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.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Leamside – Adventure

WP_20140317_001What they say: A deep golden coloured session bitter. A hint of spice with soft fruit flavours and well balanced medium bitterness. Named after Adventure Pit at Rainton Colliery.

Just a few miles from the Caravan Cliub Site near Durham is the Three Horseshoes pub in Leamside which, conveniently also houses the Leamside Brewery set up in 2012, so it certainly wasn’t suffering from travel sickness. 3.8% and very acceptable.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Product Review – OLPro Inside & Out

WP_20140420_002Another product from OLPro and another one designed to help reduce the amount of stuff us caravanning and motorhoming types have to carry. The Inside & Out is marketed as a  7 in 1 cleaner, designed to replace – deep breath – caravan bodywork shampoo, black streak remover, glass cleaner, wheel cleaner, bathroom cleaner, hard surface cleaner and fabric cleaner. Phew!
Our recent Easter weekend break at the Caravan Club site at Crystal Palace in London gave us the opportunity to try it out, so without further ado, let’s see how we got on:DSC_0007
First up was the caravan bodywork. The recent spell of dry weather meant that dear old Patsy 2 wasn’t that dirty – however a seagull had thoughtfully decorated the side of the van whilst she was in storage so there was at least something to test the product on. My shampoo of choice for both car and caravan has always been the popular ‘Zip Wax’ – it’s always done the trick and leaves a nice finish. This stuff of course doesn't have a wax component, but did clean the muck off effectively and rinsed away easily, although perhaps no better or worse than my usual stuff.
DSC_0013Patsy 2’s mascara hadn’t run so there were no black streaks to test the product on, but her alloy wheels were dirty and this stuff – applied neat  as advised - brought them up a treat. Apply the product to a cloth then wipe on, using a small brush to work it it into those hard to reach bits. Make sure you have plenty of water to hand to rinse off. When I have an empty spray bottle I will put some of this in and keep it with my car cleaning stuff.WP_20140420_003 It was very effective.
A stain on the carpet by the fridge had proved itself stubbornly resistant to the effects of a well known carpet cleaner but this stuff  done the trick too. I should point out though that it was applied neat – not what is recommended – but to date there has been no colour loss to the carpet.
It was effective too in cleaning both the vans’ kitchen sink and bathroom wash basin. The sink is metal and was getting discoloured with tea stains but they were soon gone. The basin too, this time plastic, came up also like new.
So, to conclude, another impressive product from the folks at OLPro. It won  the Practical Caravan 2013 Essential Product award  and it’s easy to see why, but would I buy it? Well, yes as it will come in handy at home too, although I will probably stick to Zip Wax for cleaning the outside of the van as you are getting some protection there too with the wax component. For everything else though it’s great and currently available on OL Pro’s website for under a tenner for two litres which will last ages. Buy it together with their ‘Bottom & Top’ – the double concentrate version of which we reviewed here – and there are further savings to be made.
Check back soon for more reviews of OLPro products.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Product Review – OLPro Bottom & Top Plus

Yes, another title that’s sure to force a snigger or two. Of course, this being – largely – a caravnning blog, we are WP_20140408_001_thumb[1]talking about nothing more lurid than that unexciting but essential caravanning necessity, toilet fluid. 
OLPro are a young British company formed only in 2011 who supply a wide range of products for the camping and caravanning world. Their marketing people recently got in touch offering to send over some stuff to have a look at. Ever on the look out for a freebie or two, we once again said yes.
As the name would suggest it’s quite quite erm, versatile (stop it you lot) in that it’s used in both the rinse and cassette of your caravan loo. So, lets have a closer look. Oh please, you lot get worse…
DSC_0025 So, what have we got? A 1 litre bottle of blue coloured fluid with a pleasant citrus smell and  is the double concentrate version of their standard Bottom & Top. Instructions for use suggest 50ml of product in a waste tank of up to 20 litres in capacity. For rinsing,  the same ratio – 25ml to 10 litres of fresh water is suggested. The integral measuring system makes dispensing the right amount easy, although  - note to the manufacturers - the neck could be a little longer to help prevent dribbles when filling the rinse tank.
Right, to the testing. Now, like many I suspect, we have generally only used the caravan loo for those nocturnal visits brought about by a busy evenings’ researching in the local hostelries. Given that, I’ve only even used half the amount of fluid recommended by the makers of whatever brand of fluid we’ve had at the time. We have, in the past always used the traditional separate pink and blue variety, normally  Elsan Double which can sometimes be found in 2  x 2 litres twin packs on special offer. It lasts a long time and we’ve been happy with it, although the pink rinse can leave a bit of a residue around the corners of the pan at times.
To test the Bottom & Top thoroughly, obviously we had to throw everything at it – although not literally, that would have been messy – and smelly.  You will be pleased to know that there are no photo’s of either us er, testing the product. Suffice to say, that we’d been out and about busy researching the pubs and bars in Crystal Palace the evening before….DSC_0037
Having gone out for a walk and a late breakfast we returned around lunchtime. There were no unpleasant smells in the ‘van, apart from my deodorant that is, but  the citrus aroma of the fluid was just evident in the bathroom, a little more so, when the cassette flap was opened. I was hoping to give it a full 24 hours but having seen, on opening aforementioned flap, mounting evidence that the tank was nearly full decided I’d better empty it.
Ok, emptying a container full of human waste is never going to be an experience to savour but the product done it’s stuff and the tank soon rinsed clean - with no lingering odours. Having decided that one days thorough testing was enough, normal service was resumed with only half the recommended amount of fluid being added – and this worked just fine too, although obviously it had less to erm, deal with.
Right, so we’re happy it works.  Carrying a bottle of this instead of 2 separate ones is certainly a weight saving, giving extra capacity for those caravanning essentials like booze and in my case, long leather coats, jeans and boots!
A 1 litre bottle of this used in both tank & rinse at the quantities suggested will give you about 13 ‘loads’. Use less in the tank if you use your loo like us and that rises to 20. The product is currently on sale on the OLPro website for just £7.99 which I believe makes it excellent value too. But is it worth changing? Well, we certainly will. I was well impressed with this stuff and it’s also worth mentioning that it is is formaldehyde free so can be used on sites where it is banned.
All in all, a great product from a British company that’s well worth a look when you are next in the market for those loo chemicals. Check back soon for more reviews on other OLpro products.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Product Review – something to help you Tug…

Ah, thought that would get your attention! Allow me to introduce The Tug – a portable dolly designed to make manoeuvring a trailer or caravan easier. Reg, from The Tug Co recently got in touch through Twitter and offered to send us one for reviewing. Of course we said yes and was able to give it a thorough work out whilst on our Easter weekend break to the Caravan Club site at Crystal Palace.DSC_0042

Right, it’s supplied flat packed, but don’t let that put you off. An instruction sheet is provided but it’s really simple as you will see. First, you will see all the parts laid out. There are no tools in the picture because none are needed.

You can put it together a number of different ways. This was my second attempt and was quicker than the first.

First, the brackets are attached to the axle bar – 2 slot in blots and wing nuts on each, then the tow ball is added, again 2 bolts and wing nuts. The height is adjustable and we will see why later.

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Next, the steering arm is attached using two quick release clips, then the handle is attached to the arm with a single clip:

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And finally, the wheels, each using a clip release clip:

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Position the tow ball under the hitch of your trailer or caravan, lower it on as if you are hitching up, raise the jockey wheel and away you go. Alternatively, depending on the height of your hitch and the tow ball on the dolly, position the Tug and then ease the ball in to the socket by lowering the arm on the Tug.

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So, how did we get on with it? Well, first, let’s set the scene. Our caravan; Patsy 2 is no lightweight and weighs in at nearly 1.6 tonnes when fully laden – which she generally is. On the tarmac and level road manoeuvring her was easy – and I’m not exactly muscle bound as you can see.  Here, getting the correct angle for you height helps – what is more comfortable for you is better for your back. 

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The height of the tow ball becomes crucial when steering the TUG – it needs to be high enough so the wheels of the tug don’t foul the A frame at acute angles. You will see also that the hitch–head stabiliser is not engaged – there’s no point making things difficult is there?

 

 

On the loose gravel it was a little more tricky – wear something with chunky soles – not cheapo imitation crocs like I was. Getting (and keeping) a grip will make life much easier, and, more suitably shod, I was able to still manoeuver her ladyship with out any help.  The pitch sloped upwards towards the rear edge and it did need two of us to move her the last couple of feet.

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Our neighbour for the weekend turned up just as we’d finished playing, and he was more than happy to let us use the Tug on his van too. His Eriba was quite a bit smaller than Patsy and clearly lighter as it was easier to move, even on the sloping gravel.

 

 

 

So, what do we reckon overall? Well a great bit of kit – British made too – and no, it didn’t fall to bits after five minutes. It can be put together and taken apart very easily, though you could of course just take the wheels and/or handle off depending on how you plan to store it. For the record, my first attempt took six minutes, the second time it was less than four.

It certainly makes manoeuvring a ‘van easier. At less than 10 kg it’s lighter than a motor mover, and considerably cheaper but obviously more effort is required. A motor mover will get your ‘van over gravel, through muddy grass, and up hills - to a point so clearly there are limitations. However, for quick and easy shunting of ‘vans around a dealers yard, or around a storage compound it’s perfect. It would be a useful bit of kit for campsite owners to have available for campers use too. It’s not limited to caravans, obviously. It will fit any trailer with a ball hitch so will find itself useful in a variety of situations – horseboxes, boats, builders yards and so on.

Two types of Tug are available – we tested the heavy duty one which comes with puncture proof wheels and roller bearings, and coming soon is the option of a erm, longer shaft. Oh, stop it! For more information, including some videos of the Tug in action, check out their website here. All in all, it’s a great product. Well thought out and British designed made too. Good on ‘em.

www.tugco.co.uk

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Tetley’s – Huntsman

WP_20140316_007What they say? Well, Tetley’s is owned by Carlsberg and there’s not a single mention of this on their website. However ratebeer.com have this description:  Robust & full bodied, with a firm, malty base. A sleek hint of complexity follows, the recipe drawing on a warming nip of Guyana sugar - specially formulated for Tetley’s. The characteristic country charm of the Northdown hop canters across the palate, for a rosy glow after a brisk chase to the finish.

There was certainly a malty presence, but don’t recall anything cantering across my palate! OK but not particularly memorable.

Harveys – India Pale Ale

WP_20140316_006What they say: India Pale Ale is brewed to a lower original gravity and this beer undergoes a similar process of maturation to the Blue Label. The result is a lighter, more mellow ale with a distinctive hoppy character.

No complaints. Nice and light at 3.2% A.B.V. so a good session or party beer.

Harveys – Blue Label

WP_20140316_005What they say: This premium pale ale is ‘dry hopped’ during the period of maturation prior to being bottled. It is our most popular bottled beer.

It’s also the bottled version of Harveys Sussex Best which is rarely less than excellent. Delicious but 3.6% ABV in the bottled compared to 4% A.B.V from the cask.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Oldershaw – Newton’s Drop

WP_20140222_001What they say: Oldershaw’s best selling beer. A copper bronze best bitter with sumptuous caramel and roasted nut malts, grassy hops and a lasting bitter finish. A widely admired ale.

On as a guest in our local club. This is the only beer to date that I couldn’t  finish. I was assured it wasn’t off but it smelt and tasted awful. Not convinced there wasn’t something wrong with it. Will try it again when the opportunity arises.

Wicked Weed – Sir Ryan The Pounder

WP_20140221_009 What they say: We wanted to create a low alcohol, easy drinking beer that is not lacking in flavour…….this ale is light amber in colour, has soft caramel and toffee notes and is dry hopped with an array of citrus-forward hops.

Low alcohol? Christ! This weighs in at 4.7% A.B.V. An American brewery, this was actually brewed by Everards for Wetherspoons Real Ale festival and must be in contention for the weirdest name.

 

White Horse – Scourers Brew

WP_20140221_002What they say. Not a lot as it’s no longer on the brewers website but found this elsewhere: A golden ale, refreshing flavour and a fruity character which gradually emerges in the finish.

A Friday night pre cinema pint in Wetherspoons and probably the first of the week too. Again I prefer my ale a little more bitter but it was ok. 4.5% A.B.V.

Prescott – Track Record

WP_20140212_008 What they say: Track Record has a smooth yet slightly sweet finish which can only be achieved by adding just a hint of honey produced on the slopes of Prescott Hill Climb itself.

An impressive ale from this relatively young (2008) Cotswold based brewer on offer at Wetherspoons in Devizes in February. 4.4% A.B.V.

Ramsbury – Deer Hunter

WP_20140212_007In Wiltshire, Wadworth dominates but there are other breweries. Found this from a Marlborough based brewery in Wetherspoons in Devizes.

What they say: we use pale ale malt and torrified wheat mixed with roasted barley to make this a brew with a malty flavour and bitter sweet finish.

Enjoyed this even though it was not crystal clear. The end of the barrel rather than end of life I’m guessing. 5.0% A.B.V.

Wadworth – St George

WP_20140212_009What they say: A beer of full body and robust bitterness with a fiery amber hue - just the stuff for dragon slaying! The palate is crisp and tangy, leading to a long dry 'digestive biscuit' finish with hints of orange and blackcurrant.

One of their regular seasonal beers. A bit fruity for me but again in excellent condition. 4.5% A.B.V so no lightweight.

Wadworth –Horizon

WP_20140209_001What they say: Easy drinking all year round and robust enough to accompany most foods, Horizon is light in colour, but full flavoured and best enjoyed cool.

Pleasant but a bit golden for me. Would be nice in the summer I imagine though. Was in excellent condition – like all the Wadworth beer’s we’ve had, but then the brewery was only a few miles away

Wadworth – The Bishops Tipple

WP_20140208_009What they say: A golden brew with an intriguing aroma from the delicate Saaz and spicy Styrian Goldings hops. The full flavour is well balanced with hop bitterness giving a clean finish for easy drinking.

It is certainly easy drinking, but it is also 5% A.B.V so it’s not a session beer unless you’ve a high tolerance or a love of paracetamol. Enjoy

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Wadworth – Old Timer

WP_20140208_008 What they say: Wadworth's winter beer. Rich copper brown in colour with a strong malty aroma and a full bodied, intense flavour.

Wadworth’s seasonal winter ale is just the thing in front of a roaring fire on a cold winters night. 5.8% A.B.V. Powerful stuff and it’ll drown out anything less punchy that follows.

Wadworth - Swordfish

WP_20140208_007 Our February half term break in the caravan was at the Camping & caravan Club site on the outskirts of Devizes, which is also home to Wadworths brewery. How convenient. Even more (or perhaps too) convenient was the pub that was just two minutes walk from the caravan site. Some of the Wadworth regular ales, I‘ve had before, such as 6X and Henry’s – and these are already on the blog somewhere.

What the brewer says: With a gentle rum aroma and dark, unrefined sugar adding a rich smoothness, it is a full-bodied, deep copper coloured ale with a base of crystal malt and delicate Fuggles and Goldings hops.

The rum aroma comes from the addition of Pussers rum to  their 6X and brings a slight sweetness to the beer. Would happily drink again. 5% A.B.V

Arundel – Pickled Mouse

WP_20140124_004 What they say: A tawny brown beer, fruity aroma, lots of malt and fruit flavours and hoppy bitterness to finish.

I honestly don’t remember much about this – and no, I hadn’t been overdoing the ‘research’. However I finished it so it must have been ok.  A January special from this West Sussex brewery at Wetherspoons on the Marina.

Batemans - XXXB

WP_20140110_001 What they say: Classic English tawny pale ale, brewed with pale, chocolate, crystal and wheat malts, blended with spicy Challenger, Styrian and Golding hops, to create a fruity beer with peppery aroma and fruity, biscuity flavour.

Probably on as a guest in LLoyds No 1 (I.E. Wetherspoons) on Brighton Marina. It was the first Friday after New Year and having started a diet – of sorts – this would have been the first pint of the week and would have hardly touched the sides. Tasty, but at 4.5% take it easy.

Wadworth – Dray Bells

WP_20140104_005 What the brewer says: A mid amber bitter with a nose of sweet Satsuma and a hint of spice on the palate from the addition of cloves to the brew. The mouth feel is long with a crisp dry spicy hop finish.

Not sure about the satsumas but it was very nice nonetheless, but then Wadworth beers rarely disappoint. Found this in our local on our return from Crystal Palace after New Year. A seasonal beer, obviously.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Site Report - Highfield Farm Touring Park

The penultimate stop on our spring holiday was at Highfield Farm Touring Park in Comberton near Cambridge.  Friends and regular readers – yes there are one or two – will no that Cambridge is our home town and many friends and some of Trev’s family still live here including his 88 year old Mum who is often referred to in our blogs as HRH. Obviously we’ve brought the caravan up here a few a few times and always try and stay somewhere different.

Whilst they have a website – which the above link will take you to – up until recently to book you had to print out a form and send off with a deposit in the form of a cheque,  paying the balance by cheque or cash on arrival. I see now that they are taking card payments. Wise move.

Firstly the site is easy to find, being only minutes from the M11 and with no narrow lanes and blind corners to navigate. Being local (ish) we new roughly where it was but the directions given were accurate with the brown camping signs helping you on the way.DSC_0002

  The welcome could not have been friendlier. We (as usual) apolgised for being earlier than the sacred midday beloved of so many sites but that is not generally applied except on Saturdays for one night bookings when you will have to pay a supplement. This makes life a whole lot easier but I hope their flexibility is not abused, particularly at busier times.

DSC_0001The site itself is divided into a number of paddocks separated by high hedges which also border most of the site. You can even pitch amongst the trees opposite reception and this area looks particularly lovely.

There is a choice of grass or hard standing pitches and all can be booked with or without electricity.  We had one of the larger hard standings but they were not that big. There was not enough room for a car, caravan & awning and some are considerably smaller.

Each paddock has it’s own facilities block – barring the rally field at the end – and they were immaculate. Plenty of hot water and none of this push button nonsense either. Plenty of water points too although these  ARE push button.  Gives you something to lean on though whilst you’re waiting for your barrel to fill. We were on site right at the start of their season so there weren’t many of us on site, however given the number of facilities I can’t imagine you needing to queue for long, if at all, even  during the busy times.

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There is a 1.5 mile walk around the farm (no, we didn’t do it – not enough time – honest!). The local pub is about a 15 minute walk away. Only one real ale on offer when we visited.

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The City of Cambridge is but a few miles away but for gawd sake don’t drive in unless you like sitting in traffic and getting fleeced for parking. Make use of the excellent park & ride service, the nearest one being WP_20140403_001at Madingley, however motorhome users will need to go to Trumpington because of height restrictions.  There is also a bus stop just a few minutes from the site.

So, all in all, a great site. We were only here for three nights but would love to have stayed longer. The facilities are excellent and whilst both the major caravan clubs are represented in Cambridge this makes a great alternative. It is owned by the people that run it and you can tell their enthusiasm and commitment. We’ll certainly be back at some point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Soon – OL PRO – Product Review

Look what’s just arrived! A shipment of products from Worcestshire based company OL PRO:

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From the left:

  • Winter Long  - to protect your caravan or motorhome when not in use or through winter.
  • Bottom & Top Plus – an er, interesting name which will no doubt raise an eyebrow or two among certain broad minded folk. Designed to replace the traditional pink and blue liquids for your loo.
  • Fresh & Clear  - all in one drain and pipe cleaner.
  • Inside & Out – a seven in one cleaner for your caravan, glass, wheels, hard surface, fabric, bathroom and those annoying black streaks.

And in the middle:

  • Sanidry – dehumidifying tray to catch humidity from the atmosphere and help keep the interior of your caravan or motorhome damp free.

Look out for reviews of all of these over the coming weeks.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Fullers – Chiswick Bitter

WP_20140102_012 What the brewer says: this brew boasts a refreshing, highly drinkable flavour, flowery and fresh, with very well developed hop characteristics (a mixture of the Northdown and Challenger varieties).

It was certainly drinkable, and at 3.5% ABV a good session beer but not surprisingly lacks the flavour of it’s more potent stable mate London Pride. Inoffensive and easy drinking.