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.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

TwitterCampUK – 2016

There are now TWO meets planned for 2016!

The first is a weekend at the Caravan Club site in Cherry Hinton, Cambridge from Friday 18th to Tuesday 22nd March. A quiz, informal tour around the City and punt ride on the River Cam along the wonderful Backs are all planned. Click HERE for site details. Book direct with the site. Pitches are chosen on arrival.

Our main summer meet is at Henlow Bridge Lakes in Bedfordshire, from Sunday 17th July to Tuesday 26th July. We have been allocated a rally field with water and electric hook ups, along with the use of the usual facilities. The site puts on entertainment on Saturday nights during the school holidays. There will also be quizes, and more, to be announced soon. You don’t have to stay for the whole 9 nights – a few days during the week, a long weeknd, or the whole lot. It’s up to you.

To book, call the site direct 01462 812645. Please quote ID 10461 to ensure we are all sited together. The rate is £23/night inclusive of electric hookup and the usual facilities.

If you book either or both please let me know – you can tweet or DM me @legsdown or email legsdown@outlook.com 

You can join our Facebook group too HERE

Look forward to seeing you in 2016!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A new addition – Lace-up leather jeans

wp_20160102_21_59_11_pro Was in Canterbury yesterday and stumbled across Leather Fashions in Palace St. Loads and loads to choose from – even a selection of long leather coats, but it was the jeans that caught my eye. They are OSX branded – my regular leather jeans are OSX and since I bought them in Brighton nearly six years ago I’ve been very happy with them. These look to be just as good although they do need turning up, which ain’t easy in a caravan, so I’ll do it when I get home, and plenty of pictures will follow!

Earl Soham – Victoria Bitter (mini-cask)

WP_20151223_09_49_31_ProWhat they say? Well nothing. As I’ve mentioned before, this great  brewery from Suffolk don’t muck about with flashy websites. They just brew beer. Have tried the cask version – and loving it, the mini-cask didn’t disappoint either. Very easy to set up too. A very fine pint indeed. 3.6% A.B.V.

Gadds – Little Cracker

IMAG0356What they say: “Our yule special is crafted with crystalised rye malt for a bright red berry flavour and well bittered with a melange of the spicier Kent hops to lend a distinctively festive character to this unique ale”

Well, I certainly got the bitter but didn’t pick up very much of the red berry flavour. It didn’t taste as ‘Christmasy’ as I expected, but a perfectly drinkable pint. 5.0% A.B.V.

The Red Lion, Ramsgate, Kent. December 2015

Gadds – No.5 Best Bitter

IMAG0357What they say: “The aroma is toffee malt and fresh green hops with a full body and lingering bitter finish”

I was so pleased to come across this on or first ‘research’ expedition whilst staying in Ramsgate. I’d already tried the bottled version back in March and that was lovely – read my entry HERE. I wasnt disappaointed in the cask version either, it was as I remembered it – very tasty indeed. At 4.5% A.B.V it was full of flavour but not one to be taken too lightly.

Sir Stanley Gray, Ramsgate, Kent. December 2015

Monday, 28 December 2015

Winter Wanderings Part 3 - Kent

Well, here we go again, after a little bit of a Christmas break, the blog continues as we have moved from Cambridge and the immaculate Caravan Club Cherry Hinton site and are now sited in Ramsgate, Kent for the last stop of our trip. In fact I’ll say that again, because it’s worth mentioning. The site was immaculate and the facilities were always gleaming. Moreover, Alan & Julia are two of the friendliest and helkpful wardens we have ever met. The site is a credit to them. Well done.hilda01

So, how was your Christmas? Ate too much, drank too much? Yeah, me too, but I don’t need Christmas to do that. We went out for lunch – myself, Trev and his Mum, the much mentioned HRH. Not cheap, for what was essentially a carvery but I don’t have a problem with that. I wouldn’t want to work on Christmas Day, and really appreciate people that do. My only hope is that they were suitably rewarded and were there by choice. So, the food was good, not great, but the service was fantastic, they really made us feel welcome and the pub had a great atmosphere. Trev’s Mum was erm, entertaining. In her own way…

Our time in Cambridge flew by as it always does. I did get to see a couple of friends of my Mum’s that I hadn’t seen for years, but sadly missed out on others. There were a couple of research expeditions obviously – with two pubs within walking distance of the site. Given the dominance of Greedy, sorry Greene King around here there was nothing new to try. Sorry, I have no personal experience of that but I heared a Landlady use it!

Anyway, enough of the space filling pre-amble - lets get down to business.

It was Sunday that we moved from Cherry Hinton. It was – as predicted by the prophets of doom at the Met Office – wet, but having watched the dreadful flooding in parts of the north I aint ever going to moan about a bit of rain again. Until the next time anyway.

The journey was, mostly on the motorway and trouble free. We’d expected to get held up on the M25 passing the Lakeside Shopping Centre exit as we have done so many times in the past, but even that was quiet. We arrived on site just a little before the hallowed midday arrival time, but were met by a very friendly chap who showed us around and to our pitch.

The site is Nethercourt Touring Park on the outskirts of Ramsgate and set in part of the gardens of the old Nethercourt House, a manor house now replaced by a housing estate. All the usual facilities are offered and there are very few of us on site.  Bus stops are almost right outside the entrance to the site.

The site owner was very helpful with the locations of local research facilities and we headed out late afternoon in much need of refreshment and refuelling. One of two pubs overlooking nearby Pegwell Bay obliged for the food as well as getting a chance to sample an ale from local Ramsgate brewery Gadds. I’d had their Number 5 Best Bitter in a bottle on an overnight visit to Margate earlier in the year, and the cask version proved to be every bit as tasty.

After the gloomy grey overcast skies of the last few days, it was great to see the sun when we eventually opened the blinds of the caravan on Monday morning. The coast had to be the destination on such a lovely day so we headed first to dear old Margate and our first stop just had to be Dreamland.

Dreamland is, basically an amusement park. Although rides had been on the site since 1888, it opened as Dreamland in 1920 and was very popular with day trippers and holiday makers visiting Margate. Ownership changed a couple of times in the early eighties with several rides being moved or sold off and after years of decline it closed in 2005. All rides were removed from the site with the exception of the original wooden Scenic Railway which had been awarded listed status.

A significant part of the scenic railway was destroyed by arson in 2008 but it’s listed status was upgraded soon after.

To cut a long story a little bit shorter, there were many that saw a future for Dreamland and a campaign group to save Dreamland was formed. With considerable funding from the lottery, local and central government and private investment, and an awful lot of hard work, the park reopened in June 2015, although the centrepiece – the Scenic Railway would not run again until October. It must have been a fantastic day for all those involved when the gates finally reopened again on that June day. This is not a park for thrill seekers – they’ll find the scenic railway pretty pedestrian compared to modern rides, but that’s not what Dreamland is about.

A great story, but what has that got to do with me? Well, I used to go there as a kid – our annual holiday was in neighbouring Cliftonville – and once during the week we had an evening in Dreamland. It holds many, many happy memories for me and having followed it’s progress on social media over the years it was fantastic to be back there. I must confess to filling up a little - yes, there is a bit of a softie under all that black leather cladding.

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After the meander around Dreamland it was time for Margate, or more accurately the Old Town. As I mentioned, we used to holiday here – virtually every year – up until I was about 16 I think. I never came back then until 2009 when we stopped overnight in the lovely Walpole Bay Hotel along in Cliftonville – you can read my blog about it HERE. It’s fair to say neither Margate or Cliftonville were in the best of health, and given that my only memories were childhood happy ones it was extremely sad to see that the area had gone downhill so much.

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Thankfully, it appears that a corner has been turned. Yes, it still has it’s problems but the Turner Contemporary gallery, together with Dreamland appear to be making a difference. The Old Town looked fresh, with plenty of niche independent shops sporting freshly painted shop fronts. The was a whole different atmosphere now to when we were here in 2009.

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Our trundle alonng the coast took us through Cliftonville then inland a bit to Broadstairs. Patronised regularly by old Charles Dickens, it’s a seaside resort that appears to have retained it’s popularity when others – such as Margate – have seen such a decline. It certainly looked in good nick today with the sun out and plenty of people were taking advantage of the brighter weather.

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Our last port of call was Ramsgate – just a mile or so from our site. We mooched around the shops for a while but agreed, over a much needed pint – that we would return later in the week for a proper look – particularly around the harbour area.

Right that’s it for now. Check back soon for more from the Kent coast, a visit to Canterbury and more!

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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Earl Soham – Brandeston Gold

WP_20151223_20_07_54_ProWhat they say? There’s not much on the brewery website at all – but then this is a small local brewery who clearly concentrate their efforts on brewing. www.guestales.co.uk say this though: “A burnished gold coloured beer, full-bodied with a warming fruity aroma and a deep resinous malt flavour. Uses barley grown for the brewery at Brandeston.”

I’m not a particular fan of golden ales as regulars will know, but I liked this one. I didn’t find it too citrusy or flowery like some golds. Another great find from our time in Suffolk. 4.5% A.B.V

The brewery shop, Debenham, Suffolk. December 2015.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Cliff Quay – Bitter

WP_20151218_21_12_26_ProWhat they say: “Brewed with pale, crystal and black malts, this is an amber coloured classic bitter beer. It has a glorious fragrant honey sweet aroma with hints of citrus fruits. Deep malty depths of flavour and hints of marmalade and toffee balanced with a refreshing bitterness combine to produce a satisfying drinkable beer.“

Originally brewed on the site of the old Tolly Cobbold brewery in Ipswich by this relatively young (2009) Brewery – but don’t let that put you off. It’s taste belied it’s strength and this was a very drinkable beer indeed. And at just 3.4% A.B.V it’s not going to have you reaching for the paracetamol too often.

Earl Soham brewery shop, Debenham, Suffolk. December 2015

Earl Soham – Sir Roger’s Porter

IMAG0252What they say? Again nothing on the brewery’s web site, but www.perfectpint.co.uk quote this: “Black, full bodied and can be sweet. Brewed using pale malt, crystal malt, chocolate malt, and roasted barley, with mostly Fuggles hops and a few Goldings.”

Not my usual ale of choice but I do like a porter every so often and this one didn’t disappoint. Like it’s stablemate Victoria Bitter, sampled just around the corner from the brewery so it was in excellent condition. 4.2% A.B.V

The Woolpack, Debenham, Suffolk. December 2015

Earl Soham – Victoria Bitter

IMAG0249What they say? Well, not a lot on their website but the chaps as www.perfectpint.co.uk quote this: “ Light, hoppy and bitter. Brewed using a standard pale malt and crystal malt mix with Goldings and Fuggles hops.”

Well, I didn’t find it too hoppy, in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it, helped no doubt by the fact that it was brewed about half a mile up the road from where we were drinking it. A great beer from this local Suffolk Brewer and at 3.6% A.B.V not to strong either.

The Wooldpack, Debenham, Suffolk. December 2015

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Greene King – Suffolk Springer

WP_20151214_16_43_19_ProWhat they say? Well, I couldn’t find a single mention of it on Greene King’s website. However, this is the description on www.ratebeer.com “A 6% abv dark ale is created using a traditional brewing method of making two beers of different character and strength, which are then blended together. The beer takes its name from the racing term ’Springer’, a racehorse whose odds dramatically shorten before the race. “

Ok, that don’t tell you too much but what we have is a premium dark ale that went down quite well – perhaps too well for something approaching double the strength of a lot of beers. A nice winter warmer but I didn’t find it particularly outstanding. December 2015

Monday, 21 December 2015

Woodforde’s - Wherry

WP_20151215_13_38_41_ProWhat they say: “Fresh and zesty with crisp floral flavours. A background of sweet malt and a hoppy 'grapefruit' bitter finish characterises this champion bitter.”

Not sure about the grapefruit bit but nevertheless this is a lovely pint from the popular Norfolk brewery, sampled over the border in Suffolk on the first ‘research’ expedition of our winter getaway. I’m sure I’ve had it before but it must have been before the Ale Archive was born. Nothing fancy but a good drinkable session bitter. 3.8% A.B.V

The Highwayman, Suffolk. December 2015.

White Horse – Champion the Wonder Horse

WP_20151211_19_26_18_ProWhat they say: “A deep rich red beer with a dominant roasted character, and a smooth biscuit aftertaste on the palate.”

Another nice pint guesting at the same time as the Inn Keeper from Long Man at our local. On balance that was still my favourite and this didn’t quite pass the Harveys Sussex Best test but it was a nice pint all the same. 4.5% A.B.V. Our last pint in our local before we headed off on our travels for Christmas.

The Rottingdean Club, East Sussex. December 2015.

Long Man – Inn Keeper

WP_20151211_19_26_11_ProWhat they say: “A fruity winter ale with a deep red hue and delicious warming flavours from a blend of six speciality malts that combine with festive fruit aromas and balanced bitterness to finish.”

Oh yum. Yum yum yum. Yes, I loved this, and would happily drink this all the time. These winter warmer style ales can sometimes be excessively sweet and fruity. This wasn’t, it was just gorgeous. The latest to guest at our local, it passed the Harvey Sussex Best test – yes I would swap to this. Another local brewery too, so even better.

The Rottingdean Club, Sussex. December 2015

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Winter Wanderings Part 2 – More Suffolk, and a bit of Essex

Tuesday morning (just) saw us in Stowmarket, a little to the west. We had actually been here before – on the Sunday night when we’d stumbled across the local Wetherspoons in search of some grog and grub. Some independent shops mingled with the more predominant chains and it seemed to be reasonably busy. Pleasant but not particularly inspiring was how I found it. There are a number of supermarkets surrounding it and again, the local council seem to be doing their bit in one way at least by keeping parking charges reasonable. Very reasonable for anyone who’s been asked to stand and deliver by Brighton & Hove Council in exchange for a parking spot.

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Our next and last stop was at Needham Market and fairly brief as the weather deteriorated and WP_20151215_13_10_32_Prothe mist turned into rain. Mostly independent shops cluster along the main road which was at one time the route of the old A45 – now the A14. Can you imagine the traffic now! Continuing the famous former residents theme, Needham Market can boast June Brown, much better known as Dot Cotton in Eastenders, who was born there.

Tuesday evening Elizabeth & David invited over to the farmhouse for a drink and we had a very pleasant evening chinwagging whilst getting to sample some local brew too.

Wednesday saw us head over the border again – but south this time in to Essex and Southend. Not perhaps the obvious destination when staying in charmingly rural Suffolk, so let me explain. We were there to meet Richard Burgess, director at Cover 4 Caravans – as the name might suggest an insurance company favoured by Legs Down and many of our caravanning pals too. Well, meet we did, along with manager Michael and the reason for the meeting was to confirm Richards’s very kind offer to sponsor our Twittercamp meets for 2016. This will allow us to procure some merchandise as well as put on BBQ’s, transport to attractions and the like. Thank you once again Richard for your support, it was nice to finally put a face to the name to you and Michael and we really appreciate what you are doing for us.

Thursday was a little brighter, weatherwise and we headed south again, back down the A14 to have a look around Ipswich. To be honest this was more shopping than sightseeing – I came away emptyhanded but Trev found a very nice jacket – not black sadly but there’s no accounting for taste! It was nice to see, in amongst the garish modern shop fronts, some of the orginal buildings still remained.

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Next (and last) up and further down the A14 and the impressive Orwell  Bridge was Felixstowe – probably best known for it’s large container port. We’d been here before – a couple of years ago but never venture beyond the town centre. This time we followed the signs to the port viewing area right at the southernmost tip on which is the old Landguard Fort. The fort was closed for the winter sadly, along with the accompanying museum and there were no shipping movements whilst we were there but it afforded great views of the harbour and we could see a monster of a container ship being unloaded. The area reminded me a little of the stark beauty of Dungeness

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We had a pootle along the seafront, looking remarkably good in the late afternoon December gloom, before stopping briefly in the town centre for some bits and bobs.

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Friday, and west was the direction in which Rosie, our muddy old tug, was pointed. First up was Framlingham, not so much for sightseeing but to say hello – and put another face to the name – of another fellow Twitterer – Reg from The Tug Co. Regulars may recall that we reviewed Reg’s great portable trailer dolly ‘The Tug’ a while back – and an updated version just a couple of months ago. Click or tap HERE for a link. Again, we had a good old chinwag and did hang around long enough to take a few photo’s too. Another charming and friendly little Suffolk towm that would look so much better without that essential modern eysore – the car. Hardly unique in that though hey?

Framlingham Castle was on the edge of town, but sadly closed – again unsurprising given the time of year.

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By lunchtime, we were on the coast again – back at dear old Southwold. Ok, the main reason for the visit was to buy some beer – Ale heads will know that the Adnams brewery is based here, but it’s always a pleasant place to visit. On the pier is an exhibition of some truly weird and wonderful machines – some completely bizarre – and they are well worth a look. A very civilized lunch fortified us before we headed to the brewery shop, picking up a couple of mini- casks of their excellent Southwold Bitter.

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Southwold, apart from being on the coast also sits on the northern side of the river Blyth. To the south is the little village of Walberswick which was almost our  last stop before heading back to base There is no vehicle crossing so it’s a fifteen minute drive or so around. Beach huts – many painted black – wahay! – sit behind the sand bank and a boardwalk stretches out to the beach.

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Last stop of the day was back in Debenham – at another brewery shop. Having sampled a couple of beers from The Earl Soham brewery on a nocturnal reserach expedition the night before we decided to pick up a mini-cask from them too…..

Saturday, saw us heading south, and across the border again, to Colchester to see my cousin 10373649_10207588389244453_7947364173231521357_nand his wife who had invited us over for a meal.  It’s so great that after years of hardly seeing one another  - apart from funerals - we now  - thanks to caravanning – have a shared interest and see each other regularly. Not only that but Andy’s wife Janet is a damn fine cook too – we had a great afternoon and evening, meeting for the first time in ages,  their girls Sarah amd Amanda and respective partners Derek and Tim.

Right, by the time you get this we will be in Cambridge – for the ‘family’ bit of the trip mostly but hopefully to catch up with a few friends too. We’re here for a week before hitching up again for the longer journey down to Kent for our final week.

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