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, 31 October 2017

Beers, Trains, Boats & Planes – Part 2

Thursday brought with it a lunch appointment in ‘the smoke’ and the journey was easy thanks to Denham station being only twenty-five minutes walk – or in our case a five minute drive – away. The trundle into London’s Marylebone station took around twenty-five minutes passing Wembley Stadium on the way. Worth noting if you’re attending an event. Our destination was Finsbury Avenue, just behind Liverpool Street station and easily reached on the 205 bus. The underground would certainly have been quicker, in fact riding on the back of a snail would have been quicker, but we weren't in a rush and took in  a few of the sights along the way. I am continually amazed at the amount of building and redevelopment work going on.

Our lunch  was with Cover4Caravans director Richard and his internet expert Jason. Over some of the best steak I’ve ever tasted we had a good chat and catch up. Richard also very generously agreed to sponsor Twittercamp again for another year and we discussed some mutually beneficial projects too.

Friday gave us the chance to explore more of the local area and first up was Northmoor Hill Wood – a nature reserve right next door to the site. A 1.5km walk is indicated on the information board – not far but there are some inclines and at the time of our visit it was a bit slippery under foot in places. Not recommended for those with reduced mobility or wearing entirely unsuitable winkle pickers. Ahem. Nevertheless it’s a great place to wander and to give your four legged friends a run out particularly as there’s no dog walking area on site.

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A little further from the site  back on the A412 is the village of Harefield and we’d spotted a sign for a pub called the The Old Orchard the other evening and decided further investigation – in the interests of research obviously – was called for.

Wow, what a find – and for once I’m not talking about the beer. It’s appeal, as soon as you enter the car park is apparent - what a view! The lake you see is Broadwater Lake and along the bottom of it, hidden from view runs the Grand Union Canal. To the other side is the A412 and roughly in the middle on the far side too is the caravan site and Northmoor Hill wood. This area is full of very pleasant surprises.

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Now, this is where you might need to sit down. They had eight – yes eight – hand pumps on the bar, seven of which had real ale. And we had tea. Yes tea. As sorely tempted as I was – and what better views to sup a nice real ale to – we abstained. It is most definitely on the list for a return visit though.

Walkers will be interested in a leaflet you can pick up at the pub which details a circular 4.5 mile walk traversing part of the Hillingdon Trail – a 20 mile path that begins in Cranford and ends here in Harefield.

We had the car but we were able to stop at a couple of places on the way, one being Black Jack’s Lock just a few hundred meters from the pub car park:

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Back on the road out of Harefield we soon crossed the canal again and it was an equally agreeable place to stop with the Coy Carp on one side of the bridge and the tow path and Copper Mill Lock a short walk on the other. Those little cottages look so idyllic, but I’m not sure having a pub that close would be a good idea!

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Next up – and our last stop of the day – apart from the evening’s excursion - was to the 41 hectares that makes up the Rickmansworth Aquadrome Local Nature Reserve on the outskirts of the town. It was not surprisingly busy given it was half-term and the large – and free – car park was approaching capacity. Two lakes are the main features of the park and was being enjoyed by both kids and model yacht enthusiasts alike.

There was plenty enjoying the café too and we paused for a forgettable cuppa and an only slightly more memorable scone – or scon if you prefer. The café had a designated ‘Quiet Room’ occupied mostly by the grey (and white) army – those that weren't on duty with the grand kids in the main area anyway. And yes, I’m mostly grey now and would have much preferred the quieter room had there been any space!

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The evening saw us in Denham village a short drive from the site and blessed with three pubs – and VERY limited parking. We gambled – along with many others, correctly – that there would be no parking wardens about and enjoyed a nice meal in The Green Man. It’s worth noting that there is a footpath to Denham railway station some 650m away where parking is plentiful and we may not push our luck next time!

There is a bus service – right from the site to Uxbridge that runs 2-3 times a day, six days a week and it was this that we decided to utilise on the Saturday morning.

Whilst Uxbridge might not be top of the list for sightseeing it’s just a twenty minute bus ride and handy for shopping with many of the usual high street names represented. Yours truly even parted with some cash for a new pair of gloves – I’ll leave you to guess the material and colour…

It’s also worth noting that Uxbridge is on both the London Underground network and several London bus routes so it’s easy to travel further afield, although do be mindful of the return times of the local bus or you may have rather a long walk. There’s also a Saturday service from the site to Windsor but again, times are limited.

On the way to the caravan site you would have passed Denham Aerodrome – and most probably heard some of the coming and goings from the site. There’s a little café there too called the Crew Room which a fellow camper on site made us aware of. The usual fayre is supplemented by great views from the terrace of the comings and going on the airfield whether it be little Cessnas being flown solo or helicopters taking punters up on pleasure flights. We paused for some sustenance and I have to report that the fish finger sandwich was yum – proper fish fingers like I remember as a kid in plain white bread – not some  pretentious interpretation of one. The tea was also served properly - in a teapot.

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And that was our time up at Wyatts Covert. A lovely little site in area that has so much more to offer than is first apparent. Another one on the ‘must do again’ list. Check out our Site Arrival Video to see how easy the site is to get to.

Right. Christmas next and four site booked for the school holidays. It all starts again in just over five weeks – and I can’t wait!

Until then, thanks – as always – for reading. It’s really appreciated.

Cheers

Rich & Trev.


Sunday, 29 October 2017

Guest Blog Post – My Mellow Mattress Review

Hi everyone, I am delighted to present a first for Legs Down – our first ever guest blogger. Here, friend and fellow caravanner David takes a look at a custom mattress designed for him by My Mellow – the same company that made our toppers, a review of which you can read HERE:

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So I thought I’d go about finding our caravan (@ElvisTheElddis) a new mattress for the fixed bed… Having had “Elvis II” for over a year now, and over 10 trips away in him, I thought it was time to invest in a new mattress. The existing one was very badly dipped at one side, where the previous owners had used it and I was finding it felt a bit odd to sleep on. ‘Elvis’ is a 2003 Elddis 534 ‘Knightsbridge SE’ – and so the 13 year old mattress has seen better days.

Now I think I seem to be a bit of a “princess and the pea” when it comes to mattresses, and mine has to totally flat with no dips, bumps or lumps. I’m equally ‘quirky’, shall we say, about how level the caravan is, and have been known, just before bed, to dash out and re-adjust the jockey wheel and steadies if something doesn’t feel right… The other half, however, doesn’t seem to care and has the ability to sleep on a dime as they say, whereas I’m really fussy, and the so the dip at my side was starting to do my head in.

Now being a ‘frugal’ Yorkshireman, I tried my best to rectify the dip with various methods, and had even managed to get hold of a lovely, expensive memory foam mattress topper from a fellow caravanner, who gave it to us free of charge (what a star!) after it no longer fitted his new van. I cannot dispute how much comfier the mattress was with the new topper, but the dip was still there, I could still feel the dip, the topper just made it a comfier dip…. To try and rectify things I’d even resorted to placing ‘awning foam mats’ under my side of the bed, of various depths and in strategic locations in a vain attempt to try minimise the dip. It sort of worked, but was far from ideal…

So, the hunt began for a new mattress.

I searched various forums for reviews, had a nosey through my various caravan magazines for adverts (I get FOUR through the post every month!) I also had a nosey around Facebook groups and Twitter. There seemed to be plenty of people with toppers, raving about them, but not a lot out there with people having replaced their entire mattress.

I then stumbled upon a mattress topper review on the Legs Down blog (where this blog post is now being very kindly hosted) by a company called “MyMellow”. Now knowing Richard and Trevor, and seeing their previous frank reviews, I knew if they said they liked something, it ought to be pretty good. They’ve been caravanning for a good few years now, and both working at a college get decent chunk of holiday leave, of which they spend as much of that leave as they can caravanning, so compared to most they’ve spend hundreds of nights caravanning. They said they’d got these new toppers and they transformed their beds, and suggested I take a look at MyMellow for my mattress, as they knew they also made custom shaped mattresses too.

So, I headed over to the MyMellow website to take a look around. The site allows you to choose the basic shape of the mattress you need (standard, curved, cut off etc.) and then you just need four measurements (for a cut off corner bed like mine) and your choice of mattress overall depth.

You then get to choose how firm you want the mattress to be (not seen this on many other sites). The best part is you can click calculate at this point, before having to enter a load of personal information - so you can get an idea of cost beforehand. Nice.

The site is really well designed and, key for me, it worked really well on my iPhone too. As a web designer for a living, I get really frustrated with websites that don’t load correctly on my phone!

Now my original mattress in Elvis had a seam that ran top to bottom, a sort of hinge, allowing the mattress to fold in to two halves, and fold up easily as the bed frame lifts up, giving easier access to the under bed storage area. Some may not see this as an issue, or may not need the split, but I have to dive head first under the bed on each trip like some gurning geriatric gymnast in order to; 1) flick the water drain switch on the water heater, and 2) get the Wastemaster out, as that’s where it lives.

The MyMellow website didn’t have a section where I could request this though, so I got in touch via Twitter to ask if it was possible for them to make a mattress in this layout. Thankfully I got a quick response to my questions from Martin, via a friendly Direct Message, saying yes it was possible to make the mattress in this way, with a zip and in two sections – and for a small extra fee of just £30!! A certain other manufacturer, who I’ll not mention, wanted an extra £100 more to put a split in their mattress! Martin then also said they have a section on their site where you can upload a drawing of your own mattress, so that they can quote based on very specific requirements. Good.

I like a company that’s quick to respond on social media, and as I tend to spend most of my waking hours on either Facebook or Twitter, and so a quick reply from MyMellow was another big tick for me!

So was this a decision made? The price was right, they could make the mattress in the shape I wanted, they’re quick to reply on social media, their toppers got good reviews…what else was there?

Do I click the green purchase button…!?

I’m one of these people that ends up searching and searching before committing to something, to ensure what I get is just right, and after much hunting, and various quotes from various manufacturers (varying WILDLY I have to say!) could I actually commit to buying from MyMellow?

My finger hovered over the button… I thought I’d best do some digging first.

I thought to myself “just who are MyMellow? They may not have the experience of one of the more established brands” and “why risk something from a company that seemed to me to be a relative newcomer in the caravan mattress industry…?”

Or so I thought…!

Well, that’s the thing, a quick delve into Google revealed that MyMellow are a new brand created by parent company ‘J and A Foam’, who have actually been making mattresses, toppers and truck mattresses for over 40 years! I’d say that’s enough experience for me… It seems the MyMellow brand is a new and exclusive brand of mattresses and toppers created especially for the leisure vehicle industry, but also available to buy for home too.

Right, that was it, the decision was made! A long running family company, based up north, made in England, many years’ experience, swift delivery, and a good warranty, the mattress order was placed, and in time for my next trip away to TwitterCamp

I sent over my mattress dimensions to MyMellow, showing exactly where the fold needed to be, the length/width and depth and the firmness I wanted. I just had to wait for it to be custom made and then sent out via tracked courier.

IMG_6891A few days later the mattress arrived, and all bundled in to a sort of huge body shaped cardboard tube! OK it was heavy, but I could just about lift it, and I even managed to get it in to my car (a convertible Audi!) to take it home from my parents’ house, where it had been delivered.

Knowing that mattresses such as this, when they’ve been compressed for transport, need time to expand, I thought it best I brought my caravan home so that the new mattress could be put in place, and exchanged for the old one, allowing it to fully form its final shape. I was itching to try it out, but thought it best I wait and allow it to expand properly. One thing I forgot to mention, was the two free pillows that also come with the mattress, these also popped up and started growing as I opened up the packaging.

Oh and one other added bonus, no odd smell, as I know some foam mattresses can whiff a bit when new.

So a day later, it was time. The low autumn sun was streaming in through the window, perfect mattress testing conditions! I grabbed one of the free pillows and sat on the edge of the bed… Ooo… I shuffled back, threw down the pillow and laid down. Oooooooooooooh comfy!!! If I’d have had the time I’d have happily taken a power nap there and then. But I couldn’t, I had to take Elvis back to storage again, but I couldn’t wait to spend the night on it.IMG_7142

Things were looking good, the mattress felt great – firm but not so much so that it was uncomfortable, I like a firm mattress, but this seemed to almost mould itself to my shape. I rolled over on to my front, and noticed that there’s an odd short time as the mattress seems to re-contour itself to your shape. I’m one of these odd people that most of the time sleeps on my front, don’t ask me why, but I tend to spend a good while shuffling about till I get to feel just right. Front, side, back, side, and back again to being on my front again. Arm under pillow, arms by my side, shuffle shuffle shuffle. Drives my other half potty! This sort of foam mattress reshaping is something new to me, as my mattress at home is a very expensive Dunlopillo latex one that doesn’t react in this same way. I’ll get used to it I’m sure…

So I took the caravan back to storage, taking note that there wasn’t much alteration in nose weight (something to bear in mind, as the replacement mattress could be heavier OR lighter than your previous one) ready for my first trip away and my first test of the new mattress. Exciting.

A few days later it was time to go away on my first trip with the new mattress. I headed from Leeds down to Birmingham and with Elvis safely locked up and secure in the car park, I spent the day pounding the halls of the NEC Motorhome and Caravan show. In and out of caravans, awnings, motorhomes for six hours! Once back to the car park I then had to drive for half an hour before I pitched up at Kingsbury Water Park Camping and Caravan Club site. A quick pizza was scoffed before settling down with a bottled beer and the telly IN BED of course.

The mattress seemed equally as comfortable for early evening lounging as it did in my previous short test. It wasn’t long before it was time to retire. And after walking miles and a long 3 hour drive to Birmingham, I was ready for bed. As I’ve said previously I’m normally a shuffler in bed, before I get comfy, but this time I settled fairly swiftly into position and drifted off. No doubt dreaming of all those shiny new caravans that I couldn’t afford…

IMG_6916Now it’s not unusual for me to wake during the night when I’m away in the caravan, most often to use the loo, and this night was no exception. I did wake to the rain hammering on the roof of the ‘van. I was nice and cosy though, didn’t need the loo, and wasn’t too warm either (a concern of some foam mattresses, but wasn’t the case thankfully). So I quickly drifted back off to sleep again.

The next few days I spent down with friends at TwitterCamp in Devizes, and spent four more nights on the new mattress. I have to say I’m really pleased with it. I can often experience lower back pain when caravanning, usually associated with stretching wrongly, or when tightening jockey wheel clamp, and this trip was no exception, but I have to admit the mattress did seem to help and the pain seemed to get better quicker than it normally would. Not sure of the mattresses orthopaedic qualities but it’s certainly very comfy, the outer quilting is designed to dissipate heat too while providing a removable washable layer of protection too.

All in all, I’d give the new mattress a good 7 out of 10. Why not 10? Well the memory foam sort of re-shaping itself to your contours takes some getting used to, and if you sleep in the same position you may never notice this, but being a shuffle-bum like me, I did. I guess this may improve over time as the mattress is still very new and may still be relaxing a bit.

One final passing comment;

If I were to order again, knowing what I know and having slept on the new mattress, I may reconsider having the split / fold design. The seam is hidden, and if you go away as a couple you may never notice that the seam is there as you’d tend to stay on your own ‘section’ of the bed, however, as I holiday solo at times, and tend to end up laying diagonally in the bed at some stage during the night, I did notice a slight difference in feel underneath me. Not so much as it was uncomfortable, but I could tell the seam was there (did you read the bit about me being a bit princess and the pea…). So unless you absolutely have to have the seam/fold, or could live without it, then I’d order it as a single piece. Just my tip.IMG_E7172

SO, if you’re considering a new mattress, be it for home, or for your caravan, motorhome, barge, truck, whatever, you’d be daft not to consider the team at MyMellow. As a bonus, I’ve been given a 10% discount code for anyone wishing to buy, just order on their website and use “nut10” without the quote marks, and this will give you 10% off your order!

David Bell
AKA @CaravanNut and @ElvisTheElddis

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

TwitterCamp 9

The ninth! How did that happen? Anyway, our most recent meet took place from the 20th-24th October at the Camping & Caravan Club Devizes site, just a few miles from the town. We’d been to the site before – in fact it was our current caravan Patsy 2’s first outing back in February 2014. The weather that week was horrendous so it was perhaps apt that we were likely to suffer the wrath of Storm Brian over the weekend.

First on site and a day before the official meet started was my Cousin Andy & wife Janet, followed later in the day by yours truly and the Portly Partner. We’d had to endure an INSET session at the school but had escaped as soon as was feasible and with the caravan and car already loaded, were soon heading west.

20171022_095901The site has the advantage of a pub within a couple of minutes walk from the entrance – The Three Magpies -and given the time of year, somewhere to decamp to in the event of inclement weather was important. We felt it necessary as organisers to check out both  the quality of the food and ale before everyone’s arrival the next day. And check it out we did. Quite thoroughly.

From lunchtime on Friday the Twitterati started arriving although we’d already received the sad news that Neil & Dave would be unable to make it as one of their dogs was seriously ill. Tilly has since undergone an operation and is beginning her recovery. We wish her and the boys the very best.20171020_183851

With all the Friday arrivals present we gathered for dinner at the pub. They managed to accommodate us despite it being a busy night. The food seemed to 20171020_185013go down well and everyone enjoyed the chance to catch up with fellow caravanning pals. A contribution to the meal bill from our sponsor Cover4Caravans was much appreciated by all.

Saturday saw the last of the arrivals and we were delighted to welcome TwitterCamp newbies Gavin & Kerry with their girls Ffion & Lois and young pup Frankie.

Activity wise there was the usual morning gatherings at our ‘van for breakfast – bacon rolls and tea and coffee – and on one day pastries -  again thanks thanks to our sponsor.

20171022_120243Sam & Andy very kindly put together a quiz – and having originally decided to hold this in the pub on the Saturday afternoon when Storm Brian was supposed to be doing it’s worst, we held it instead over breakfast. Teams were limited to pairs and the winners trophy and a bottle of fizz went to Gavin & Lois. Only just though – the Blogger in Black & Portly Partner were just half a point behind. For a change…20171021_153349

The summer saw two 60th birthdays  - my cousin Andy and Neil who had had to cancel. Sam had baked a delicious chocolate cake to celebrated and it was presented in the pub. We ensured Neil didn’t miss out, all wishing him happy birthday thanks to Facetime and promised to send him some cake in the post.

Sunday afternoon saw more gluttony as we gathered for the TwitterCamp beer and cider festival. Everyone was tasked with bringing some grog from their area and some gin from Wales and Dorset also made an appearance. Rain stopped play briefly and the buffet – an appropriately healthy selection of er, crisps, sausage rolls, pork pies and scotch eggs got a bit soggy. A good time was had by all it seemed though.

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There was plenty of free time to enjoy some of the nearby attractions – Lacock Village & Abbey, Bath, The Caen Locks and Stonehenge were all within easy reach and received the attentions of various members of the Twitterati.

There were some departures on Monday but most stayed and were able to once again enjoy a great meal in the pub thanks to our sponsor Cover4Caravans.  It’s worth pointing out that dogs are welcome in the bar area and there are gluten free and vegetarian options on the menu. Check out their website – The Three Magpies – for more information.

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No sooner had it all started then it was time to leave. We were the first of the departures and it was sad to wave good bye to our caravanning friends but we’d had a thoroughly good time and I think everyone else did too.

So, it’s thanks – in no particular order of course – to Alison, David, Andy B, Janet, Barry, Christine, Sam, Andy S, Rob, Helen, Gavin, Kerry, Ffion and Lois for making the meet so much fun. A particular thanks must go of course to Richard Burgess of Cover4Caravans for his second year of generous sponsorship. We really do appreciate it.

Right, TwitterCamp 10 beckons and we’ve already fixed the where and when. Saturday May 26th at the Tewksbury Caravan & Motorhome Club site. Bookings are made with the club or site and open early in December. I do hope we’ll see you there. Until then,

Thanks, and happy camping!

Rich & Trev.