A Caravanning Christmas – Part 2

Here we go again. At last we get out and about the second part of my blog from the Camping & Caravan Club site at Theobald's Park just to the North of England's capital.

In the last blog I mentioned briefly the Whitewebbs estate whose manor house was now home to a Toby Carvery. Also on the estate and built in 1898 was a pumping station to pump water from the well beneath along a new river into London. It is now the home of The Whitewebbs Museum of Transport and being less than five minutes drive from the site we went to have a look.

The collection is housed over the four floors of the original restored pump house and in various outbuildings to the rear. It’s a wonderful mix of cars, motorbikes, cycles and a vast range of motoring and non motoring paraphernalia from throughout the years ranging from typewriters to cycle lamps to vintage photography equipment. Apparently one of the most common phrases heard is ‘I used to have one of those’ and I can see why.

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In outbuildings at the rear an auto jumble shop might just be where you find that part you’ve been looking for and a 1961 railway carriage houses a wonderfully detailed model railway. There’s a Green Goddess fire engine amongst others and a several Morris commercials from the thirties.

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The café on the 2nd floor provided some sustenance before our last stop – down in the basement where we got the chance to see the old well, over 200 feet deep.

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At just four quid to get in it was well worth it and I thoroughly recommend it. Opening hours are limited though – just Tuesdays and one Sunday a month however there are special events and enthusiasts meets during the year too. If you’re staying at the site it’s well worth a couple of hours of your time at least.

Check out my Whitewebbs Museum of Transport Photo Blog for more pictures and a slideshow on YouTube.

Next up was St Albans. We knew of it’s existence but it was friend and caravanner Iain who suggested it was worth a look. We eschewed the usual search for a free parking space and opted instead for the multi-storey, which while not cheap (I.e more than free) was still less than they charge down in Brighton for parking in one of their crumbling hell holes.

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The city and it’s surrounding has not gone unnoticed by film and TV makers. Parts of Foyles War, Porridge and Johnny English have all been filmed here. The area around the cathedral was particularly pleasing on the eye with a great Victorian arcade and a lovely tea room which was the no doubt ecstatic recipient of some custom from the Blogger in Black and Portly Partner.

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Of course we had to have a look at the cathedral, helped by the fact that it was free. A choir was practicing Christmas carols which made for a very pleasant aural accompaniment to our wander around.

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The Christmas market in the surrounding grounds proved to be a very worthwhile distraction although it now means I have yet more ‘research’ to conduct….

Again on Iain’s recommendation we checked out a pub on the way home – The Bull at London Colney is his parents local and do a wide range of real ales, although sadly there was nothing there I hadn’t tried. What we had – Jennings Cumberland Ale - was delicious though. They clearly now how to keep their beer.

Trev wrong footed the bookies by cooking again in the ‘van for the second night running. And very nice it was too.

Wednesday and a bright sunny morning greeted us as the window blinds eventually went up, so after morning ablutions were completed Rosie clattered into life again before being pointed up the A10 to the little town of Ware. The devil-may-care attitude continued as I fed the parking meter with merry abandon.

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Whilst the town’s main thoroughfare is pretty enough - and certainly worthy of a look, Ware sits aside the River Lea there’s a lovely short walk to be had where you can see the lovely restored gazebos.

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Ware was an old brewing town and at one time the premier ‘malting’ town in England, sending brown malt to London for the production of Porter – London’s dark brown beer. A statue of a Maltmaker commemorates this part of Ware’s history outside the church.

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Next up and only a few minutes away was the county town of Hertford. Again caution was thrown to the wind as we entered the multi-storey. I really must book an appointment with my G.P when I get home – I’ve never been so free with money unless it’s for important things like ‘research’ – or long leather coats.

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Pleasant enough and there was some well preserved architecture but the Castle and garden was my favourite bit, nestled alongside the river. The town council now occupy the rebuilt central part.

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Hertford has a few claims to fame too – the band Deep Purple were formed here in 1968, singer George Ezra was born and brought up here and Rupert Grint from the Harry Potter films comes from Hertford.

Last stop of the day was closer to home – in the Southern end of the Lee Valley Country Park at the White Water Centre which was built for the London 2012 Olympics. Before you ask, no we didn’t partake – I couldn’t have my poncey leather coat getting wet – but the water was running and the Terrace Bar was a great place to grab a coffee. Some great fun to be had, although perhaps when it’s a little warmer. There’s free parking and bus stop outside.

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And that was it for our second full day of sightseeing. Normal service resumed as the King & Tinker was the recipient of our custom for grub and grog. Coming soon in Part 3 – a amble around London.

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