The New Forest

The end of October saw us heading west, this time in the school minibuses for several trips along the delight that is the A27, to the New Forest. We've been through it many times but I've never stopped there - Trev had, but more years ago than he cares to remember.

Anyway, the purpose of the trips were to drop off the kids at the start of their Duke of Edinburgh expedition and pick them up a few days later, hence the multiple trips.

Obviously I took the chance to grab a few photos, only wishing that I'd brought the proper camera.

IMAG0180Well, it looked stunning, as I'm sure you can imagine, the changing colours of the leaves bringing its own beauty.  We loved seeing the ponies ambling across the roads and managed to get a few snaps. Seeing the deer scamper through someone's garden and across into the woods was wonderful but they were too quick for the moment to be captured to digital memory.

The meeting point for the kids at the end of their trip was a fireplace. Yep, you read it right. To be precise, the Portuguese Fireplace is all that reminds of a cookhouse used by Portuguese soldiers who helped the local area with logging during the First World War.

So, the New Forest has most definitely joined the long list of 'must do's in Patsy', hopefully next autumn.


Twittercamp 5 – October 2015

The end of October saw the second Twittercamp of the year take place – at the Camping & Caravan Club’s Kingsbury Water Park site in the Midlands. No new faces this time but some very welcome regulars. Here’s a vaguely accurate account of what happened.

Our original plan had been to travel up on the Thursday – for some reason this particular half term holiday is – for our school anyway – a week and a half long. Twittercamp would run over the first weekend and we would also have some time to explore the local area.

However some lucrative overtime was dangled in front of us – driving the kids to and from the New Forest on their Duke of Edinburgh expedition at the end of the half term holidays, but we could still have a whole week away by travelling on the Wednesday instead. The consequence of this would be that we would miss what would no doubt be a riveting INSET day. What a choker…

The journey up was well, predictable in that it involved the M25 so we spent a lot of time at a standstill – or close to it – and it was nearly 1:30pm by the time we pulled up at the gate of the site.

We mentioned that friends would be joining us over the coming days, so the wardens – sorry, Holiday Site Assistants – reserved some pitches nearby. We were allocated pitch 69. Hmm.


Patsy had been at rest since our summer trundle around France and we’d managed just one visit to her in storage. I’d decided to put in some USB charging points and and with the wiring completed – and the outlets tested, all I’d need to do when on site was drill the holes to accommodate them.

IMG_20151022_150730Sadly it wasn’t as straightforward as hoped. The hole cutter, – some cheap and nasty piece of shite that might as well of been made of cheese for all the good it was, tried my patience to it’s limit. Worse was to come though – all three sockets fizzled, sparked and then died. We borrowed the USB charger from the car, inserted that and it worked fine, so all was not lost, I would just need to buy replacements. One of these days I might learn and stop buying cheap Chinese tat off eBay. Nothing they make seems to last. Look at all the fireworks they make – none of them last five minutes……

Blood pressures had returned to normal by the time we embarked on our first research expedition of the trip – to the nearby Dog & Doublet, located on the banks of a canal just a fifteen minute walk from the site – now you know why we chose it.

It was a case of service with a grimace, at least initially but thankfully that didn’t last as both grog and grub were good. Out of interest we ventured further along the track to a hotel, the bar of which was open to non-residents. Just one real ale on offer – but it was soon quaffed, assisted no doubt by the sauna like temperature of the bar.

The early arrivals on Thursday were my Cousin Andy and wife Janet, not long after we’d returned from procuring some provisions. They’d been given the pitch next door to us and were allowed to drive straight on, so we’d be facing one another. No silly Caravan Club rules here – common sense was allowed to prevail. Helen & Rob arrived later in the afternoon and were given the pitch to the other side of us.

I said provisions didn’t I? Well although the trolley was well loaded, there was little in there that could constitute a meal – which is why we ended up at a pub again Thursday night, in the village itself. Again, very nice, good honest pub grub and  decent pint. Or three.

It was arrivals day for many on Friday, but in the morning Trev went off to catch up with an Aunty & Uncle and I went fishing with Andy & Janet. Or, to be more precise, Janet and I looked on as Andy got his er, tackle out at one of the many expanses of water that make up the Water Park. Nothing was biting though.


Trev returned early afternoon, but was soon off again as we went to procure a new leisure battery for Sam & Andy, who had discovered theirs had given up the ghost. We had chance to say a quick hello to Neil & Dave who had just arrived as we were pulling out.

Less than an hour later we were back on site and in time to meet Sam & Andy, David and Pete, all Twittercamp regulars. It will surprise no-one to learn that we ate at the pub that night – and very good it was too, taking advantage of the 10% discount they give to campers for food.

Saturday, and the final arrivals of the weekend were Iain & Zoe and their children Grace and Lulu who were staying for the week, it being half-term. This was to be their second Twittercamp having joined us for the first time at Moreton-in-Marsh in May.

One of the activities planned for the weekend was a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas a short drive away. We had been before – towards the end of of our round Britain trip in the original Patsy. On that day, the weather was foul and we we looking forward to going back when it was at least dry. No such luck. The forecasters had got it right and in all likelyhood we were going to get wet, so in the end only one car load – myself, Trev, Sam & Andy headed off in hope of some respite from the rain.

Well, believe it or not we got just that. By the time we’d downed a cuppa and a snack in the cafe, the rain had stopped – mostly, so at least we got to walk around in the dry. It looked particularly pretty with the leaves changing colours but a bit of sun would have been nice. I took a few photo’s but only with the phone as the camera stayed in the dry, so they’re not great.


Saturday evening saw the whole gang gather in Helen & Rob’s awning for the nights shenanigans – a cheese and wine party. We’d brought back a load of cheap wine from our trip around France in the summer and everyone had been asked to bring a cheese or two from the their local area. Not only that but fancy dress – the theme being French – was suggested. It wasn’t compulsory – nothing at Twittercamp is – but many participated and there were some damn fine costumes too. I declined although it was suggested that with my long leather coat I could have gone as Herr Flick from ‘Allo Allo’ – but that would hardly have been dressing up for me would it!


Well, it was a great evening, the wine flowed, the cheese nibbled and everyone had a great time. Some wine was better than others – but as we spent no more than five euros a bottle that was to be expected. I imagine a lot of the cheeses cost more. A big thanks must go to Helen and Rob for hosting this and preparing all the food. They did a cracking job and had quite a mess to clear up later on. At a minute to eleven one of the holiday site assistants stuck his head through the door and reminded us that quiet is expected after 11pm. We reluctantly complied but had had a great evening.

Sunday, brought with it dry weather, and for many of us, a trip to the Black Country Living Museum. Sadly David couldn’t join us as he had to head home so we said our goodbyes before we left.

Briefly, the museum occupies a 26 acre site and is designed to give a taste of life – in the Black County funnily enough – in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There is loads to do and see and a day is not long enough, which is why your ticket entitles you to re-admission for a year. Well worth it. Part of the site is given over to shops displaying wares as they would have in the day, and yes a pub too. It seemed rude not to, and the beer and accompanying cheese and onion roll was delicious although the prices were very much 21st century. Actors in traditional clothing from the time add to the atmosphere around the whole site.


Adjacent to the museum is the Dudley Canal and trips are offered through some of the tunnels on a narrowboat. Some of us opted to do this and it was a very enjoyable if slightly chilly 45 minutes, with the narrowboat captain providing informative and entertaining commentary.


Sunday evening many done their own thing, although some of us, predictably ended up at the pub. Given all the cholesterol loaded cheese I’d put away in the last twenty-four hours, a stilton ploughman's’ probably wasn't the most sensible option but it went down a treat.

Monday saw a number of departures, namely my cousin Andy, & Janet, Pete and Sam & Andy, but not before we tried out the new improved Tug from the Tug Co. It’s a portable trailer dolly designed for moving caravans, trailers, and anything with wheels and a tow hitch. Have a look at my review here.

Monday afternoon saw us head off to have a look around nearby Tamworth. Considering it was half-term it was pretty quiet but it was clear where all the crowds were – on the large retail park on the outskirts of town where traffic was queuing to get in. On another day and with more time, Tamworth's castle may have warranted a visit but, but this time, photo’s were confined to it’s exterior only.


Helen and Rob headed to the Arboretum and had a great day and were rewarded with some cracking photos by Rob. Have a look at his Facebook Photo Album here. Clearly, I’m going to have to refine my point, shoot and hope method!

That night the remainder of us met for a meal – yes, in a pub, but a different one. The food was excellent although the first attempt at my pizza landed on the floor as it was being carried out from the kitchen. Not only did they not charge me for it but I got a free desert as well. Result!

Tuesday and Trev was on the family trail again, but not before we said goodbye to Helen & Rob. I pottered about and done a bit of tidying up. In the afternoon we got to check the caravan’s nose weight – for the first time since we’ve been caravanning. Iain had been given a nose weight gauge when he bought his van and we were eager to try it out.

Oh dear. With the van loaded as per usual, the gauge went off the scale. We emptied the front locking, putting back only the essentials and redistributing various items – some to the bin. Eventually we got it down to 95kg, somewhere around where it should be.

The last supper – for us anyway - was of course at the pub where the food was as good and the landlord was as irascible – but friendly with it – as usual.

Wednesday, and it was time for us to depart. We were away early – as per usual, with Neil & Dave leaving later on. Iain, Zoe and the kids would remain until the weekend. We had a great time once again, but the goodbyes are always sad and a reminder that we see our caravanning friends far too briefly. There will be another Twittercamp next year of course, which we hope to announce before Christmas. Keep your eyes peeled on Facebook and/or Twitter – as well as here – for the latest news.

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