, a short drive away in Hinton Blewett was the recipient of our custom. A truly delightful old village pub featured on the ‘10 pubs in 10 minutes’ flyer mentioned in the last blog. The food was delicious – and excellent value too, served promptly, hot and with a smile. There were three ales on offer  and we tried two of them. Both the Butcombe Bitter and London Pride were in excellent nick and went down well – but then they usually do!

Tuesday, and another intermittently sunny day. Most of the day was spent lazing around and reading after a brief stint of house work – or should that be ‘van work – in the morning. We are on a service pitch here so the water and waste water is connected up, so that’s two less jobs for your truly. We did drag ourselves away from the recliners and the afternoon sun for a visit to the supermarket to stock up.

Wednesday, and back to Bath for another look around. There was still a queue around the block for the Roman Baths, and glimpsing over the wall in to the central atrium it looked too crowded to enjoy fully, so we gave it another miss.

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Bath is of course full of stunning architecture, constructed out of the pretty pale honey coloured bath stone. A lot of this came from the quarries owned by one Ralph Allen who made his money from reforming the postal system in Britain. He devised a ‘cross post’ system whereby post from say Bath to Bristol didn’t have to travel all the way to London first. He also introduced the first ‘signed for’ system to minimise losses from undeclared mail.

Builders at the time  were unconvinced by the qualities of bath stone though so Allen engaged architect John Wood to design a huge house in Prior Path overlooking Bath to show off it’s properties. It clearly worked.

One of the buildings that overlooks the gardens had an interesting roof line and was designed to represent Britain's three classes. At the far end – to the left – are the small cottages. In the middle is the manor house and to the right – with the best view of the gardens and river -  is the ‘castle’.

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Another cracking day in this beautiful city but with feet aching and tops wringing we called it a day later afternoon and headed back to base to cremate some burgers.

Wednesday, and back to Bristol, this time to see a bit more than just the inside of pubs. The old tourists favourite the hop on-hop off bus was the obvious choice and we joined at the beginning after utilising Bristol's excellent park & ride service.

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There was live commentary on this tour and it must rank as one of the best we have ever been on with a both witty and informative guide keeping us entertained. The great engineer Isambard Kingdome Brunel is well represented here  - gawd, his parents must have hated him – imagine going to school with a name like that – anyway, his innovative ship; the S.S. Great Britain – the first iron hulled ship is moored here. The S.S GB took the first All England cricket team to Australia and became home to a large number of sheep when laid up in the Falklands. The Clifton suspension bridge spans the Avon gorge and was, at it’s time a remarkable feat of engineering. A competition was run to design the bridge and although Brunel's design came second he persuaded the committee to adopt it. Construction was fraught with problems and sadly Brunel died five years before his project was completed.

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Behind the S.S Great Britain are the offices for Nick Parks’ Aardman productions, creators of Wallace & Gromit. There is currently a ‘Gromit Trail’  thing going on over the city and beyond with 80 Gromits to spot. At the end of the summer they will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to local charities. We managed just nine:

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To the north of the city is the Downs area. Huge grassed open spaces and tree lined avenues with fantastic views back to the Clifton Bridge, down to the Avon gorge and across to Avonmouth docks. On a clear day you can see across the Severn to South Wales too.

I don’t know about you but I hated games at school and that, apparently is all the fault of Clifton College, a private school here that first  introduced games as a way of encouraging team spirit. An idea that soon spread to schools all over the country.

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Only Fools & Horses Fan? Well, Nelson Mandela House – home to Del Boy & Rodney - is actually Whitemead House here in Bristol. Peckham market scenes were also filmed here as were the infamous 'Batman & Robin sequence and the row of garages where Del Boy found the old watch that eventually made him a millionaire. It was said (by our tour guide) that Bristolians were considered not as nosey as Londoners and filming would be easier here. No photos but if we get the chance we’re going to go on our own  ‘Fool & Horses’ trail before we leave.

We were also taken through one of the less attractive parts of town that graffiti artists had been let loose on in an effort to cheer it up. A controversial decision but they’ve been invited back again next year again apparently.

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Final stop was at the Cathedral and City Hall – both stunning buildings in their own different ways. Afterwards we paused for a well earned pint (just the one, honest) before waiting for the next bus, not realising initially that if we got off our arses and walked, the bus stop back to the park and ride was only five minutes away!

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So, another great day exploring and another blog complete. It started sunny but is now rather overcast. A drive out somewhere may be on the cards this afternoon, but we shall see.

A reminder that if you are a real glutton for punishment and the occasional blog isn’t enough you can follow us on Twitter (@aloadofnonsense) and Facebook (facebook.com/aloadofnonsense) for more updates and pictures.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Bath & Bristol Pt 1 – An easier erection

Hello again, this time from an intermittently sunny Bishop Sutton, roughly midway between, and south of, Bath &  Bristol. For any newcomers to Nonsense! you have not stumbled across advice on Erectile Dysfunction – although there IS a pump involved – but rather a nod to the fact that we have a new awning.

We’ve had some sad news too. Ray – Trev’s brother-in-law passed away last week after a massive heart attack. We only saw him a couple of weeks ago and he was looking so well. He loved my blogs and always told me so when we met. A really nice man who will be sadly missed by many, not least by his two daughters; Sarah and Michelle.

Right, time for the usual catch up.

Our last day at Bo-Peep was the usual carry on of getting the awning down and everything packed away ready for  moving on. Though this time with the knowledge that it may be the last time we had to handle our big old heavy awning. An ad placed on Gumtree had yielded an enquiry, the result of which was that the buyer would pick it up from our next site – where we are now.

With the bbq also packed away and the cupboards empty there really was only one option for the evenings sustenance – and the nearby Pickled Ploughman proved to be an excellent choice. The bangers & mash for Trev and the chicken, ham & leek pie for me were both delicious. There were three real ales to choose from too, allowing me to conduct some more er, research. If you are in the area, check them out – but go on the website first and you can get a voucher for a free drink – something I’ve only just discovered. Plonker.

The journey down here on Wednesday was straightforward enough – up to Banbury then on to the M40, joining the A34 north of Oxford, all the way down to the M4 before navigating about three hundred roundabouts (okay, nine!) on the Bristol ring road and thence on to Bishop Sutton and the site.

Right, the site – Bath Chew Valley Caravan Site. Worlds apart in many ways from Bo-Peep but very pretty nonetheless. We were well early of the 2pm arrival time but I made a phone call and they were happy to let us on. You don’t pitch the ‘van yourself here but unhitch at the entrance and the ‘van is tractored on and levelled for you. A sort of valet parking for caravans I guess. Cars are not kept by the pitch but in the nearby car park. It’s compact – there are only 35 pitches – and very tidily manicured with a beautiful fishpond too. The shower and toilet facilities are all individual ensuite units and kept extremely clean. And, mercifully, no push button showers either, relying on the users good sense to turn them off after use.

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The site is affiliated to The Caravan Club – and they seem to have followed their example to a certain degree with signage and rules. You are  to ‘Report’ to reception on arrival making it sound less like a campsite and more like a military training camp. There is a list of things you have to sign to say that you will and wont do. Patsy is not allowed a wash for example, as they are on a water meter. Show me a site that isn’t but I never had this come up before. No awnings or windbreaks on the grass and visitors are charged at two quid each and must be off site by 6pm.  Pitches are small and quite close together so late night outdoor grog fuelled chinwags around a fire as per Twittercamp probably wouldn’t go down too well. Having said that the site is almost full – we had to wait for a cancellation to get on. Many pitches are full service – including ours as that’s all that was left and it is adults only too, which is what attracted us too it!

No sooner had we arrived and settled when the lady arrived to pick up the awning. She didn’t quibble over the price so we threw in the groundsheet too. Then it was on the ‘net to order the replacement. The girls at Twittercamp had one of the new pump up ones and that was what we were after, although predictably being men, we wanted a bigger one….. Eventually I found somewhere that had stock and placed the order.

Burgers and wedges provided the evenings sustenance and it did seem odd having to actually sit IN the ‘van. Something we’ve hardly done all summer.

Thursday morning the promised rain came and after all the good weather – and now, temporarily at least – awning-less, it felt a little claustrophobic in the ‘van. In the afternoon we headed in to Bristol for the first time. Our friends Kevin & Lawrence were coming down for a long weekend and we’d arranged to hook up. Having taken a rather circuitous route from the site in to town thanks to a road closure we fired up the sat nav app which kindly deposited us right next to their hotel. We were a little early and, having not yet had any lunch availed ourselves of the services of a well know pub chain across the road for a burger and pint.

Later, having met up with our friends we had stroll around some of the city, dodging the showers and ending up, pretty inevitably in a hostelry or two before returning to the site.

Friday, and some actual sightseeing. The boys wanted to go to Monmouth to catch up with some friends and we tagged along too. Having crossed the Severn bridge we called in first at Chepstow to top up the caffeine.

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Then on to the beautiful Wye Valley that straddles the border between England and Wales. We paused for photo’s at Tintern Abbey then stopped in Newland. Newland is where Lawrence’s Sister used to live and also also has a pub  - The Ostrich - serving some damn fine food. We all emerged absolutely stuffed and had a stroll across to the village church in an effort to walk some of it off.

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Monmouth was the final stop and me, Trev & Kev went off for coffee whilst Lawrence went to visit his friends. We paused in one of the junk, sorry, antique shops to have a snout and my eyes initially lit up. There was a large collection of motorbike gear in the back, which meant of course lots of black leather. Yum. My eye was drawn to some great looking jeans which also appeared to be my size, but whatever the number 34 on the waistband was referring too it clearly wasn’t inches. They would have hardly gone around my thighs. We moved on.

Back in Bristol we stopped for some very average pub grub, but with everyone yawning it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a late night. We moved on for another quick pint and then headed back.

Saturday was quiet. We met for lunch – and a couple of pints – obviously - in town but with the weather turning again we went back to the site late afternoon, rather stupidly joining the crowd of Saturday afternoon shoppers on route for some more toilet fluid and replacement awning pegs. This caravanning lark ain’t all beer and barbies you know!

Sunday, and with the return of the sunshine promised, the boys came to the site and we headed east to Bath, utilising the park and ride on the way. I’ve been before – along while ago – and the only things I could remember were  the Royal Crescent and the Roman Spa. We jumped on the tourist’s favourite – the hop on-hop off bus – to get our bearings and an overview of the city. And what a beautiful city it is too as I hope the photo’s will show.  We saw the Royal Crescent, the baths, the Abbey and were told about the Jane Austen connection. A second bus took us on the ‘Skyline’ route up in to the hills surrounding the city. We stopped for lunch and an (early) afternoon tea. It takes it out on you this sightseeing malarkey you know. There was a match being played at the Bath cricket ground – I paused for a few minutes to catch and over and it reminded me how much I enjoyed live cricket.

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We left late afternoon, barely skimming the surface but having had a really good day nonetheless. Myself and Trev have promised to return before we leave and have a more in depth look. The Roman Spa is a must see – a view shared by many judging by the queues around the block but hopefully during the week it will be quieter.

We stopped at Chew Valley Lake on the way back for a stroll around part of it’s perimeter. The Red Lion in the village did not do food on a Sunday night so we ended up at the Blue Bowl in nearby West Harptree for our evening nosh. The food was excellent – we all had something different and were all very impressed. The fact that one of my all time favourites ales – London Pride – was on offer to wash it all down with too made it even better.

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Right, almost there. This morning we put up the new awning for the first time. I won’t lie and said it went without a hitch because it didn’t. We let the air out at one point and virtually started again, but there is no doubt that its much quicker  - and lighter – than a traditional pole awning. I’ve promised someone a mini blog on awnings for their newsletter some time this century and will put it on the blog too.

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With everything set up I had hoped to get back to bbq-ing this evening. However, the local shop, whilst carrying an impressive range of bottled real ales had little in the way of veg or salad. Or meat. So, it’s off to the pub again. Oh well. The site usefully provides a map entitled ‘Ten pubs in Ten minutes’. We have a copy.

See ya!