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.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Isle of Wight - Part 3

The Wednesday saw us on the road again and heading south, through Newport, eventually emerging on the coast at Blackgang Chine on the south western tip of the Island. Our route had been rather circuitous, thanks to me driving and Trev reading the map. Talk about the optically challenged leading the optically challenged. Anyway the park was, not surprisingly closed, but a little further up was a parking area that afforded great views of the south western coastline. You will see  from the photo that yet again it was overcast, but imagine that view in the sunshine. It would have been terrific.

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Next up, and what was actually our intended destination in the first place, was the coastal resort of Ventnor. Nicknamed - according to my bumpf - the English Madeira, we've passed through before on our various day trips but it had always been rammed and parking spaces were non-existent. There was no such problem this time, and having paused at the Botanic gardens for coffee, we parked up, fed the meter and when for a stroll.

The town is effectively divided in to two, the centre above on the cliff face and the seaside resort below, the cliffs shielding the beach from the weather and giving a more Mediterranean climate to the weather. Although clearly not today.

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A short - and blustery walk along one of the coastal paths rewarded us with some fantastic views.

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Just a short drive north east was Shanklin, in fact we happened upon it much quicker than expected, forgetting that the Isle if Wight is not that big.

Shanklin - or the old village part if it anyway - is pure picture postcard - cosy cottages, winding streets and quaint pubs. Given the time of year it was understandably almost entirely devoid of tourists too. So much so, that it felt as if you were wandering around a deserted film set. Some of the shops and cafes had clearly closed up for the winter and had not yet reopened.

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Again, we'd been here before, most recently on our weekend stay a few years back. Having visited in the morning and noted the interesting selection of boozers, sorry, research venues we returned in the evening for a meal. So far so good.

It was Saturday night and quite busy and if we'd been sensible about it we'd have booked a table. However, we eventually found a pub that could accommodate us. Well, the beer was good and the food was excellent. Our table was cleared and we contemplated the desert menu when a woman came up to our table and asked rather awkwardly if we had stolen any cutlery! We said no - obviously - and she said OK and left! It really was most bizarre. With all thoughts of a desert having vanished, we settled up and left. Typical, you might say, if the cap fits and all that. But this was some four years before we bought Patsy, so there were no Pikean tendencies. A debrief in another pub brought us to the conclusion that it was a group of locals at the bar who didn't like having their pub invaded by tourists and had a little laugh at our expense. Fair enough. The spoons came in handy though...DSC_0073

Right, back to the present. Have committed sights to memory, both digital and human, we returned to Rosie and headed for the seafront below via the cliff tops for some fantastic views along the coastline and to Sandown. There is a lift, but not surprisingly given the time of year it was closed.

Some refuelling was required and one of the seafront restaurants was open. We hurried in out of the cold and probably doubled their takings for the day with an order of two bowls of chips and two teas. We had an interesting chat with the waitress about the state of the island generally. She said things weren't good - industry was declining - and laid a fair portion of blame at the feet of the ferry companies who, she believed, held locals to ransom who had to commute to find work and kept tourists away with high fares. I couldn’t possibly comment but I do know there has been talk over the years of building a bridge across. Of course that wouldn’t be to everyone's benefit….

Heading back, we stopped on the way at Arreton Barns Craft village. You can see local craftsmen in action and the farm shop was packed with goodies. There is a delightful walk through that ancient village taking in the pond and the 12th century church. Below you will see me pictured with a big er, organ.... (I've always wanted to use that one)

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We somehow resisted the lure of the pub and headed back to the site and the welcoming warmth of Patsy.

The evening saw us emerge again, to check out the two watering holes in East Cowes that we had spotted and were within walking distance. Neither were busy, but the atmosphere in both The Ship & Castle and White Hart Inn was warm and friendly.

So, there endeth Part 3. Look out for the final part where we head west and reveal what we're up to next.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Isle of Wight - Part 2

With four clear days at our disposal it seemed sensible to carve the Isle of Wight up into 4 chunks, so on the Tuesday we fired up Rosie and headed south to Newport, sort of in the middle and where all the main roads around the island converge. I remember from our day trips a few years back that if you were ever going to get caught up in traffic it was here - and so we did although not for long - and after missing turnings for the main car parks we eventually found one on a side street, fed the meter for a couple of hours worth and marched off in to town.WP_20150210_002

The first building of note - at least what came to our attention anyway - was an old church converted into a pub. What a good idea, and the name of the pub chain will come as no surprise. Presumably they've bought up all the cinemas they can and are now moving on to houses of worship. The urge to go in and conduct a little research was pretty powerful, but, well it was early and we resisted. Just.

Whilst hardly bustling, there was plenty of people around, although clearly the tills hadn't been ringing enough for some as there were a number of empty units about. A sign that times were, and are still tough for some. The usual tax dodging, sorry, tax ‘efficient’ chain stores were in evidence though.

The next port of call was Sandown, perhaps the Isle of Wight’s most famous holiday resort. Again, we’d been here a few times on day trips - either with friends or HRH (Trev’s Mum, not a real one) and enjoyed a game or two of ten pin bowling in the seafront arcade. The arcade was all boarded up - not for the winter, but for good it seemed. Hoardings promised a flash new housing development but nevertheless it was sad to see.

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This is one of the risks of visiting seaside resorts out of season. They can look cold, deserted and neglected, particularly under a leaden sky. Add people and sunshine and the area can look so much different.

Some warming relief came in the form of tea and a teacake at a lovely little cafe in the high street which at least was doing a decent trade - albeit exclusively to the grey army. With spirits and caffeine levels raised we headed back to the car and onwards, but not before tracking down the B & B we stayed at a few years back with friends Tony & Jane. We had a cracking weekend - bright sunshine on the Saturday and snow on the Sunday - and in-between got accused of stealing cutlery - but more of that later. Anyway, the B & B was still there, but the once large garden had been separated off and a housing development now occupied the corner.

Having taken a rather circuitous route via Brading we eventually found ourselves on the coast at Bembridge, the easternmost point of the Isle of Wight. We paused for photos, grabbing some snaps of some birds on the beach. Yeah, I know, there’s a first time for everything. A cracking spot in the summer to watch the world go by, the cold damp wind seemed particularly biting here. We contemplated a coastal walk. Briefly. Very briefly.

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Having retreated to the warmth of Rosie we continued around the coast, pausing at  Bembridge harbour and then Seaview for photos’ Both pretty places in their own right that a splash of sunshine would really do wonders for.

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Our final  stop of the day was at Ryde, the Isle of Wight's biggest town. A hovercraft was just powering up and I was able to just catch it leaving thanks to a rather too energetic scamper up and across the railway bridge as the it left for Portsmouth. Ferries ply their trade at Rye too but the water is so shallow that old London Underground trains transports passenger's to and from the town via a pier.

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There was still the main town to see but we decided to call it a day and head back to the warmth of Patsy and defrost.

Not for long though as grub & grog o’clock was approaching. That evening saw us on the water again as we traversed the river Medina on the chain link ferry across to Cowes. Having rather lazily drove down, we did at least park up and go across as foot passengers. Ok, car’s had to pay and on foot it was free but that had absolutely nothing to do with it. I hadn’t done the slightest bit of research on potential er, research venues so it seemed hours before we came across the welcoming lights of the Duke of York although in reality it was about 10 minutes. Well, the food was good - homemade fishcakes for me - and I got what was to be my only taste of Isle of Wight beer too. Check out the beer on my grog blog a.k.a the Ale Archive here  and the food on my new pub grub blog here. A nice friendly pub and we stopped for another pint and a chat then headed back to the ferry through almost deserted streets. It was very quiet.

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So, that’s it for Part 2. Stand by for part 3 where we head further south and the story behind ‘Spoongate’ is revealed. Until then….

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Wickwar Brewing Co. - Cotswold Way

WP_20150215_001What they say: A rich, amber, smooth, well balanced beer with a terrific hoppy finish.

The latest to guest in our local watering hole was this offering. I’ve not come across this brewery before but it was a very tasty pint and I didn’t find it too hoppy either.

Would I swap it for the regular and excellent Harveys though? No, not quite but it’s certainly worth a go. 4.2% A.B.V.

The Rottingdean Club, East Sussex, February 2015.

As usual, click on the pump clip pic to go to the brewery’s web site.

Goddards - Fuggle Dee Dum

WP_20150210_030What they say: A chestnut, tawny red Premium Ale. Brewed with Roasted Malts and English Fuggles Hops, to give a smoky, spicy hoppiness on the nose, leading to a molasses, nutty palate with a light fruity hop dryness.

Sadly, the only new ale that I got to try on the Isle of Wight, but it was at least enjoyable, although pretty potent at 4.8% A.B.V. Not one to slosh back all night - unless you like paracetamol!

The Duke of York, Cowes, February 2015

Click on the pump clip pic to go to the brewery’s web site.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Isle of Wight - Part 1

Yep, another half term holiday and another getaway for the Blogger in Black and his Portly Partner, A.K.A: me and Trev. Sorry, Trevor & I. Can't have queens not speaking queens English now can we....

Patsy’s journey started on Saturday, not from the storage unit but a few miles east at the dealers where she had been in for a service, to maintain the warranty. Yeah, ouch. Still, it means her Ladyship is covered for another year against anything major and they were certainly thorough. More thorough than when they handed her over last year and ‘missed’ a delaminating floor. Anyway, enough of that, lets get on with the trip.

Followers on social media will have noticed that we didn't go straight over to the Isle of Wight - there was a very good reason for that. Money

In the past when we’ve been over for the day or a weekend - long before Patsy’s time - I’ve booked through Wightlink on the Portsmouth to Fishbourne route, mainly because it’s closer for us. However, dear old Wightlink (literally) wanted nigh on two hundred quid to transport us, Patsy and Rosie over on the Saturday and return a week later. That’s nearly as much as we paid to go to Ireland last summer. And back.

I was moaning about this on Twitter and a friend popped up and said have a look at Red Funnel - which we did. Five nights on a caravan site and a return ferry crossing for one hundred and fifty-six quid. Add in a couple of nights on a site near Southampton and it still came to less than two hundred. To use an already overused phrase, it really was a no brainer.20150208_094149

So, a little before midday on Saturday we arrived at Dibles Park in Warsash, roughly half way between Portsmouth and Southampton, where we met up with Adam & Jamie who were breaking a journey home to Kent from Devon and were the same friends that recommended Red Funnel.

We went off to set up Patsy and everything went smoothly apart from a very stubborn air lock in the bathroom tap pipes. I used up the equivalent of Manchester's annual rainfall in water, empty and refilling the system and improved it slightly but the lure of the pub - for research purposes only you understand - was too great, and off we went.

WP_20150207_002In the evening we met up with the lads again for grog and grub - and a good chin wag too. Greene King, once a little local Suffolk Brewer appeared to be making it’s presence felt down on the south coast and there was no new beers for me to try sadly. Nevertheless it was a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday saw the lads head home home - and us down to the marina at Warsash to check out the views over the Hamble River, before doing a reccy of the route we would be taking with Patsy on Monday.

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A rather aimless drive back saw us in the pretty little village of Hamble-le-Rice, which also sits on the Hamble River. Now there’s a thing.

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As we looked out we realised that we were just along and opposite from Warsash Marina where we’d been earlier. A ferry service offered transportation across the river in bright pink boats, although not at this time of the year it seemed.

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A quite night in - unless you count the pint and sandwich deal in the third of the local pubs that is - brought the weekend to a close.IMAG0082

Our ferry across the Solent was at 1030 Monday morning and we left plenty of time for the journey, which was just as well as we joined glum faced commuters clogging up the suburbs on the way in to Southampton. Sitting in the traffic gave us time to reflect on what a lovely site Dibles Park was. A great location, easy to find, immaculately clean facilities and without doubt some of the best showers we've ever come across on site.

The port - and appropriate gate - was easy to find and I even got a personal welcome at the check in office. It took me by surprise at the time but soon worked out that they already had my car reg and would have seen us coming - particularly considering that we were to be the only caravan. A nice touch though.

WP_20150209_001Boarding was straightforward, Patsy being downstairs on the lorry deck of course, and we pulled away bang on time. The cheerful gits at the Met Office had predicted a gloomy, overcast but thankfully dry day, so visibility was pretty poor as the ferry eased out into Southampton water and on to the Solent. We spotted the Hoegh Osaka in dock - the ugly grey car carrier that ran aground on the Bramble bank a few weeks prior - but there were no cruise ships about. Having sampled the (very) fresh air on deck for a few minutes we went inside and had a late breakfast. And very nice it was too.

An hour later the ferry eased in to East Cowes,  and as we disembarked there was the merest hint in the sky of some sun to come later on.DSC001 (19)

The journey to the site was short. Very. If I tell you that we disembarked the ferry at 1135 and by 1140 we were checking in you you will see what I mean. The site itself - Waverley Park sits on a hill looking partially across to Cowes and out into the Solent. There are statics for rent and what look like a few residential park homes to. Touring caravans are accommodated on stepped terraces.

DSC001 (21)Check in was swift but friendly and we were allocated our pitch. We were at the front of one of the terraces and the motor mover came in handy to ensure we were facing out the Solent. Another surprise was the provision of both water and waste hook up. It shouldn't have been - it was on the website, I just wasn't paying attention as usual, but either way it was a very welcome addition.

The pitch - hard standing was pretty level so setting up was swift and it wasn't long before we able to enjoy the view to the full as the first of a number of monstrous container ships hove into view as it exited Southampton water and made its way in to the English channel.  Visibility wasn't that great as you can see but impressive nonetheless.

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The giant sweep that they perform - presumably for depth clearance - ensures you get a great view from the site. and they make the Island ferries look very small indeed. Even the sun made an effort later on, and although as it turns out that was to be first and last we saw of it!

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So, that’s part 1. Look out for part 2 coming soon, when we get out and about - and go on another ‘cruise’!