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, 28 July 2016

Summertime in Seven Counties Part 4 – Bedfordshire & Twittercamp

Saturday morning saw us leave Cirencester and head east towards Bedfordshire and Henlow Bridge Lakes for the 7th Twittercamp. Again, the journey was straightforward and under much warmer conditions our tug Rosie achieved just shy of 31 mpg on the 151 mile route.

We’d asked – and the site had agreed – that we could arrive a little earlier and there was still a tent on our pitch as we pulled in. No matter. The sun was out and Twittercamp regulars Sam & Andy and Neil and Dave were already on site and we had a cuppa and chatted whilst the incumbents of our pitch got cleared up. The site was already busy and more kept piling in including a load of TVR enthusiasts who were pitching up in their tents on the field behind us.

There was to be one more arrival on Saturday – David C. Although Twittercamp didn't officially start until Sunday, with seven of us already on site there was a quick foray to the nearest supermarket and the bbq was fired up. Allison & Amanda – though not booked on until later in the week did not live too far away and joined us for the cremation

Behind us the TVR gang were lively but otherwise well behaved until one of ‘em decided it would be a good idea to rev the engine of his car to the limiter. It was loud, very loud, but somehow they heard two of Twittercamp’s more er, vocal members telling him to turn it in. Or words to that effect. There were clearly no hard feelings as they asked for one of us to take a group photo of them later on. And only one of ‘em dropped their pants and paraded his backside.

Sunday brought with it another scorcher – and the arrival of another regular – Alison from Kent and newcomers Mick and Pam from Doncaster. They weren’t early enough for the morning gathering and devouring of bacon DSC_0288rolls but most certainly were for afternoon tea and cakes. In-between which, whilst others went on a ‘research’ expedition, we put up the gazebo brought by Alison. During the day the site had also emptied out quite considerably and we now almost had the paddock to ourselves.

Iain & Zoe with their youngest Lulu – previous Twittercampers – joined us for the afternoon and evening. It was so nice to be able to sit outside well into the evening although several of the posse were already suffering the attentions of clearly ravenous flying insects.

Monday and it was time to ring the changes – sausage baps instead of bacon - for the morning get together. In the afternoon we had our first competition of the week – a game of Smite - where you have to amass a score by knocking over wooden blocks. Neil & Dave were eventual winners pocketing a voucher from regular Twittercamp supporter Venture Caravans. The kid’s slide in the centre of the paddock was too good an opportunity to miss for some photos.

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Tuesday, and a break from dead pig as we went all continental and devoured croissants courtesy of Neil & Dave before heading for a day – well a couple of hours – at Wimpole Hall and Gardens. Well worth a visit, but on what was one of the hottest days of the year, the house got a lot more attention than the gardens. Another visit when we are back in the area and it is cooler, is on the list.

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In the evening we had a rest from cremated burgers and instead scorched a load of sausages for Hot Dog night.

It was Alison’s Birthday on Wednesday so in the morning we celebrated with er, bacon baps before we said goodbye to David C. The rest of the day was ‘free’ with the gang gathering again for a meal at a pub. Yes, food again. We get through a fair bit of it at Twittercamp!

There was a slight respite from the recent hot weather on Thursday. In the morning I called upon Alison’s professional skills to give my greying locks a trim. Soon after lunch we welcomed David B. with a surprise in tow. Literally. Gone was his famous tweeting caravan Elvis The Elddis to be replaced by a younger larger model that he’d picked up just that morning on the way down from Yorkshire.

Afternoon tea – although there wasn’t much tea drunk – gave us the excuse to scoff more cake made or bought by various Twittercampers before the second competition of the week – the darts match. I was looking forward to this one and as it transpired with good reason as I walked away with a voucher by Twittercamp supporter Cover 4 Caravans.

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Thursday night – just – saw the arrival of Allison & Amanda this time complete with caravan. Plans for a more sensible arrival time had been thrown into disarray by others but everyone was keen to help although I suspect the extensive erm, research of the previous few hours probably meant we were more a hindrance then help!

Friday brought with it the arrival of my cousin Andy & wife Janet and Grandson Braydon and also Alison and David B’s belated birthday party. A second game of Smite followed afternoon ‘tea’ and Sam & Andy pocketed  a voucher - again from Venture Caravans.

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For once the bbq’s remained cold as a cold buffet was the order of the day. The weeks attendance also peaked at 15. Sam & Andy had put together a quiz which was one by Alison & David B. taking away between them a voucher for the lovely Doe Park caravan site up in Teesdale. Allison & Amanda came second pocketing a sight night voucher for the Camping & Caravan Club donated by David B.

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More fun and games followed thanks to Sam & Andy as you will see…

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Saturday and another hot one. Croissants & pastries  ensured the bacon stayed in the fridge for breakfast before we said goodbye to Sam & Andy. They had tried to extend their stay but was told there was no space, although their pitch remained empty until Sunday. DSC_0029

Previously Pam had been telling Alison how good she used to be with a hula hoop back in the day. Alison responded by presenting her with one as a memento of their first Twittercamp.

DSC_0014Saturday night was pie night. Each brought a different pie to the table and even tablecloths came out. Iain and Zoe joined us again and as the light faded we gathered – and choked – around a fire basket. Another surprise from Alison’s TARDIS like front locker…

Sunday, and it was time to say good bye again – this time to Neil & Dave and Mick & Pam, but not before a breakfast gathering and bacon rolls to set them on their way.DSC_0002

In the evening the remaining nine gathered for a roast dinner. The sponsorship money from Cover 4 Caravans paid for the joint which we left to the mercy of our slow cooker. The others prepared the roasties and veg and all went down very well, although the absence of Yorkshire puds – down to an oversight by the procurement department – that’ll be us then – did not go unnoticed! The final prize – 4nights at the lovely Warcombe Farm camp site in North Devon – first stop on our travels went to Allison & Amanda for best dressed caravan whose plethora of lights looked really lovely.

DSC_0009With the departure of Allison & Amanda first thing, then later David B followed by Alison, the seventh Twittercamp was over. It had been fun, but the sudden heat had made it tiring too. It was great to welcome Twittercamp ‘virgins’ Mick & Pam and I hope we see them at another meet in the future.

Monday afternoon was family time as myself, Trevor and Jan watched my cousin Andy and grandson Braydon fish. Fairly regular bites ensured and naps in the afternoon sun were short lived and Braydon was delighted to triumph, landing more fish than Andy.

In the evening the remaining five of us gathered around their BBQ for our last night for heading off in the morning.

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The site – Henlow Bridge Lakes was great in most respects. Geared for families , both weekends it was extremely busy and there were sadly not enough facilities to cope. As caravanners though we had the option of using our on board gear – and that’s what we did whilst it was busy.

During the week the site was peaceful and a very pleasant place to stay. As the names suggests, there are lakes for the fishermen and lodges can be rented for those that don't camp.

It’s now time for the all important thank you’s. Firstly to everyone that came – just by doing so you played your part but everyone contributed so much more in one way or another. So, in no particular order: David C. Sam, Andy S, David B, Alison. Neil, Dave, Janet, Andy B, Braydon, Allison, Amanda, Pam and Mick. My other half Trev for organising and pestering our sponsors into coughing up. Talking of which…..

Thanks to Venture Caravans, Cover 4 Caravans, Doe Park and Warcombe Farm for once again supporting us with their prizes, and a special extra thank you to Cover 4 Caravans whose sponsorship enabled us to put on all the bbqs and breakfasts for free. It was very much appreciated.

Check out this slideshow on You Tube and for more photos check out Facebook

Right, that’s three counties down. Up next is Cambridgeshire, then to Essex and Colchester where I meet up with my cousin again for his eldest daughter’s wedding. Stand by for the next blog. At some point…..

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Summertime (?) in Seven Counties Part 3 – Gloucester

After North Devon and the lovely Warcombe Farm our next stop was the Caravan Club site in Cirencester, chosen as a rough half-way point on or way to Bedfordshire for the upcoming TwitterCamp.

It was a straightforward – and largely boring trundle along two of Britain's finest – the M5 then M4. But when you’ve got a tonne and a half of caravan on your rear boring is good. Very good. 151 miles and a little over three hours later we were pulling in to the site, with Rosie returning over 29 mpg, due no doubt to the route being unencumbered by many roundabouts.

Cirencester is a large site with both grass and hardstanding and given the unpredictability of the weather we opted for the latter, choosing one just opposite the facilities block. It was only a short stop so convenience was more important than location. In the afternoon we welcomed fellow caravanner and blogger Dan and his wife Angela for a cuppa and chin wag. We’d conversed on line for sometime but it was good to finally meet ‘in the flesh’ as it were.

The one and only excursion of the day was that evening for some er, research which was very productive.

Thursday morning saw us in Cirencester. It’s walkable from the caravan site but also driveable so we did just that. The first car park was full but we happened upon a free space in a side street.

There was a considerable amount of work going on, not least in the central thoroughfare and some of the roads were closed to traffic nut nevertheless it was a pleasant place to stroll around and commit a few sights to memory, both cerebral and digital. It had a more functional look and feel than some Cotswold towns we have visited in the past but no less pretty.

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13686695_10209255941532218_997183087519547009_nLunchtime Dan returned, this time with son Tom, their gorgeous Labrador Chops and complete with camera gear. Let me explain - we were going to make a film. No not that sort, but a film of me doing some work on Patsy. Dan is a keen videographer and has13690676_10209255914331538_3691901901787031816_n produced some excellent videos on caravanning and related subjects. As well as being sleek and well produced they are full of useful information. Check out his You Tube channel here and blog here.

Filming commenced later than planned, thanks mainly to the Caravan Club buying what must be the noisiest ride on mowers on the market. Eventually the din ceased and we were able to get started.

The improvement in question was an inside switch for the outside socket on the ‘van. I’d already completed the wiring prior but the hole needed cutting for the switch inside. I have to confess to being a bit nervous in front of the camera but Dan was clearly used to it. The job itself took far longer than it should have done, thanks to me being over cautious on the size of the hole needed and generally cack handed. The 13716150_10209255915691572_2242995524621608886_nfinished video is a masterpiece in editing making me look vaguely competent – Dan did well to edit out all the swearing and 13718794_10209255976813100_3379657367727312607_ninnuendos and come up with a piece more than thirty seconds long! You can see the finished video here. It was good fun, but having seen – and heard – myself on screen it’s not something I am going to make a habit of. I much prefer to be behind the camera than in front!

The day finished with a BBQ and a few beers – or wines in our case. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and thanks to Dan and Tom for all their help.

Friday morning was wet so I got caught up on the blog whilst Trev done a bit of house – well, ‘van work. Late afternoon as the skies cleared we tried out a new toy – a dash cam. We want to do more site arrival and journey video’s generally so decided it was time to buy some proper kit rather than faffing about with a phone.

A final mooch around the town brought us – perhaps not surprisingly – in a pub. The Twelve Bells brewed their own beer in a shed in the bottom of the garden so was truly local. The grub was good too.

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And that was our last day in Cirencester. It provided a good stop off point from North Devon and is worth exploring in it’s own right. Time was against us but I hope we will be back one day to explore further.

Right, next up is Henlow and our third county – Bedfordshire - for the 7th Twittercamp. Look our for a blog and photos soon – ish.

Don’t forget to look out for updates on Twitter and Facebook.

You can email me at:thebloggerinblack@gmail.com

Friday, 15 July 2016

Summertime (?) in Seven Counties Part 2 – A bit more Devon

Rain has brought a halt to proceedings here at our current site in Cirencester so I thought I should get you up to date with the remainder of our time in Devon.

Having visited before, we had never planned a full week of sightseeing, in fact the hope was, to laze around during the day – in the sun – and have a drive out in the evenings. Well, we did do a fair bit of lazing around but in the ‘van rather than out as there was more chance of frostbite than sunburn. I ploughed through the latest from Ian Rankin while Trev punctuated dozes with a few pages of a John Grisham.

A rare sunny if windy late afternoon saw us in Woolacombe for a bite to eat and wander around. Sadly, the beer was too warm and flat and the burgers – whilst never going to be a healthy option – could really have done with a ‘statin chaser. A visiting Aussie singer & musician provided entertained the crowd in the courtyard.

Woolacombe is a well deserving of a few lens clicks so I duly obliged. It’s a lovely location and the beach is wonderful:

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On the Monday night site managers Judith & Mike joined us for a bbq. The little Cadac and flat bed was crammed full or burgers, bangers, chicken breasts and gammon steaks but there was enough to go around and by some miracle all seemed adequately cooked rather than raw or cremated. We sat outside, the grog taking the edge off the fresh wind blowing in from the sea. It was a great evening.

And aside from a couple of quick excursions for bits and bobs, that was the end of our stay in North Devon. We had a lovely time and feel at least partially, recharged. There are lots of choices if you're heading this way, but please do give Warcombe Farm a look. It is a family site but prevailing ambience is  tranquil yet homely. There are a variety of different pitches ranging from grass with no electric, lake view, hard standings, fully serviced, secluded and sea views.

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Family and ensuite facilities are available as well as the more usual separate arrangements and all are kept immaculate.

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TV wise, we picked up both South West & Wales even when pointing the caravan aerial in different directions – and that was without an amplifier – as ours is broke. Mobile wise Vodafone was fine, but Three was a bit weak and no good for sharing as a WiFi Hotspot. Site Wi-Fi was available and if I recall, it was £15.00 for a week for up to two devices, but it’s worth remembering that this is a rural location, so you aren't going to get the sort of speeds you may be used to at home. We used a recently purchased 4G mobile Wi-Fi adaptor with an EE SIM. It was quick and reliable picking up 4G most of the time.

So, that’s that for Devon. We both would like to say a big thank you to Judith, Mike and all at Warcombe Farm for a great stay. It was, once again, very enjoyable.

Right, One down, Six to go. Up next is Gloucestershire, to be represented by Cirencester Caravan Club Site for a short stop.  I Look out for a blog soon.

 

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