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, 27 June 2017

Great Newsome–Jem’s Stout

WP_20170518_20_27_51_ProWhat they say: “Dark mahogany coloured traditional stout. Complex aroma of liquorice, prunes & hop resin on the nose with a deep burnt coffee and liquorice on the palate.”

I do like a nice stout for a change and this was delicious. A lovely combination of flavours and at 4.3% A.B.V full bodied but not overpowering.

Robinsons–Pint of Thrones

WP_20170513_20_58_15_ProWhat they say: “The King in the North arrives in April and May! A traditional amber ale, full blooded, reliable & down to earth with a warm heart of spicy cedar.Level headed & big hearted that always wins the day.”

A visit to the Jolly Brewers is always a delight thanks to their ever changing range of cask ales. There was nothing wrong with this one – it just didn’t excite. Inoffensive but forgettable I found. 4.0% A.B.V

The Jolly Brewers, Milton, Cambridgeshire. May 2017

Church End–Gyle 5000

WP_20170513_20_58_26_ProWhat they say: “Church End Brewery’s 5000th brew! Could it be called anything else?! A deep amber bitter, malt driven, with a sharp hop bite, and lingering bitter after taste.”

A tad hoppier than my fussy palate normally enjoys but overall I like it. A nice pint and Church End’s 5000th brew. Well done. 4.0%  A.B.V

The Jolly Brewers, Milton, Cambridgeshire. May 2017

Franklins–Mama Knows

WP_20170506_13_45_18_ProWhat they say: “Our take on a British classic, Mama is the ultimate modern best bitter. A combination of US and UK hops give mixed berry flavours and a hint of papaya with a dry, earthy pine finish. A great all rounder.”

Not a usual haunt for us but after a busy open morning at the school this pub just around the corner was a welcome destination. The beer didn’t disappoint either – brewed in Sussex and very tasty. It went down rather too well. 4.1& A.B.V

The Ginger Dog, Brighton. May 2017.

Yates–Holy Joe

20170624_124819What they say: “Golden, with lots of citrus immediately evident in the aroma, and subtle malt emerging later. Plenty of bitterness features in the mouth along with slightly toasted, sweet malt flavours, pronounced tangy-citrus notes and spicy coriander. Bitter, hoppy, spicy and lightly toasted finish.”

The second from Yates to guest in our local and another very welcome one. Packed full of flavour but at 4.9% A.B.V, one to treat with respect.

The Rottingdean Club, East Sussex. June 2017.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Solwise - More WiFi options.

Many of you have read my review of the Solwise WiFi Booster Kit back in April. In fact given Trev the  Portly Partners’ enthusiastic activity on social media I would be surprised if you missed it! It’s been one of most popular reviews and a most useful bit of kit too. I wish I’d bought one ages ago instead of waiting for the opportunity to review one. It’s already saved us plenty in WiFi costs and I expect that will continue throughout the summer.

Talking of the summer I am excited to have the chance to evaluate two more products from Solwise, both of which are designed to pick up even weaker signals than even the impressive kit we reviewed. They do the same thing but what they can do it with differs, so lets take a look.

First up is the Outdoor USB Panel Antenna

DB-86WUUMAAAnSBThis connects to your computer or suitable router via USB like the Patriot that was in the kit we reviewed. A driver and utility disk is included but this won’t be needed if it’s paired directly with the Solwise router. Two jubilee clips are included for mounting on a suitable mast but I’m thinking that stout cable ties might be as effective. I have already bought his Vision Plus mast to give more height to our existing kit and the antenna should fix to that just fine.

This is a directional antenna so to perform to it’s potential it needs to be aligned correctly. Rotating the unit on the mast with semi-tight cable ties may be the way to go and I’m looking at ways to make alignment easier and avoid the sort of faffing associated  trying to align a satellite dish manually for example. I’m sure many have seen that carry on on site!

I’ve already had a play with this at home and whilst the environment is completely different to it’s intended use the results gave a clear indication of it’s potential once on site. First though I’ll explain my set up at home to put the results in to context.

My router – a BT Hub Version 4 - sits in the lounge of our flat and in the same room Speedtest.net reports speeds of anything up to 72 Mbps download through Wi-Fi. 

My laptop is situated in the ‘office’ also known as the dining room, spare room, Legs Down HQ and caravan paraphernalia storage area! It's two rooms down along the hall from the lounge and there I can expect around 8-12 Mbps download. Nothing like the speeds several walls and a few metres away in the lounge but still something many could only dream of!

With the antenna connected via USB and driver installed results were certainly interesting. Having the antenna laying flat on it’s back on the floor made little difference to download speed. However, positioning the unit upright and directing in roughly towards the BT router speeds improved to 28 Mbps. Up to three times faster than without. Three  minor adjustments to the antennas direction brought speeds progressively up to 32 Mbps – and this was still through several brick walls.

Now, as I said this in no way simulating it’s intended use but it does show two things – it’s potential power in picking up weak signals and the importance of correct alignment to achieve the best results. I’m very much looking forward to trying this out on site and paired with the Solwise router that we already have as part of the kit reviewed in April.

In addition we will also be looking at the Outdoor Panel Antenna.

net-wl-ant010pn-1WP_20170331_13_03_34_ProThis has an N-type connector and a bracket at the rear for wall mounting if you wish. For those of us that already have the kit that I reviewed however, this can directly replace the omnidirectional unit included in that kit – shown here in action.

Again, this device though is directional – so to work correctly and pick up weaker signals it needs to be aligned accurately. And again, I will be looking at ways to make this easier.

We will be having a thorough look at both devices throughout the summer with a written and hopefully video review to follow.

For those of you that have read enough and are already interested, the USB Panel Antenna is available for a little over £40 HERE. If you have the Patriot Wi-Fi Booster Kit then the Outdoor Panel Antenna is an excellent value upgrade at a little over £20 and you can see that HERE.

My review of the Patriot Wi-Fi Booster Kit can be found HERE and the accompanying video HERE

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Marstons - EPA

WP_20170413_20_47_55_ProWhat they say: “The taste of EPA is unique. Zing from the citrusy hops we use - Pow from its fuller flavour - Phwoar from the crisp finish that leaves you ready for more. It’s a refreshing, lighter blonde ale - 3.6% abv.

Ok, regulars will know that, given the description, this would not be one of my faves. But I quite enjoyed it on a warm spring day. Chill it a bit more than you normally would for a real refreshing drink on a summers day. Nice and light too at just 3.6% A.B.V.

April 2017

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Site Review – Run Cottage, Hollesley, Suffolk

We’ve now stayed at this site twice – between Christmas and New Year 2016 for 7 nights and more recently at the beginning of June 2017 for three nights.
The site is privately owned and is situated on the edge of the village of Hollesley in Suffolk on the Alderton Road. Access is recommended from the A12, the required junction of which is about 7.5 miles from the site. Directions given on the website are clear and advise the best route. Some of the roads may look small on a map but there is nothing of concern. You may want to check out our Site Arrival Video which shows exactly what you can expect on route.
DSC_0002As you enter the site, the reception is to the left at the rear of the house. A few camping essentials are stocked. Normal arrival time is from 1pm.
The site itself consists of two areas or paddocks and has just 45 pitches including 14 hard standings. Electric hook up is 10 amps and is included in the pitch fee for motorhomes and caravans but an optional extra for those in tents.DSC_0005
The facilities block is on your left as you enter the first paddock, with a washing up and laundry room on the left as you face it consisting of two large sinks with large drainers, a washing machine and a dryer. There is also a fridge freezer.
The Gents facilities consisted of two showers, two toilets and two wash basins. Showers are push button. I assume, not having had reason to look, that the Ladies is a mirror image! Further on is the waster water and CDP then at the end there are two ‘ensuite’ units each consisting of a toilet, basin and shower. During both our visits the facilities were kept immaculate and I’m delighted to report that the loo roll was some of the softest I’ve encountered on site!
DSC_0016A separate information hut was well stocked with leaflets, maps and pub menus along with a selection of books and DVD’s for swapping or borrowing whilst on site.
Dogs will love the pleasant 2 acre exercise field accessed through a bar gate and two wooden glamping pods overlook a large pond.DSC_0021
Satellite TV hook up is available as TV reception can be quite poor. A nominal fee is charged but you can borrow a box, remote and the required cables for free. We took advantage of this during our winter stay and it worked just fine.
WiFi is free and performed well for us. Both times we were in the first paddock so were closer than some would be.
On both occasions we found the site exceptionally well kept but the spring sunshine really brought out the site’s beauty. Clearly a lot of work goes in to keeping it so nice.
For a closer look why not take a look at our Site Tour video and Slide Show.
So, that’s the site. We’ve now stayed twice and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. It’s owners Andy & Michelle are friendly and welcoming and it’s a lovely environment to kick back and relax for a few days. But if you want to get out and about, what is there too do? Well, quite a lot!
DSC_0021Just a mile and half from the site is the coast, the nearest settlement being Shingle Street. As the name suggests there’s not a lot of sand about but it is a lovely place.
There’s also Bawdsey Quay just a few minutes drive away where, in season, you cab catch a foot ferry over to Felixstowe Ferry. DSC_0014
Orford castle is not far away as is the town of Woodbridge on the River Deben and Aldeburgh on the coast. Check out our short video showing some of the highlights HERE.
And for those that don’t want to stray too far the village pub and shop is within walking distance!
For more details visit www.runcottage.co.uk or call 01394 411309.




Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Friends & Family

Original eh? But however reminiscent it may be of a time before all-inclusive minutes, it does provide a suitable title for my latest blog. We have of course been away in the caravan again, and whilst our latest trip was planned originally as  a chance to hook up with again with my cousin, some friends came along too and we  ended up with a very enjoyable mini meet. 20170527_112730

One of the ‘joy’s’ of living on the south coast is that to go virtually anywhere north you have to get around London – which for most means a soul destroying bumper to bumper crawl along the M25. However it wasn’t London’s orbital which halted our progress this time but the M11 – pretty much as soon as we’d turned off on to it. Traffic backed up to quickly and so we sat there edging forward every so often.

A few, who clearly felt queueing was beneath them saw fit to try and barge in just before the junction splits off to north and south bound. A large black German  4 x 4 (quelle surprise!) proceeded to force his way in in front of me. Having already let someone else in, I could have held my ground but felt a little disadvantaged with Patsy on the back. I reluctantly decided preserving the No Claims Discount was preferable to the more instant gratification of not allowing him space but I suspect had I not given way we would have been exchanging insurance details – and probably a few choice words too. Selfish arrogant prick. And breathe…..

Mr 4 x 4 was attracting the ire of other motorists too though as we had now come to a complete standstill, leaving him with a significant portion of his backside sticking out into the other lane and causing an obstruction to motorists heading north. His kids in the back must have been quite alarmed by the blasting of horns and whether this was what caused him to eventually change his mind and pull back out and head south I don’t know. What was amusing though, was that a few minutes later, we were on our way.

There was little else of note to report on the rest of the journey, however if you find yourselves on the A142 approaching Ely there is a railway bridge with just a 9 feet clearance. We assumed – correctly, thankfully that Patsy would easily clear it. However it wasn’t until I consulted the handbook later on that there was just 3 inches or 75mm to spare. A little too close for comfort! There is a fork that takes high vehicles across the tracks and if you are at all unsure – please use it!

Our destination was Lakeside Caravan Park near Downham Market in Norfolk and my cousin Andy and wife Janet were already installed on a lakeside pitch having arrived the day before. He’d chosen the site because of it’s five fishing lakes and first impressions were that it was a very attractive site. Busy though, not surprisingly given it was a bank holiday weekend. Friend Alison from Kent was to join us a short while later for a long weekend, followed a little while later by her son Adam and partner Jamie.

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Sunday would see the arrival of Andy’s youngest – Amanda and partner Tim, who, we were delighted to learn had set the date for their wedding next summer. Monday brought with it eldest daughter Sarah and husband Derek and kids Braydon and Esmae and their brand new tent. We set up a row of chairs and a camera and watched them make a mighty fine job of putting it up for the first time.

Andy & Janet’s pitch became the focal point with gatherings most nights for burnt offerings from the BBQ’s. The geese and their gaggle of goslings entertained us and it was great, just sitting and chatting whilst the sun went down.

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Regulars will know that on most of our trips, no sooner are the legs down then we are out and about sightseeing, camera in hand and long leather coat flapping. Outings were few and far between this time, not because there wasn’t much to see, but simply because it was just nice sitting round chatting, reading and snoozing whilst soaking up a few rays.

We did manage a couple of brief excursions though – the first being a couple of miles up the road to Denver Sluice – where five watercourses meet and whose management helps prevent the Fens from flooding. There has been a sluice here since 1651, built be a Dutchman Cornelius Vermuyden. The Fens like Holland is very flat and the Dutch certainly know a thing or two about land reclamation.

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Of no interest to us was the pub, right by the water but we felt, in the interests of research, obliged to take a look and in fact that night we all returned for a meal which seemed generally well received.

Our only other excursion from site – other than a couple of quick trips to see Trev’s Mum – was to Ely. Observant readers may remember we visited Ely on our 2016 Spring Twittercamp in Cambridge, but didn’t get much further than the very impressive cathedral. This time - keeping the water theme going - it was the riverside that was the interest and having not been – probably since childhood - Id forgotten what a lovely spot it was. We were just in time to catch a short cruise along the River Great Ouse (how very lyrical) on a lovely old boast with a friendly skipper and some informative and entertaining commentary. I like river trips because it can give you a more varied perspective on a place than just pounding the streets. At six quid for around half an hour it was good value – the company is Liberty Belle Cruises – and they offer other cruises too such as evening outings to riverside pubs. Hmm, Ely might be in for a return visit….

DSC_0039DSC_0040DSC_0043DSC_0045DSC_0048DSC_0061DSC_0064DSC_0073

And that was our time in Norfolk. Not the usual sightseeing photo laden blog but after a hectic Easter getaway up north and a busy period at work it was nice to kick back with family and friends. We loved the site too and it’s on the list for return visit as there’s much more around here to explore. If fancy it yourself check out our site arrival video on YouTube.

So, until next time, thanks as always for reading.

Cheers

Rich & Trev

Monday, 5 June 2017

Solwise Mobile Internet Solution

Following on from our review of the excellent Wi-Fi booster system from Solwise, we were given the opportunity to evaluate some more tech – this time to get you connected via mobile networks when Wi-Fi isn’t available.
It’s high end – and not cheap - and we agreed that it would be of limited interest to many caravanners. However, following a few explorative posts in social media, a few of you did express an interest, so I’m going to give an outline of what it is, what it does and why it might be useful.
Like the Wi-Fi booster system the kit is formed of two separately available  components – the first of which is the router. We’ll look at that first.
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On the back there are four aerial connection points. Two are for receiving the mobile signal and indoor aerials are supplied or you can connect an external one if required. The other two are for transmitting the Wi-Fi signal to your devices. There are network ports to for devices that do not have Wi-Fi capability.
Behind the back panel are slots for two standard size SIM cards for the networks of your preference.
Set up was straightforward and I found that many of the default settings for your chosen network provider can be used. Like the WiFi system we looked at, you are urged to secure (and rename) the WiFi network that the device transmits.
There are a vast array of options for the more technically minded such as setting up an additional network – perhaps to share with friends. The use of the SIM cards can be configured in a number of ways – swapping from one to another if (when!) one network falls over or when a preset data limit is reached.
It is without doubt an exceptionally powerful and versatile device. See the link to the product on the Solwise website below:
As stated, the router can be used as a standalone device, but to get (and stay) connected in poor signal areas an external antenna is available. The antenna is omnidirectional so can be placed anywhere but height will help and a knowledge of where the mobile signal transmitter is will help in positioning the unit on the right side of the building and making the most of the available signal. Two five metre leads with connectors are included and both must be connected to enjoy the speed of 4G – more accurately called LTE.
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The antenna wont just work with the above router though. Many mobile Wi-Fi adapters like those from Huawei have sockets for connecting an external antenna – often hidden behind a flap on the edge of the unit. With suitable adaptors this will work with such devices and may be a great solution if you rely on a mobile network to get connected but frequently come across poor signal strength. A variety of both temporary and permanent fixing options are included. This may be a solution for anyone that wants to get connected on their seasonal pitch or holiday home when Wi-Fi isn't available.
Check the link below for more details: