2016 – A Rambling Review

Yep, it’s that time of year again – and blimey what a year it’s been. But I’m not here to write about the big events or the loss of many that have entertained us over the years. I will of course be looking back at our time in the caravan.

I like doing these end of year things – it reminds us what we’ve been up to, how lucky we’ve been to travel so much - and I’ve actually read some of the stuff I’ve been churning out too! If you’ve read any, some or all of it – thank you. It is appreciated, really.

As regulars will know, we work for a school and take every opportunity to get away in our ‘van – a nine year old Coachman called Patsy. By the end of the year will will have spent 109 nights in her. I know – very fortunate.

DSC_0002The beginning of the year saw us in Ramsgate in Kent – but only just. The weather forecast suggested heading home early would be wise, so it was New Years Day that we packed up and went home. Prior to that though we had a great time. Canterbury got a visit again and it was great to see Margate looking like it was over the worst. It holds so many happy childhood memories that seeing it in decline a few years back was heart-breaking. It was good too to wander around a re-opened Dreamland and see the original listed wooden rollercoaster back in action. We spent a lovely evening too with fellow caravanner Alison and family who invited us around to their home in Faversham. Find the original blog HERE

Next up was the February half-term break which saw us return to London and the Caravan Club site at Crystal Palace nestled under the mighty TV transmitter.

It would be easy to say that this trip was doomed from the start. No sooner had we arrived then we had to turn tail and head back as we had forgotten both the water a waste containers. They normally get stored in the ‘van but had been removed for her recent and eye wateringly expensive service.DSC_0036

Trev had picked up a bug doing the rounds and felt progressively worse as the week went on. So much so that we decided to go home a couple of days early missing out on a trip to the theatre and a visit to the London Dungeon. More positively we did get to meet up with a friend and had a look around a rapidly developing Kings Cross as well as a ride on the London Eye on what was about a perfect a day as could be expected for February. Original blog

WP_20160319_12_28_33_ProMarch and the school’s Easter holiday saw us head north again, stopping off first in Cambridge for the first Twittercamp of the year. It was our first sponsored meet too – by Cover 4 Caravans – so we were able to set everyone up for the day with bacon rolls for breakfast. Trev acted as guide for a walking tour of the city and – again thanks to the sponsorship – had a ride in a punt, unceremoniously grounding it on the quayside! the pretty market town of Saffron Walden, Ely cathedral and the American Cemetery at Madingley also got a look in.DSC_0044 Original blog

Next was a trundle up the A1 to Ripon in North Yorkshire. During our stay we got to see Ripon’s cathedral, the Georgian town of Richmond and had a pint (well, two then) at the highest pub in the British Isles – the Tan Hill Inn.

The town of Masham got a look in as did the lovely Fountains Abbey and Pately Bridge. We also got to meet up with more caravanning pals to in the shape of Caravan Larry and family  - A.K.A Phil. All in all, a great stay in a terrific area. Original blogs: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3

DSC_0041Time to head south but only to Longnor in the Derbyshire Dales about six miles south of Buxton. The tram tour of Buxton was one of the highlights but so too was the train journey through the dales from Buxton to Sheffield via Stockport. Sheffield city centre was looking pretty chipper too.WP_20160406_16_12_20_Pro

Original blogs: Part 4 & Part 5

Last was East Horsley in the Surrey Hills. Guildford was the highlight here along with it’s modern cathedral sitting high and overlooking the city. Original blog

DSC_0214The May half-term found us in Hampshire just outside of Winchester where we met up again with Alison from Faversham. The cathedral obviously got a visit but my favourite was the ‘Watercress Line’ – a heritage railway running from Alresford to Alton operating mostly steam but some old diesel engines too. Original blog

After last summers incursion into France, we stayed this side of the English channel for the school summer holidays, first heading west and returning after three years to The lovely Warcombe Farm campsite in North Devon.DSC_0053

The weather for our weeks stay wasn’t great - particularly given what was to come but we had a great time nonetheless. The village of Clovelly was the undoubted highlight but it was too to catch up with site managers Judith & Mike over grog and grub.
Read more in the original blogs - Part 1 & Part 2

13690676_10209255914331538_3691901901787031816_n[2]Next stop was Cirencester and and the Caravan Club site on the edge of town. Just three nights here on what was really a stop over on the way to Twittercamp we got to meet Dan Trudgian and family - fellow caravanners and keen Vloggers. Dan even made a video of me doing some work on Patsy which you can see HERE. Whilst you’re over YouTube take a look at some of his other videos too. Interesting and informative for both caravanning novices and the more experienced and extremely well put together.DSC_0289 Original blog.

Next up was the first big event of our summer getaway - Twittercamp. Regulars and newcomers gathered for a scorcher of a week at Henlow Bridge Lakes in Bedfordshire. The usual fun and games as well as a group outing to Wimpole Hall made for a very enjoyable if sweaty and mozzie bitten week. Original blog.
WP_20160730_16_39_10_ProStop number four was in Cambridgeshire at Highfield Farm Touring Park to catch up with Trev’s Mum, before heading east again, this time to Colchester in Essex, for the wedding of my Cousin’s eldest, Sarah to fiancĂ© Derek. Original blogs - Part 5 & Part 6
It was a fantastic weekend from start to finish and it was great to spend time with what is now my closest and almost only family.
Stop number six was in Norfolk – on the coast in Mundesley. And I mean right on the coast – what a view we had.
The weather stayed kind and we we had several trips down memory lane to North Norfolk's’ seaside towns including Hunstanton, Wells-next-the-Sea, Cromer & Sheringham to name but a few. We also got to catch up with former colleague and friend Nick and wife Ellen who had moved up from the south in the spring. Original blogs - Part 7, Part 8 & Part 9.
DSC_0124Suffolk was to be the next – and last - county on our travels and site number seven – Beach View – was, as you may have guessed, on the coast too. Located near the village of Sizewell, it had a couple of imposing neighbours in the shape of nuclear power stations – although one has been decommissioned.
My cousin Andy and wife Janet joined us for a long weekend and we hooked up with the newly weds too, a little way along the coast here at Aldeburgh. We did get out and about a little and at last the inflatable kayak, bought over two years ago, got some use.DSC_0001
The last stop of the trip, still in Suffolk was at Broughton Hall farm, looking even more beautiful than when we visited this time last year. This was to to be wind down and sort out time but the trip was to end on somewhat of a sombre note as we made a return visit to Cambridge for the funeral of an old friend of Trev’s. Original blog.
Our October half term outing saw Patsy (that’s the caravan for those who've not been keeping up!) emerge from her new closer storage facility after the longest rest of the year - nine weeks - for a trundle up to Warwickshire and Somers Wood Caravan Park after an overnight stop at the Caravan Club site at Gatwick.
DSC_0066 (2)Motoring became the unintended theme of the week as we visited both the excellent - and free - Coventry Transport Museum and the British Motor Museum. There were a couple of visits to Birmingham too, both of which involved some er, research and all in all it was a great week.
Original blogs:  Warwickshire - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4.Camden Collage

Which brings us to December and the long awaited Christmas holidays. First in our ‘Festive Threesome’ was the Camping & Caravan Club site of Theobald’s Park in Hertfordshire. It was an area that had not popped up on our radar before but we thoroughly enjoyed it, with St Albans, Hertford and Ware all getting a visit as well as the Forty Hall Estate and a day in London too.

Next it was back to Cambridge and the Caravan Club site at Cherry Hinton to spend Christmas with Trev’s Mum. We managed to catch up with several friends too, sending Green King’s share price soaring in the process.

DSC_0007The year has ended here at Run Cottage in the village of Hollesley just a few minutes from the Suffolk Coast. Not our first choice but it should have been as it’s a lovely site. We met up with my cousin – twice and had some lovely bright crispy days out too.

So, that was our 2016 – the caravanning bit anyway. Once again we’ve been to some great places and met some great people along the way. I hope your caravanning year has been fun too.

2017 is already shaping up to be another good ‘un with several sites already booked for the various school holidays.  We’re heading to Bristol for our next half-term, then returning to Yorkshire for the Easter break and our first ever Twittercamp ‘up north’.

Right, have fun tonight and keep safe – and see you on the other side! Happy New Year and have a great 2017.

All the best, Rich & Trev.

A Caravanning Christmas – Part 5

Right here we go again, from our final site of the trip – Run Cottage in Hollesley near the Suffolk Coast. What a lovely site it is too, but not our original choice. More of that later.15541649_1271047352955706_4962112932967257074_n

Our week in Cambridge was quite hectic. As well as spending time with HRH aka Trev’s Mum – one luminary that has, so far, avoided the Grim Reaper of 2016 - probably because he’s too busy -  we managed to catch up with quite a few friends too, from different facets of our time here. There was lot’s of talking, lots of eating and yes, there were a few ales along the way too. Greedy - sorry, Greene King’s shareholders certainly aren’t complaining.

Boxing day saw us winding Patsy’s legs up quite early. My cousin Andy had invited us to his to share in the boxing day celebrations – and only a fool would pass up the chance to sample some Janet’s cooking. The nice folk at Run Cottage had agreed to let us on early – it suited them too – so, just before 8am we set sail.

The majority of the journey was on the delightfully empty A14 – we did pull off a couple of times – in a futile search for a certain fast food chain for breakfast. I’d forced down some cardboard that was pretending to be a breakfast cereal but Trev’s belly was to remain empty until we got sited.

A couple of minor issues presented themselves on arrival, one shortly after the other. We’d checked the lights before leaving Cherry Hinton of course but as I was trundling towards our pitch, Trev noticed that the left hand indicator on the ‘van was permanently on. Not a major drama and probably easily put right – but on another day. In addition, on unpacking we discovered that our little illuminated globe was now composed of more parts than before – the arm that supports it from top to base had snapped. A quick repair with duck tape lasted about five minutes. Oh well.

15740995_10154228737083231_5861684561813889028_nThere was just time to avail ourselves of the immaculate facilities before heading back down the A12 to Colchester for the gathering of what is my closest – and almost only family – my Cousin Andy, wife Janet, their daughters and husband and partner, two grand children and Janet’s parents too. I’ve said before that it was caravanning that has brought us closer together and I particularly wanted to see Andy as his Dad had passed away just a month or so before. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening and Janet’s cooking was, as always, divine. Thanks to for the lovely presents. Clearly a great deal of thought had gone into them as they included quite a lot of erm, ‘research’. I need to practice my selfie skills though, clearly…

We woke to a lovely bright morning – eventually – and enjoyed the luxury of a lie in that had for so long been denied us – well, 48 hours anyway. With a cooked breakfast devoured I got some pictures of the site before hooking Patsy up to the car – just the cable, not the whole van – to sort out her misbehaving indicator. It will surprise no-one to hear that everything was fine and all lights were working as they should. I decided to leave well alone rather than investigate. Something I’ll probably regret when we hook up to go home…..

The late morning saw us venture out to Bawdsey – about a 15 minute drive from the site and from where, at other times of the year, you can take a foot ferry across the River Deben to Felixstowe Ferry and through to Felixstowe itself.


Nearby Bawdsey Manor was requisitioned for the second world war, used as an RAF base and was home to the worlds first operational radar station. There are a limited number of open days throughout the year – have a look on their website for more details.

The manor house itself is now a boarding and day school – and what a location. I wonder if they need any drivers?


With the village shop up from the site closed up for the day, we headed next into Woodbridge to procure essentials which, quite by accident included beer from a local brewery, pausing at the bridge on the way in to Melton to grab a couple of photos.


In the evening the Sorrel Horse in nearby Shottisham was the destination for the evenings fill of grog and grub. Bought by the community in 2011 to ensured it stayed as a pub, it is well worth a visit. Beer straight from the cask and great tasting good honest pub grub made for a very enjoyable experience.

Right, that’s nearly it for now, but I should probably tell you why we changed from our original site. Well, we were booked in at Church Farm in Aldeburgh, a  bit further up the coast. You may recall that we stayed nearby in the summer which is when we went to check out the site. Liking what we say we booked – and paid, there and then. Just on the edge of Aldeburgh within walking distance of the beach – and yes, pubs too it would have been ideal.

A couple of weeks ago – when we were down at Theobald’s Park, I had a call from the site. Should I require access to the shower/toilet block I was to send to them a stamped, self-addressed envelope. On receipt of envelope they would call me, take a £20 deposit, then send me a keycard which would give access to said facilities block. There was going to be no-one in the office you see. At the end of the stay I was to post the card back to them and my deposit would be refunded. I suggested to them that that was a little long winded and that I could pay the deposit there and then with a small consideration for the cost of sending me the card, but that apparently ‘wasn’t possible’. I could have a full refund if I didn’t like it. So, after talking it over, that’s what we done. It just seemed an odd way to carry on – the deposit I had no problem with at all, it was just the faffing about. An email enquiry to them as to whether the facilities would be cleaned during our stay there went unanswered. Bear in mind too, that this was not a cheap site. I didn’t expect to have to jump through hoops to get the use of something that I’d already paid for. Still, there it is, and having been here at Run Cottage for a few days now, we’re glad we changed. What a lovely site this is:


As always, some slideshows:

Right, that really IS it! For now. Check back soon for more from Suffolk from the Blogger in Black.

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A Caravanning Christmas – Part 4

After a full on day in London - well as full on as it gets when your as out of condition as us – Saturday morning was a necessarily lazy time. The most energy we used was picking out our selections for our Weekly Wager. Energy that was largely wasted as it turned out. For a couple of years, following the discovery of a few quid lurking in an account with an online bookies, we’ve been having a flutter on the weekends Premier League football matches – 50p on each of the ten games. The fun was watching Final Score and debating whether to cash out early to secure some winnings. Last season was pretty successful, so much so that we upped the stakes – to a whole pound. Last of the big spenders eh? The reward for our confidence has been a steady decline in the kitty since the start of this season thanks to some truly weird results. Looks like the yacht, or at the very least a new long leather coat,  is going to have to wait.

Anyway, after a relaxing morning it was time to head out again, and back to London Colney, a little way around the M25. Those paying attention in previous blogs will now that we called here on our first day out for a bit of ‘research’ at The Bull, which came highly recommended by friend and fellow caravanner Iain. His parents lived nearby so a get together was planned. We were a little early so I took the chance to grab a few photo’s – even in the December gloom and mist it was looking lovely:


Well, we had a great afternoon and missed the cut off for food thanks to constant chinwagging, so when it was time for a parting of the ways we adjourned to the pub across the road for burger and chips.

Sunday was our last day on site and to honest I would have happily stayed put in the caravan – she was warm and cosy and looked lovely with all the Christmas lights on, compared with the chilly damp gloom outside. Nevertheless we made the effort – and I am so glad we did.

First up was Forty Hall & Estate, just a few minutes drive from the site and easily walkable by those more enthused by such activity. The Grade 1 Jacobean Manor House is surrounded by 273 of gardens, farmland, parkland, lakes and meadows.


There was a small charge – three quid – to enter the house thanks to a Christmas exhibition, but normally it’s free – so are the surrounding gardens and so is the car parking. A great place to bring your four legged friends for a good run – although, this time of year you might want to bring some wellies. A picnic would be a good addition in the summer.


Next up – and barely a minutes drive back towards the site was Myddelton House Gardens. One Edward Augustus Bowles, a famous gardener – apparently – lived here in the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries and transformed the gardens into the design to be seen today. Understandably not looking at it’s best in December it was still a pleasant walk around and one could only imagine the riot of colours and smells that would greet you in the warmer months. Guided tours are available at certain times but always available is an audio guide for just £1.50. Something I wish we’d have done now. If you’re looking to have a nose around the house though, you can’t as it’s closed to the public.




There was a charge for parking here but it’s only a couple of quid for three hours. After our stroll around we headed for the tea room to replenish dwindling reserves. Tea served properly – in a teapot – and delicious toasted teacakes made for a very enjoyable – and far from expensive – experience. Thoroughly recommended.

Rosie too needed replenishing and once again I splashed the cash on some ‘super’ diesel. Yes it’s more expensive but we lavish her with it every so often and she certainly seems to run better as a result. At well over a hundred thousand miles now and hauling around a lard arse like Pasty – and us,  she deserves a treat from time to time.WP_20161218_17_06_28_Pro

Sunday night brought with it the Last Supper – for this part of the trip anyway, and we contemplated whether to return to one of the various pubs we’d tried during the week. The adventurous spirit prevailed though and we opted to try another one – The Rose and Crown - again, not ten minutes drive away from the site. Well, talk about saving the best ‘till last. Sunday roast was on the menu but we both opted for steak pie – and it was stunning – full of tasty tender meat accompanied by heaps of fantastic veg, not too mention a huge Yorkshire pud and stuffing. Easily the best meal of the trip and we both came away absolutely stuffed. The beer was good too – nothing new for me to try but the London Pride was spot on.

So that was almost the end of our time at Theobald's Park. This area of Hertfordshire – which could easily be considered as the outer reaches of North London too - may not be on everyone's radar as a place to pitch up but there is certainly plenty to do and see. London is the more obvious draw and it’s pretty accessible from here, but there’s much more too and we’ve seen some of that this week.

Right, getting connected. For most of the week we used the mobile hotspot facility on my cheap and cheerful Lumia 535 3G phone running on the Three network with no problems. Connections was reasonably fast and stable. Then we switched to the site WiFi, and as we’re doing another Club site in the next year opted for the annual package at £20 for up to 12GB of data. Mostly OK but sometimes unusable and uploading was very slow.

We didn’t use the Huawei mobile WiFi adapter but popping in SIM cards from each of the major suppliers revealed 4G was available on all of them although signal strength varied.

There’ll likely be a bit of a break before the next part. We’re up in Cambridge now – at the Caravan Club site at Cherry Hinton – spending most of our time with Trev’s Mum, but we’ve already managed to catch up with a few friends too. So, have a great Christmas and check back soon for another blog from our next and last stop – near the Suffolk coast.

Some links:

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