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.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Quick Visit

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With no overtime this morning I decided to go over to the storage site and pay a quick visit to Patsy to ensure that she was ok after ‘Angus’ whipped through the south-east over the weekend. It would provide a good excuse for not doing some housework and I could tick a few more things off the list on the way – drop some unused wine glasses off at the nearby charity shop. Yes, believe it or not there was such a thing in our household. Rosie needed some sustenance too and the proximity of Sainsbury's to the storage site meant I could deplete my Nectar points in so doing. We don’t actively collect Nectar points when shopping but they do add up when you are required to replenish thirsty minibuses every few days or so and I can usually knock up around seventy-five quid's worth in a school year with very little effort.

Also on the agenda was changing Patsy’s pads. Not unusual when you're an old lady I know but in this case we’re talking about the friction pads that sit in the hitch head to minimise snaking. I’d scoured the net looking for the cheapest supplier which turned out to be the manufacturers themselves – Al-Ko. Delivery was a little pedestrian but that didn’t matter, not least because it was free and they’ve been sitting in the ‘Patsy Pile’ in the spare/dining/laundry/study room for at least a month.

Changing them was easy – I’ve done it before on Patsy 1 – but if you want to have a go yourself and are at all unsure then you might want to take a look at this video on You Tube from fellow caravanner and friend Dan Trudgian. In fact while you’re there check out some of his other videos too. There is some great advice, ideas and tips for both novices and more experienced campers alike and the videos are entertaining, informative and very well put together.

I won’t know for certain whether the pads were the source of the excruciating noise when turning until our next outing in just under three weeks. But comparing the old and new pads side by side, I think the old ones – on the left here - were pretty worn. I’ll let you know how we get on.

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That just left a little experiment to conduct. The subject of ‘QR’ or quick response codes had come up amongst fellow caravanning bloggers on social media. You may have seen them dotted around and they look a bit like this (though without the Legs Down logo!):

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For the uninitiated, you point your phone or tablet at one and it takes you to a website or other link – maybe a video or information about a particular product. And they can be printed virtually anywhere.

I had a idea to have one printed on to a vinyl and put on to the caravan – allowing passers by on site to easily access my blog. The question was though, how large would the code have to be so that said passers by wouldn’t have to encroach on to the pitch to scan it. Well, quite large by the looks of it. I printed out a code 15 x 15 cm and it was only readable up to around six feet away. This would probably do but I’m not sure we’d want something that big on the ‘van. Food for thought though.

Right, that’s it for now. Unless anything else crops up, the next blog will be from Hertfordshire and the Camping & Caravan Club site at Theobalds Park – the first stop in our ‘Festive Threesome’. So until then….

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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Honda CRV – Gear stick boot replacement

Yes, it’s non-stop Mardi Gras here. I doubt this will be of interest to many but if you DO have a CRV – and your gaiter is looking a little tatty – it may come in handy.WP_20161116_09_19_39_ProWP_20161116_09_02_35_Pro 

Firstly, the old boot. After eight years it’s starting to fall to bits.

And this is what the new one looks like straight out of the packet. Procured from eBay it cost less than seven quid and is leather – unlike the original.

A little bit of research – I.e. google – brought me to the CRV owners forum whose members have posted some excellent advice on the procedure to be followed. Without this I wouldn’t have known where to start but it’s quite straightforward – once you know.

First the aircon control panel that sits above the gearstick needs to be removed. A thin bladed screwdriver at either end unclips it. A further clip at the top and the unit is free bar the cabling. I unplugged that too so the unit wasn’t dangling in the way and putting stress on the rather delicate looking wires.

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The plastic panel holding the boot can then be unclipped by hand. Once free, I held the collar of the gear knob underneath and unscrewed the knob allowing the whole unit to come away.

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The legs of the boot are stapled to plastic lugs. A combination of a small screwdriver and long nosed pliers removed these.

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WP_20161116_09_38_11_ProTo ease fitting of the new boot the bright surround was unclipped – this made it easier to feed the legs of boot through. Once the legs were all through the surround was clipped back in place after ensuring the boot was level. The legs were the folded over the plastic lugs and stapled in WP_20161116_09_36_21_Proplace. I use a domestic stapler which worked fine and penetrated the plastic and leather easily, although the staples were only just long enough to fold over on the other side.

The boot is secured to the collar of the gear knob by a cable tie. I didn’t have one to hand and the old one wasn’t reusable so I used a length of wire tightened with pliers which should last until I get around to doing it properly.

The unit was then lowered over the gear stick, and the gear knob screwed back on whilst holding the collar underneath. Then it was just a matter of clipping that and the air con controls back into place. Job done in less than an hour, again thanks to the excellent advice on the CRV owners forum.

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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Oakham Ales – Bishops Farewell

WP_20161101_20_47_58_ProWhat they say: “A strong premium beer of structured quality dominated by elaborate fruity hop notes, with a grainy background and dry finish. “

Yeah, those pesky hops did dominate a little but it was quite refreshing. 5.0% A.B.V. November 2016

St Austell – Proper Black

WP_20161030_20_42_26_ProWhat they say: “Is there such a thing as a black IPA? There is now! Whichever way you look at it, Proper Black challenges the senses. Black as stout, but the taste is classic IPA. Powerful hops dominate the restrained chocolate and coffee notes. Whatever you thought you knew about beer, we’ve just challenged it.”

Loved this. Had a couple of black IPA’s in the past but this is my favourite, although at 6.0% A.B.V it’s not one too slosh back, particularly on a school night. November 2016.

Titanic – Iceberg

WP_20161028_18_01_41_ProWhat they say: “A combination of Maris Otter pale malt and fine wheat malt, give Untitledthis refreshing beer real zest. Add refreshing Yakima Galena and Cascade hops and what you get is a fantastic wheat beer that will hole any passing thirst.”

It was certainly refreshing although as regulars will know it’s not my favourite ale style. Tasty enough though and the last beer to be sampled on our half-term break in Warwickshire at www.somerswood.co.uk.  4.1% A.B.V

The Rose Villa Tavern, Birmingham. October 2016

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Warwickshire Wanderings - Part 4 and the End!

After the visit to the excellent Coventry Transport Museum at the weekend, the motoring theme continued on Wednesday with a trundle back down the M40 to Gaydon and the British Motor Museum, close by to one of Jaguar Land Rovers’ sites.

Originally opened in 1993 the museum building also houses a conference centre and there were quite a few suits milling about when we were there. Car parking looked plentiful – and was free – although it didn't seem particularly busy given it was half-term.

The collection comprises over 300 cars and there are some great examples of the British car industry's finest – and not so finest – achievements.

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The collections centre in a separate building opened in November 2015 allows the public to see the reserve cars – those that they do not have space for in the museum, and the workshop where the cars are restored. There were some great finds here too – the last ever traditional – some say proper – Mini to be made and the last ever car to bear the Morris name – The Marina’s unloved successor the Ital.

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Downstairs you will find Jaguars – lots of them, with examples all the way through the company's history including concept and super cars from various motor racing categories. My personal favourites have always been those from the seventies – what I like to call the ‘Arthur Daley’ Jags. Lovely looking motors.

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Got to my British Motor Museum Photo Blog for more pictures.

The evening brought with it another ‘research’ expedition, centred at the Red Lion in Corely Moor, about a 10 minute drive from the site. Well, what a find. I had the best meal of trip here – by some margin and although I’m no foodie and like good honest pub grub, opted for a Cajun chicken pasta and it was divine. Absolutely wonderful. Trev opted for more traditional roast beef in a giant Yorkshire and was equally impressed. Add to that crystal clear well kept ales and friendly prompt service in what was a great experience. Not expensive either. My only regret was not having room for a dessert – I can imagine them being equally scrumptious.

Thursday saw us enjoy a nice long lie in followed by a visit to Solihull – somewhere I knew next to nothing about other than it being voted the best place in England to live – and second in the UK behind Edinburgh – in 2015

The properties lining the road in gave you an idea of it’s affluence  and the town centre was clean – very – and had a nice feel to it too. There were the usual chain store suspects on the high street and Solihull too suffered like Coventry in the second world war so a lot of it is not that old. Pleasant enough though and certainly a lovely place to live.

‘Research’ that evening took us to The Brickmakers Arms – again less than 10 minutes from the site. Plenty of real ale on offer and good honest pub grub too. Somehow we both managed to squeeze in all three courses. Once again,  great food, great ale and friendly service in pleasant surroundings and another one I’m pleased to recommend.

Many of these pubs came on recommendation – thanks again to Richard whose local knowledge has been invaluable. However, I’ve also been using www.whatpub.com. An excellent online resource put together by CAMRA – the Campaign For Real Ale. It has a comprehensive search and filter facility so you can find exactly what you are looking for. For my separate blog about all the ale I get to sample go to www.alearchive.co.uk.

Friday was, sadly to be our last day at Somers Wood. We had a party to go to on Saturday night back in Saltdean and wanted to be able to make an early getaway in the morning. So, much of the packing up was done and Patsy was soon smelling of Mr Sheen too.

The late afternoon saw us back in Birmingham to meet up with a friend and fellow caravanner we’d not seen for a while. We took the train in again, parking this time – for free - at the station at Hampton-in-Arden. Five minutes drive from the caravan site and less than twenty minutes by train from Birmingham's New Street station. There was no ticket machine and no ticket office open so we assumed a conductor would appear at some point on the journey.

They didn’t, so we had to ask to be let through the barrier at Birmingham, so we could go and buy return tickets. Yeah right. Now, I’m not dishonest, but neither am I stupid. Well not that stupid. Single tickets for the journey back procured, we headed for something to eat – a largely forgettable burger – then a mooch around prior to our meet.

You may recall me mentioning that on our Sunday night visit with Richard, one of the pubs on our visit was closed. Well, the Old Joint Stock was most certainly open Friday afternoon so, in the interests of ‘research’ obviously we had to pay a visit. It’s a Fullers pub – all that way from that there London and does the usual Fullers ales as well as specials and seasonals. Being a Fullers fan there wasn’t too much I hadn’t already tried but did find one. It’s about the surroundings here though and it has, apparently been voted one of the Top 25 pubs in Britain. I only took one – very poor – photo on my phone, so check on the Gallery and 360 tour on their website to have a closer look.

Next up was our meeting point with our friend Pete. A good twenty minute amble across to the Jewellery Quarter and the Rose Villa Tavern. Again, another good selection of ales in great surroundings and a great chinwag and catch up before it was time to head back.

Neither of us fancied the walk back to New Street but fortunately, the new Metro was just five minutes walk away and would take us to the station for the princely sum of a quid. I was very impressed with this. Not only was the journey smooth but the maps, timetables and pricing were clear and concise – not always the case with public transport. Particularly when you don’t carry your reading glasses…..

And that was the end of our time in Warwickshire. The journey home was good and just over four hours after leaving Somers Wood, Patsy was tucked up in storage. We had a cracking week in Warwickshire. Lots to see and do and all easily accessible thanks to the great location.

DSC_0166So, to finish, a bit about the site. Easy access from the motorway – no more than a few minutes from the M42 and there’s no single track roads – so beloved of caravan sites – to negotiate. The village of Meriden is around a mile away but close by you have a golf course and fishing lakes. Somers Wood is a member of the Tranquil Parks group of sites and is thus Adult Only. There are all the usual facilities on site and a barrier at the entrance ensures security for your beloved tin tent.

Check out my Somers Wood Photo Blog for a look around the site.

Keeping in touch wasn’t  a problem. Trev used the site WiFi – provided by Caraweb – at a cost of a tenner for a week with a maximum data usage of 2GB. I used the Hotspot facility on my ‘Three’ phone with no problems, but the EE loaded dongle also reported a good signal and Vodafone was fine for both voice and data on Trev’s mobile.

We found TV reception fine on our directional aerial on the van with out a booster, but satellite hook-ups were available if you bring your own receiver.

Right, that’s it for us until the Christmas holidays, when another ‘Festive Threesome beckons’. So until then…

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