Friends in the Forest.

Ever since we spent a few days shuttling kids to and from the New Forest a few years ago we said we’d love to go back in the caravan but it kept getting bumped down the list. Then we found out that fellow caravanning bloggers Deb & Steve would be starting their new jobs as assistant wardens at the Caravan & Motorhome Club site near Bransgore. Their blog is well worth a read - check it out HERE.The chance to meet up and explore a new area at the same time was too good an opportunity to pass up and what a great week it was too. Here goes, let the waffle commence (too late….)

The miserable excuse for a main road that is the A27 was surprisingly kind to us, even given our early start. None of the usual hold ups in Worthing, Arundel or around Chichester saw us waiting in a layby for half an hour so as not to arrive too early. Even the queue to get through Lyndhurst was uncharacteristically short.

Set up was swift if a little sweaty thanks to a rare bright thing in the sky, even though I had reluctantly conceded that a t-shirt was more appropriate than my usual get up. It was black though. Obviously.

It’s during the first afternoon away that we make a list of stuff we’ve forgotten and this trip was no different. Milk was top of the last, the recently purchased 4 pint carton still sitting in the fridge at home. Next up was a new one for us. Bed linen. The duvet covers were all washed and ironed. At home. The last was booze. Yes you read it right. Aside from some Scotch in the drinks cabinet, the cupboards were bare grog wise. Fortunately for us, though not for the wallet a supermarket a few minutes drive away took care of everything.

It was a busy week although not through sightseeing. Deb & Steve had the weekend off so we took advantage of the visiting chip van on Saturday night. On Sunday, the little Cadac was dusted off and performed some cremations as friends Gail & Mark joined us too. I say friends - we’d never met but have been conversing for ages on Twitter so it felt like we knew them already. Gail & Mark are also club wardens at another site and we’re already looking forward to catching up with them again later in the year.

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Monday saw the arrival of Gladys. No, not another caravanner but a caravan in the shape of a lovingly restored 1967 Bailey Maestro led by Lee Davey and son Charlie. Lee & Charlie spent about 18 months not only restoring Gladys but bringing her up to date for the 21st century with the addition of heating, solar panel, USB points and hot water.

DSC_0081DSC_0076Check out Lee’s YouTube channel here to see the videos they made documenting the restoration. Lee and Charlie - and later Lee’s Wife Helen joined us for more burnt offerings as did fellow caravanning friends and Twittercamp regulars Sam and Andy who very generously contributed to my ongoing ‘research’ project by way of some beers from local Dorset breweries. Check out our video of a special Natter with Lee & Charlie about Gladys HERE

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Tuesday saw us venture further than the supermarket for the first time on the trip with a run to Christchurch Quay and Priory. Now Christchurch has - so I was told later - a similar reputation to Worthing and Eastbourne - that of God’s waiting room. It also has - according to some very brief research - i.e Google - an average house price of around £323,000. Eastbourne it is then….

All that aside the Quays is a charming area to visit - tea rooms, terraced restaurants, waterside walks, river cruises and a great little water park for kids too. You could smell the money in the Priory Quays development of waterside properties and the walk along the waterside past the Priory and into town was lovely. Deb & Steve treated us to a lovely meal in the evening before adjourning to Patsy for an entertaining grog fuelled chinwag.

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We headed south again on Wednesday and emerged on the coast at Barton-on-Sea, travelling east before pausing at Keyhaven. You will see from the photo’s that it was a rather murky day but it was a very pleasant little place nonetheless. An arduous walk along the shingle spit will find you at Hurst Castle and there were plenty doing just that. For the less energetic a ferry is available from the little harbour. We did neither but should have taken the ferry over. Oh well, there’ll be another time.

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Final destination of the day was bustling Lymington and a very busy Quayside. My walking abilities are somewhat limited at the moment thanks to my uncooperative left knee. You may recall me going on about this last summer - well eventually, thanks to some foot  orthotics from the clinic the situation improved immensely for a few months but now it seems like we’re heading back to square one. Terrific. A return appointment at the clinic is pending.

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With rain on an off for most of Thursday we got no further than the nearby village of Bransgore for an excellent evening meal in The Crown having lavished some considerable attention on Patsy’s interior during the day by way of a very thorough hoover and dust.

We were on the road once again on Friday the destination being Buckler’s Hard near Beaulieu. For the uninitiated - and that included me before I looked it up - the ‘hard’ refers in nautical terms to a firm area by water where boats can be launched. A blog post be Deb which you can find HERE inspired us and it was a good call too. A little museum tells the story of the area and the village and a woman in period costume gave us a short guided tour. It’s a fantastic location - two roads of houses fronted by wide grass banks looking down to the Beaulieu River. You can take a boat trip along said river but time was marching on so we gave it a miss. What is with this trip and missing boats? Anyway, well worth a visit if you’re down this way. There are dining options in the shape of a cafĂ© and pub - unbelievably we visited neither - but if you bring a picnic there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view too. On the way out we bumped into some fellow caravanners who have been following our caravanning adventures since the start through this blog. Needless to say a chinwag ensued. Thanks for saying hello Brian & Sue and hope to catch up on site somewhere soon.

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Friday evening saw Patsy welcome more guests in the shape of Karla & Steven, a young caravanning couple from nearby Bournemouth who, again we’d never met but felt as if we did thanks to regular interactions on Twitter. Karla’s blog is also well worth a read and as a wheelchair user gives another perspective on caravanning. Check it out HERE. We presented some burnt offerings from the Cadac while they bestowed us with some delicious mini Victoria sponges. I think we got the better deal!

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And that was the week over. A fairly early getaway meant no queuing to get through Lyndhurst and Patsy was back at rest in her storage bay by lunchtime. We will definitely return to the New Forest at some point as there is so much more to see and do - we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Right, a busy and probably chaotic four weeks back at the circus beckons - and then we’re off again and all those silly o’clock starts will finally feel worth it as our summer of touring begins.

So, until then, thank you as always for reading - if you’ve made it this far!

Cheers & Beers

Rich & Trev.

An Eastern Adventure Part 7

And the final part, to the relief of many no doubt! Yes, our Easter holidays getaway has come to an end. The washing machine can just be heard in-between frequent exasperated sighs as I chase letters around the keyboard in an attempt to bring you up to date with what’s been happening.

Well, in sightseeing terms - not a lot. However it’s been an eventful week or so, so here goes.

Saturday and Sunday were near total washouts weather wise. I caught up on some blog stuff while Trev did a bit of ‘house’ work. Sunday afternoon, with nothing in - well there was but neither of us was about to cook it - we ventured out for a late lunch. We lucked out at our first choice - the Kings Arms - as everyone else seemed to have the same idea. We missed out by ten minutes at our ‘local’ the Delaval Arms so ended up at the Melton Constable - which turned out to be a very very good third choice and better than our previous visit during the week.

Monday saw us drag Patsy through the Tyne Tunnel and down the A1 to Yorkshire. The weather improved a little as we went but it was nigh on freezing packing up and my hands felt like blocks of ice as I attended to the water, waste and so on.

Around midday we arrived at Naburn Locks Caravan Park just a few miles south of York. Easy to find, a friendly welcome and an attractive looking park with nice big pitches. We got sorted then later had a meal at the local The Blacksmith Arms in the village. My Cajun Chicken with rice and garlic bread was awesome. Trev’s burger sadly not.

Whatpub.com had listed another pub very close by so we thought we’d have a trundle to have a look. Close it was - if had a boat or fancied a swim - as it was the other side of the Ouse and entailed a long trip around to cross the river. After what seemed like a lifetime - or one of our Sunday Night Natters at least we found it - the car park being across the road and adjacent a dangerously high Ouse river. It was nice enough but turned pump clips suggested it had been a busy day on the real ale and the only one left tasted like it was on the turn too.

Tuesday saw the arrival of friend and fellow caravanner David who would be joining us for a couple of days. After Trev sated us with some delicious bacon baps we had a wander down to the Naburn Locks - just a few minutes walk through the site. Blimey, I knew there'd been some rain but just how much clearly evident as we surveyed the scene in front of us. The lock gates were hardly visible and I would estimate that the water was around 7-8 feet higher than normal. This should have rang some alarm bells - but it didn't!

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Wednesday saw us in Bradford - we’d been invited to the Pro-tec factory to have a look around, chew the cud and devour some sandwiches. For the uninitiated Pro-tec make covers for caravans - all over for storage and front covers to protect your ‘van when towing. They’d launched  anew product at the February NEC show which had generated a lot of interest, it’s unique selling point being that it zipped up the middle, could be quickly fitted by one person and was competitively priced. We got so see their team in action - including some very skilled seamstresses - and also a scout around the new factory which they would be shortly moving into.

We’d put out a call on social media for questions we could put to Paul the MD about his products, the new towing jacket in particular and caravan covers in general. Paul agreed to go on camera and Trev in his best Paxman voice asked the questions. It was informative, entertaining and the video will be out real soon. A big thanks to Pro-tec for inviting us over, for showing us around and of course the sandwiches!

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Back at the site things weren't good. Some of the pitches were now under water and we we urged to move onto the higher area as soon as we could - with the rain still failing and water levels rising it was the only sensible thing to. We didn’t contemplate any further grief and made it to the pub for dinner and back without having to resort to the breast stroke.

In the morning however the water had risen further and the main road through the site - and to the exit was now well under water - along with our original pitch. With an lunchtime appointment at our next site in Cambridgeshire we wondered how on earth we were going to get out.

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Fortunately the site owner had a wide er, back passage and soon after eight we trundled gently out and were soon on our way down the dear old A1.

Our final destination was Stroud Hill Park - an adults only site under the Tranquil Parks umbrella situated in the village of Pidley. Out three nights here would give us time to catch up with friends and family and do some sorting out before Patsy goes back in storage for a few weeks. We were also due to meet with Cover 4 Caravans boss Richard for a catch up. As many will know we provide both written and video content for their website in the form of exclusive Site Reviews and a series of videos on caravanning for beginners.

Catch up we did, first in Patsy where Trev served up more delicious bacon baps then over in the on-site bar - now you know why we chose this site! With plans for further collaborative projects hatched we said our goodbyes under a rare but extremely welcome blue sky.

Friday was catch up day with friends and family then Friday evening dined at the on site restaurant  - and what a meal it was. A special occasion too as it was our twelfth anniversary. Good food and good company made for a very enjoyable evening.

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Our last full day in the ‘van for a while saw a brief incursion into Huntingdon for fuel. This trip has been a tough one for old Rosie, dragging a tonne and half of Patsy around in all weathers. She is starting to show her age - and mileage - but still performed well, if a little thirstily at times.

With packing up nearly complete we headed to the bar to record the latest Sunday Night Natters. Came back, went over for dinner the recorded it again after discovering the lapel microphones were on the blink, much to the amusement of our fellow diners.

Sunday saw, as usual an early start for the 3 hours or so back to the south coast. Our visit to Stroud Hill Park had been brief - too brief in fact. It is a lovely site - generously sized full serviced pitches, pristine and spacious ensuite facilities and the ever welcome on site bar and restaurant which served up some mighty good food too. There will be a Site Arrival Video and Site Tour out at some point and we hope to be able to squeeze in another visit in the summer. It’s a handy stopping off point for our trips up north.

Right, that’s it. The New Forest is next at the end of May which we’re really looking forward to - along with - I hope some better weather too! So, until then,

Thanks as always

Rich & Trev





An Eastern Adventure Part 6

Thursday and another bright sunny, if somewhat chilly day. An ultimately enjoyable one too although it did go a bit pear shaped late afternoon. Newcastle was still on the to-do list but we decided instead to get the train across to Carlisle. I’d pondered this a couple of times and the ‘dentist’ at the Beamish Museum helped make our mind up, commenting on what a lovely trip it was.

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He was right too. Beautiful landscapes and very appealing towns and villages made for a very pleasant hour and half although the sun had done a disappearing act as we arrived in Carlisle.

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I don’t know why but I didn’t have great expectations of Carlisle. It’s never been recommended by any fellow caravanners or travellers either on line or over a pint so we were pleasantly surprised. Lunch was first of course, then an amble around the old town and cathedral area. We didn’t get to the castle but both agreed Carlisle was worth another visit. The journey too - passing through the likes of Hexham and Haltwhistle has inspired us to explore further west when we’re up here next.

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It was whilst sitting awaiting the train to depart on the return journey that things started to go wrong. There’d be an accident along the line in Brampton which had resulted in a car upside down on the line. Information was scarce but eventually any hope of returning by train was abandoned by Northern Rail and a coach was summoned, which would take us to Hexham where we could re join the train. Two hours later we left Carlisle on the coach.

It wasn’t that unpleasant a journey. Although the A69 runs alongside the railway some of the way we did get a different perspective as we dived into villages to drop people off. So far so good. Until we got to Hexham. As instructed we piled off the coach and headed to the platform where the display told us a train would be due in a couple of minutes. Then came the dreaded announcement that a rail replacement bus would be operating instead. Christ! The bus in question was actually the coach we’d just got off and the driver could be seen having an animated conversation with someone on the phone and it was some moments before he opened the doors and let us back on. It was clear to me that he’d been royally stitched up and initially told he’d only have to go as far as Hexham.

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To cut a long story short we got to Newcastle eventually. Those who lived locally had to give directions to the stations in their villages and I fired up my satnav to get him to the Gateshead Metro centre, the penultimate stop. The moment I lost faith though was when someone advised him to watch the speed cameras approaching a village and he replied that they didn’t think they worked at night!

So it was nearly ten o’clock when we arrived back at Whitley Bay Metro and retrieved our car. From someone’s driveway. The free station car park was not surprisingly chokka in the morning and whilst there was plenty of on street parking that was proving far more problematic than need be. Pay machines were scarce and the only one in sight helpfully didn’t tell you how much you needed to pay to stay all day. I tried to coax the rarely used parking app on my phone which promptly locked me out when it couldn't remember the  right password! However with the phone in danger of serious injury an old lady appeared and said we could park on her drive. How kind. Anyway, not wanting to disturb her so late we popped a little gift through her letterbox before heading back to the site and to bed.

Yeah right. The bag of crisps and bar of chocolate from the vending machine at Hexham station had partially sated our appetites but we were both hanging for a pint so I dropped Trev at the pub by the site entrance and deposited the car and put the heating on in Patsy before scurrying back.

The pub was in full swing with a quartet of guitarists knocking out some crowd pleasing favourites including the inevitable - given where we were - Fog on the Tyne. It went down well - as did the ale and ‘just a quick one’ became quite a few more. A great finish to a rather topsy-turvy day and ironically, had we have got back from Carlisle on time, we would have called in for a bite to eat, a pint and probably missed out on all the fun. Every cloud it seems. Well some of ‘em certainly!

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The weather Friday had turned again and all thoughts of going into Newcastle were abandoned - and looking at the forecast our opportunity had passed. So I got caught up on some blog stuff - Part 5 I think - and in the afternoon when the skies cleared a little we had a wander around Tynemouth and a refreshing late afternoon pint. It was then that I picked up a voicemail on my phone from the wardens at Thirsk cancelling our booking there due to site conditions thanks to the constant rain there. Not good. We were due to leave our current site on Easter Sunday so we needed to get something sorted out sharpish.

Right, that seems a good point to call a halt. There is more to come including a factory visit, friends re-united and an evacuation. It’s certainly been an eventful trip!

An Eastern Adventure Part 5

IMG_20180327_073823Yep, another blog post has made an appearance which on this trip can only mean one thing - it’s raining. After a wet and windy night we had a bit of respite in the early hours, but now the wind and rain is back with a vengeance. The site - we’re still at Old Hartley in Whitley Bay - is damn near full and while it’s a annoying for us, it must be really frustrating for the many that are out for the first time this year. I do hope they can make the best of it.

Anyway, we’ve had a good few days prior to the weather turning. Here goes:

Nothing much of note to report on Tuesday. With Part 4 finished and put out we went for a pootle, first through Whitley Bay then on to Tynemouth. A lot of development work going on in Whitley particularly on the coast and the old Spanish City building was getting quite an extensive makeover too. Tynemouth looked as lovely as ever.

Whilst the mornings rain had just about vanished visibility was poor and the camera stayed in the car. It’s an area we’ve explored before anyway so weren't too bothered. After a brief trundle past the site up to Blyth we paused for pint on the way back at the Kings Arms in the delightful spot that is Seaton Sluice.

I managed my first proper walk of the trip in the late afternoon. A pleasant if slightly muddy 30 minute amble along the cliff past the site to the aforementioned Seaton Sluice. I’m trying the 1000 miles in a year challenge and have slipped well behind target but every little helps.

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Dinner was taken at the Delaval Arms - just a couple of minutes walk from the site. If you’re slow. A friendly local with real ale and decent good value honest pub grub. Very enjoyable.

Wednesday saw us back on the road and on the sightseeing trail with a day at the Beamish Museum. We’ve passed the signs many times on our trips up and down the A1 and it’s been a recommendation by many. I can now see why too - what a fantastic day we had. Going back in time to the North East in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries we walked around the town visiting the dentist, the hardware shop, the Masonic lodge, the bank and the pub. Though, believe it or not, not stopping.

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The old station was delightful although there were no engines running until the weekend sadly.

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The pit village was next with the school and the church getting a look in before the mine itself.

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We had a brief foray into a drift mine - and experience I would highly recommend but much easier if you’re less than five foot tall. It gave you a taste of the conditions the miners had to work in - and as you can imagine it wasn’t pleasant.

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We got to see a steam winding engine working too - the machine that lowered the miners and raised the coal - demonstrated by a wonderfully enthusiastic and knowledgeable chap. Something which was repeated by all the role players throughout the day, be it by the dentist, the baker, the school teacher or miner and the experience was made all the more enjoyable for it.

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There was a steam train running - and a traction engine too at the Pockerley Waggonway and some very pregnant sheep taking it easy at the farm.

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We didn’t have time to do everything sadly and returned to the car just before the heavens opened. But with tickets valid for a year we very much hope to be back. A new 1950’s town is under construction too.

20180328_191710On recommendation from more than one source grog and grub was taken at the Kings Arms - and again it was sound advice. The Pesto Chicken for yours truly and Mince & Dumplings for Trev were superb and we both agreed it was some of the best pub grub we’d ever had. It would have been rude not to stop for one at our ‘local’ the Delaval Arms on the way back, so we did.

Right, it’s a bit of a short one - and it’s not the first time I’ve had to say that - but hopefully the photo’s will make up for it. Stand by for part six soon where we let the train, or more accurately the rail replacement bus - take the strain…

Cheers for now

Rich & Trev.