Cars, Trains & and a caravan or two

Hello again.

No, you can relax this not the start of another epic drivel fest as we’re not away in the ‘van again – although we have been in a ‘van – quite a few as it happens, thanks to a visit to the Caravan & Camping Show at the NEC.

To me, our weekend start around 7pm Friday night when I’ve finished work. The minibus is parked up and the keys handed back to security. Trev picks me up and we head off for grog and grub. So that’s where I’m going to start this blog – Friday night.

Predictably the miserable excuse for a road that is the A27 was partially blocked so after I’d dropped the last kid off, I had to return to Brighton along the coast road. Seemingly with half of Sussex. I’d managed to get stuck behind a driver – I use the term loosely – who was having some issues with clutch control. When they did manage to get going their driving was so erratic that, had I been a copper, I would have been reaching for the breathalyser.

By 7.15pm however we were on the road, wolfing down sarnies, as we pointed Rosie north – but only as far as Cambridge, the reason for which will become clear. Later.

The journey was trouble free and Rosie performed well and seemed to relish not having a tonne and a half of caravan on the back. We saw the usual thoughtless, careless, selfish and downright dangerous driving and kept well clear of the tail gaters which it had to be said consisted mostly of powerful German cars and big 4 x 4’s.

We’d picked a B & B close to the station and after checking in, uncharacteristically stayed put, despite the presence of a pub not  10 minutes walk away. We settled instead for a cuppa and the remnants of dinner – chocolate and crisps. Yes, the diet is going well…

WP_20170225_06_12_37_ProWith our jobs demanding early starts during the week it was no hardship – well not much – to be up and on the platform at Cambridge Railway Station soon after 6am. Nevertheless we were glad of the coffee and bacon baps suspecting – correctly as it turned out – that there wouldn't be a buffet trolley on the train.

Unusually for me, I’d not gone for the cheapest option when buying the tickets. We could have saved twenty five quid or so by travelling via and changing in, London although the journey would have been longer. As it happened a large portion of said journey would have been on a bus anyway thanks to weekend engineering work.

It was a pleasant enough journey, heading north first through Ely, March and on to Peterborough before veering off to the west, through Leicester and finally Birmingham’s shiny New Street station a little over two and a half hours later.

We needed to get another train to Birmingham International – the station that serves the NEC – and for some reason I hadn’t bought a through ticket. Whether is wasn’t offered on the booking site or not I can’t recall. Anyway, I’d made a list of trains that would call there and one was imminent so we headed straight for the platform where the train was ready and waiting.

We found the ticket inspector who was about to board and asked if we could buy tickets on board and he could not have been more helpful. Our original tickets were amended – both the out and return journeys – and all for just 50p. Result. It’s all to easy to moan, particularly when ‘Service with a Grimace’ seems so common, but this chap was great.

So within a few minutes we were at the NEC and although it only a little after opening it was already getting busy.

We had no intention of trying to cover the whole show so headed straight for the caravans in general and the Coachman area first to see what the latest incarnation of our Patsy looked like. It was good to see the latest models and what the other manufacturers were offering too, but there was nothing that really grabbed us – not that we were in the market for a new ‘van anyway. What our visit did though was change our minds about the sort of layout we’d like in the future. Our original preference had been for a rear island fixed bed with the washroom in the middle – a design we first saw in Coachman’s 545 model. However having had a good look our favourite layout now would be an end washroom followed by two single beds, then the kitchen and lounge. To us it would be a more flexible layout. It was nice too to be recognised as ‘the legs down guys’. Sorry, I should have asked your name, but thanks for saying hi. It means a lot

There was a couple of other things we checked out too. A towing cover is something we’re seriously considering so we had a look at the offerings from Specialised Covers and Protec. The other was a WiFi aerial and amplifier arrangement and a couple of examples on show gave us food for thought too.

It was time to head to the pub. Well it wasn’t quite but we went anyway, passing the Caravan Club – sorry, Caravan & Motorhome Club on the way. The name change had certainly stirred some interest as the area was IMG_nvollm-1packed, although it could also have been that there were plenty of seats and people were simple taking the weight off!

Twitter Beer O’clock – our rather loose excuse for a pint or two – was well attended by both new, old and even older friends and the time flew by. Burgers and chips were consumed and instantly forgotten as the conversation flowed. Some drifted off back to the halls, but we had an appointment with the 1622 from New Street, so made our way back to the train. It had been an enjoyable day, and ultimately as it turned out, a potentially very productive afternoon too.

Regulars will be pleased to know that Saturday did end properly. In a pub.

Sunday brought with it the reason we stopped in Cambridge. A visit to see Trev’s 91 year old Mum, whose jaw continues to baffle medical scientists, it being the only part of the body not riddled with arthritis. Must be all the exercise it gets….

With sundry chores completed and lunch cooked it was time for us to head back south, a journey which was unremarkable – at least until we’d descended Handcross Hill on the A23 and the road had levelled out.

I was in the middle lane, in the midst of overtaking someone, when a large Mercedes 4 x 4 came steaming past on the outside. The noise from the quartet of drainpipe sized tail pipes suggested he was intent on going even faster too. Up ahead, was a little Kia, busy overtaking someone. The Merc. driver decided to tailgate the Kia in the hope of getting him to move out the way presumably. What exactly happened next was unclear but a short while later, the Kia was a mangled mess, facing the wrong way alongside the crash barriers. The Merc. eventually came to a halt on the nearside, his front off side wing a mess and tyre almost completely detached from the rim.

We stopped too, called the police, ascertained that no-one was injured and went on our way. It’s a testament to the safety features of modern cars that it’s only egos – and probably wallets - that were bruised but could easily have been so much worse. We spent the rest of the journey home speculating what exactly happened, as, sadly our dash-cam wasn’t running!

So that was our weekend away. Hope you enjoyed it and apologies for the earlier lie about a load of drivel!

Until the next time…

Bristol part 3 - a ship, a flat cap, and more pubs…

Right, following Wednesday nights er, research expedition it was a later start Thursday morning, jumping once again on one of the lovely Bristol Ferries from just outside the back gate of the site.

The destination this time was another Brunel creation, this time the SS Great Britain, now lovingly preserved and sitting in dry dock. Although she started life as an ocean liner, she became a coal transporter and, after a massive fire in 1886, spent some years as a coal bunker in Ports Stanley in The Falkland Islands, before being scuttled and abandoned in 1937.

in 1970, thanks to some considerable donations, she was re-floated, mounted onto a pontoon and towed around 8000 miles back to Britain and Avonmouth docks before being re-floated and towed up the River Avon and returning at last to her home. What a sight that must have been for the gathered crowds, particularly when she passed under the Clifton Suspension Bridge. 

The dockyard is laid out as it would have been back in the day and you are directed first to the dry dock. Below the waterline is now enclosed – and dry thanks to glass plate. Whilst this gives the illusion of the ship still being on water, below it allows a giant dehumidifier to dry the air to help prevent further corrosion the ships hull. It also means you can get right up close to the hull and see the scuttle holes, the repairs to the hull and the giant propeller and rudder.



The dockyard museum tells the incredible history of the ship – there are some great newsreel clips of her launch and you get to see the documentary showing her return from the South Atlantic to Bristol too. Then it was time at last to go on deck, and how great was that. Isn’t she lovely:


We had a good look ‘below’ too from the plush public rooms and cabins from first class, the galley, offices and engine room to the rather more pokey steerage class.


We could have spent a lot longer looking around – and perhaps should have done. At fourteen quid for an adult it’s about the going rate for this sort of thing, but that does allow you to visit again within a year. It’s an excellent attraction. There’s a lot of thought gone into it and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would love to go again should we find ourselves back in Bristol – and I really hope we do.

Please have a look at the little video I put together of our visit HERE

Next up, was a walk along the harbour side past the Bristol Harbour Railway, replenishing reserves with a cuppa and beans on toast before arriving at the M-Shed, proudly guarded by a line of old dockyard cranes.

The M-Shed is a museum that tells the story of Bristol through three facets – People, Places & Life. It shows how Bristol has grown over the years, it’s contributions to engineering, culture and way of life and also, the slave trade.


It was pretty hot in there but the balcony provided some fresh air and a good view across to the city too. The exhibits extend outside, with a 1934 fireboat moored alongside a 1935 diesel tug. A steam powered dockside crane can be found in operation at certain times. It’s a worthy addition to Bristol’s museums, although if you’re not a fan of out of control screaming kids you may want to choose when you visit carefully. Having said that it is free, which no doubt helps explain it’s popularity.


A relatively early night ensued, catching up with our friends Neil & Dave for a quick drink in the evening, ready for our final day in Bristol on Friday.

You can probably guess by now how Friday started. Yes, on a ferry and into the city then heading north and east a little into the old city.


The indoor market in the old Corn Exchange got a look in and Trev splashed some cash on a flat cap. With the Portly Partner duly attired in said cap we continued our amblings admiring some fine old architecture on the way as well as some of the murals that we remembered from our last visit in 2013. And some new ones.



Someone on Farcebook had recommended a pub worth visiting. Now I always like to check out peoples’ recommendations, particularly if there’s a pint involved, so check it out we did.DSC_0070

The Bank Tavern sits like a  rose between two thorns and the contrast in architecture with it’s neighbours is stark. It was a welcoming place and a bowl of water was provided for our pals four legged friends. We didn’t get to try the food but what was coming out looked good.

Moving on and back into the heart of the old city, and the St Nicholas Market area, the sight of people queuing for some delicious smelling food in the covered alleyway whetted our appetite, so much so that we stopped, although for something far less exotic. At the pub around the corner – The Crown. The chip butties accompanied the beer perfectly….

DSC_0100We were heading now back now in the general direction of the ferry, but on the way we, yes, you guessed it spotted another pub – The King William Ale House, and it seemed only right to go in and er, admire the architecture Very nice it was too – and equally as welcoming for the pooches.

With a pub next door and more close by it could have easily turned into a pub crawl but good(?) sense prevailed and instead we made our way back to the ferry and thence the site. With most of the packing up done we met up with the guys again for the last supper. They would be staying for another night and we were sorely tempted to do the same – although it’s unlikely a pitch would have been available. So we said our goodbyes and thanked them for helping make it such a great week. We’d had a cracking time and so want to come back soon.

Our trundle home was trouble free – that is until  about half way along the A27, just a few miles from Patsy’s home when some numpty decided it would be a good idea to pull out of a layby straight in front of me. vlcsnap-2017-02-22-13h22m32s721Thankfully, there was nothing in the outside lane, a vehicle having just passed, so I lurched over to the right to avoid a collision. Patsy had a bit of a waggle on the back which wasn’t an enjoyable experience for any of us but the stabiliser soon brought her back into line. The dash cam captured the whole thing and there’s a link to the footage on YouTube HERE. It’s already had a tremendous number of hits – I wish all my videos were as popular as this one!

So, that was Bristol. What a great city. We’re already looking to go again. The site though is extremely popular and very hard to get booked on to for more than a night or two. Moreover, it is under threat – the council wants to redevelop the site but opposition, particularly from local traders who benefit from the money the site brings in, is considerable. I do hope it stays.

Right, there we are. Coming next is our Easter break and once again we’re heading north, so lots to come.

Until then, links to those videos again:

Brandon Hill & Cabot Tower video

An Evening’s ‘Research video

Bristol Harbour video

Patsy’s Places  - Baltic Wharf Caravan site slideshow

‘Approach & Arrive’ to Baltic Wharf video

The S.S Great Britain video

Thanks for reading – and watching,

Rich & Trev

Bristol Part 1 – Harbour Delights

Morning everyone – at least it is at the time of typing – from the Caravan Club site of Baltic Wharf in Bristol. It was raining earlier – when the blinds were still down, then the sun came out – briefly, but now the skies are darkening again. So we’ve suspended sightseeing activities for a little while so I can chase letters around the keyboard again in a probably vain attempt to produce something interesting. Still, we’ll see how it goes.

So, what’s happened in Legs Down land since Christmas? Well, we’ve dipped our toes in the swirling shark infested waters of vlogging! Legs Down now has a channel on You Tube and there you will already find Patsy’s Places – slide shows of some of the sites we’ve graced with our presence – and Know before you Tow – video’s showing the journey to a site so you know what to expect. Take a look and Subscribe if you can. We’ve also tried appearing in front of the camera too – an position that, so far, I’ve not found entirely comfortable. Having said that our introductory vlog – Hello from Rich & Trev – rapidly turned in to a giggle fest. We will be concentrating on the slide shows and arrival videos but will no doubt pop up in front of the camera every now and again. You have been warned!

It was last Saturday that we made the 180 odd mile journey west from East Sussex. The sensible thing would have been to go straight home after finishing work Friday night – around 7pm – have a bite to eat – and get packed ready for the off. Instead we went to the pub…

No matter though. Silly o’clock starts during the week meant we were still up early and over at the storage yard by 7:30am and pulling out just after eight.

I drove the first stint with Trev taking over after we’d stopped at Membury Services on the M4 for some overpriced artery clogging fodder. A word to the wise here – if you stop here with your caravan, don't follow the initial caravan signs – they are out of date and you’ll get a tour of the main car park. Head straight for the lorry park – that’s where they want you.

Having not stayed at the site in Bristol before I made careful not of the instructions given by the caravan club – and they were excellent, guiding us in from the M5 and under Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. Soon after 12:30 we were pulling in to the site have had a very smooth journey. Rosie clearly didn’t like the cold weather much however as she could only manage 27mpg.

With set up – and a very quick rinse down of Patsy’s front and rear – completed we cranked the heating up and enjoyed a much needed siesta. Later, with friends, and friends of friends already on site we headed to the nearby pub called The Cottage – just two minutes walk out the back gate – for grog and grub, both of which were very enjoyable.

20170212_114544Sunday and there was no rest for the wicked as we boarded the ferry – handily placed adjacent to the pub – to head into the city and to get our bearings. You can buy tickets for individual journeys or day tickets but we opted for the weeklies – unlimited travel for twelve quid – and we’ve already had more than our monies worth, it really is excellent value. Check out Bristol Ferry Boats for more information.

We had a good wander around, recalling some of the sites from our visit back in 2013, but the DSLR stayed back in the ‘van in readiness for subsequent incursions. We stopped for some er, liquid refreshment – just the one mind – and missed the next ferry back. So, in the interests of research we called in to another pub – just for the one – and missed the next ferry too. Eventually we got back to welcoming warmth of Patsy though and other than a brief excursion for a forgettable takeaway – that’s where we stayed.

Monday brought with it a much brighter if somewhat hazy day and we headed first up to Clifton Downs for a view of the magnificent suspension bridge – designed of course by one Isambard Kingdom Brunel who sadly never got to see it finished.

It was pretty hazy as you can see but the Downs is a lovely area – a massive open space with great views down to the Avon gorge below too.



The area surrounding the bridge had a lovely genteel feel about it - this was undoubtedly Bristol’s moneyed area but they certainly get a nice view for their cash.


Having driven across the bridge – a quid each way, change available – we parked up the car and walked it too. It’s not as big as it looks but even more impressive up close.


With Rosie juiced up and back at rest on site, we joined our friends and once again jumped on the ferry, taking in the whole of it’s circuit all the way to it’s furthest point and the Temple Meads railway station before jumping off back in the city for a sandwich – and yes, since you ask, a pint too. Ok, two then…


A circuitous route back to the ferry saw us take in the lovely Queen Square and a very inviting looking selection of pubs that we somehow resisted.


Back at ‘our’ end of the harbour and not five minutes walk from the caravan site is Underfall Yard. A visitors centre tells you all about the history and workings of Bristol’s floating harbour and you get to see the pump room – once supplying water under pressure via pipes all around the harbour to power hydraulics that opened bridges, sluices, operated cranes and so on. We were just in time to see one of the pumps operating – and they're pretty impressive, particularly given their age.


The Matthew took explorer John Cabot across the Atlantic from Bristol to Newfoundland in 1497 and a replica can normally be seen in the harbour as a tourist attraction however it was in dry dock here having some work done which at least meant we got to see it up close.

The Cottage was our destination for the evening for another excellent meal and we managed not to disgrace ourselves in the quiz either thanks to a great deal of guesswork.

Right, the word count is up so we’ll call a halt to part one. There’s lots more to come though, so check back soon.

Cheers & Beers

Rich & Trev

P.S. If you have a moment you might want to check out the video’s below:

Approach & Arrive – the route from the M5 to the site

Patsy’s Places – Baltic Wharf Caravan Club Site

On the Ferry – around Bristol harbour