The Half-Term Duo - Part 4

Ok, this is definitely the last part I promise. In case you’re late to the party I’m recalling my recent trip away in Patsy - my first as a solo, and indeed single - caravanner.

Right, Thursday. With nothing on until the evening there was no rush to get up but given that as per usual I’d been awake since the early hours, being shaved, showered and dressed by 9am still felt very much like a lie in.

Talking of showers I’ve been using Patsy’s quite a lot on this trip. I like the convenience of it even though it’s not as good as the on site ones. I generally run two Aqua Rolls so just need to make sure the water heater has had long enough. I’m gradually making little tweaks to the way I caravan.

The Crystal Palace site was due to close at the end of this year (2018) but received a reprieve for at least a year, so I planned to give it the full Legs Down treatment - Site Arrival & Site Tour videos and a Site Review for Cover4Caravans. The Site Review will be based on my weeks visit during half term in February when I’ll actually be doing some sightseeing. The Site Arrival footage is ready and waiting so I took the opportunity  to have a walk around with the camcorder It’s not a big site and there are more attractive ones on the club’s network but it’s still a pleasant place to stay. And very convenient.

This trip wasn’t about sightseeing but I did fancy a wander around Camden - probably one of my favourite parts of London and, fancying a change I took the bus instead to the Elephant & Castle, swapping to another that would continue north. I do prefer the bus - it’s cheap for a start and you get to see things too. Outside of rush hour I’ve always managed to get a seat on the top deck and nearly always in the front. You don’t want to be in a rush though, but I wasn’t so it didn’t matter.

20181025_145553I had a good wander around Camden, particularly the Stables Market area just north of the Regents Canal. It still has an alternative feel here and the smells from the food stalls are a delight. The main road through, whilst still having the odd shop sporting studded leather and the like seems increasingly dominated by London bus fridge magnets and other tourist tat. It’s clearly very popular with said tourists like me though as it was very busy everywhere.

Rather earlier than planned I got the bus back into the centre. My troublesome knee was starting to give me a bit of grief and a sit down for a bit wouldn’t hurt. The journey was much quicker than I thought so I was soon on foot again traversing the busy pavements from Cambridge Circus through to Covent Garden and my next destination which wont surprise you to learn, was a pub.20181026_153924

The Nell Gwynne sits in a tiny passageway that exits onto The Strand. I’d actually done a bit of real research and this looked a pleasant place for a pre theatre ale or two and a bite to eat. And so it was - a great little traditional boozer - not a pub company’s idea of a boozer. Hot food was limited to toasties which suited me just fine as did the house ale which was less than four quid a pint. A positive bargain in central London.

20181025_190508Handily, just to the right of the passageway was the Adelphi Theatre home of the musical Kinky Boots and my last planned port of call. With all original music by Cyndi Lauper it was a completely different beast to Bat out of Hell but equally as entertaining and enjoyable and I came away with a real buzz that could only be muted by a pint before getting the bus back to site. I reflected on another good day and how much I had - so far at least - been able to enjoy caravanning alone and getting out and about on my own.

Friday, and my last full day in London. I was up and about at a time some would consider early, packing up what I could in readiness for an early departure Saturday, hoping to avoid the inevitable shopping traffic on the Purley Way. By eleven I was on the bus again to meet friends from Brighton who were arriving at London Bridge station for an afternoon of sightseeing punctuated by a beer here and there before the main event - the er, mighty QPR v Aston Villa at their Loftus Road stadium in Shepherds Bush.

First stop after we’d met up was the Old Operating Theatre by St Thomas’ Hospital. Maybe not the most obvious tourist destination but fascinating none the less. The history of surgery can be found in the ante room along with some rather gruesome looking tools of the trade from back in the day as well as body parts in jars in various states of decay and disease. The operating theatre itself is laid out exactly as it would have been for an operation. If you do go - and it’s well worth an hour or so of your time at least, National Trust members get a discount. Look out for the cutting below that shows the er, cure for an ingrowing toenail. Eek!

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Crossing the Thames brought with it the opportunity for some unashamedly tourist photos and eventually to the area known as Temple, home of lovely quiet courtyards and the cream of London’s lawyers in the areas know as Middle Temple and Middle Temple. Situated between Victoria Embankment and the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street it really is a pleasant place just to wonder or pause and enjoy a drink and a snack.

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At the heart was Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar and the effigies of the Knights can be found here. Apparently a scene from the Da Vinci Code was filed here too.

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By this time we’d worked up a bit of a thirst, so a couple of pubs along Fleet Street got the benefit of our custom as did the Nell Gwynne, whose praises I’d been singing.

Then it was time to start heading west with a bus taking us from The Strand past Victoria and down the Kings Road in Chelsea. We stopped for supplies  - pork pies and scotch eggs - and to deal with an increasingly urgent plumbing issue before arriving eventually in Shepherds Bush to meet up with more friends prior to the game.20181026_194711

Well, it was entertaining and QPR won too. We held on until the 90th minute but didn’t stay for injury time as the boys had a train to catch. After swapping underground lines at Oxford Circus I waved them off the train at Victoria and continued to Brixton where there was a mercifully short wait for the number 3 bus.

I’d decided not to leave the heating in in Patsy before I left which was a definite mistake as the thermometer read just 7 degrees as I got in. A stint of both gas and electric with the fan at full tilt along with a bar heater warmed things up fairly quickly.

20181027_083059My packing up the day before had paid off and I was away before 9am Saturday morning, and Patsy was settled back in her storage bay before 11am. One minor blot on the landscape was another hint that Rosie’s clutch was approaching the end of it’s life with the slightest of slips as I overtook a bus on the A23. It’s an expense I’m not relishing but ready for when the times comes.

So, the end of the trip and in many ways as important as the very first one back in 2012 when we embarked on our caravanning journey. That first trip proved to us that we could caravan and enjoy it - as a couple and this one has proved that I can do the same on my own. Here’s to the next one - and I can’t wait.

Until next time, thank you as always for reading and taking an interest.

Cheers & Beers

Rich


The Half-Term Duo - Part 3

Once again, welcome back. This should be the last part. Probably, but we’ll see how it goes.20181023_144506

The 58 mile tow up to the Caravan & Motorhome Club site at Crystal Palace could hardly have gone better. Traffic was light and for the large part well behaved. Even the Purley Way was relatively benign and shortly before 1pm I was pulling into the site having only had the need to stamp on the brakes once at the usual spot on the mini roundabout at the entrance to the site. It happens most times.

Pitches are generally allocated at Crystal Palace as sizes vary so it was not wholly surprising that I ended up on a pitch we'd had in the past. I made my usual token effort to get Patsy thereabouts with Rosie, actually make a fair go of it, then finished off using the motor mover with a ramp needed on the off-side.IMG_20181023_135629

As I stood back before getting the legs down I reflected on my achievement. Towing through south London and setting up now totally on my own. It may not seem a great deal but I felt extremely proud of myself and I knew Trev would be too for carrying on and making the effort. I had to take a moment before continuing with the task in hand. Soppy sod.

Once Patsy was all set up - and my ‘bung stuff in a plastic tub’ wheeze certainly saved some time - I wolfed down a swiftly made sandwich then fired up Rosie to head back to the Crystal Palace triangle. Perfectly walkable but with the likelihood that I’d be doing a fair bit later - and never knowing how my knee will behave, I took the car. Also I couldn’t be arsed to walk. Only a couple of loops were required before a space became available.

The destination was a barbershop for a trim up. Now I don’t doubt there’s some will be thinking “You pay? For That?” Well, not usually no. I’m quite happy with a bit of DIY but It’s nice to have someone else doing it for a change, they can fade the sides and rear and it does look better. To me anyway.

20181023_160410Then it was back to Patsy to get myself tarted up for the first of the trips assignations - in Soho no less - and the first of many rides on the number 3 bus that connects Crystal palace with central London  terminating right by Trafalgar Square. 20181023_212821

I’ve known Ash for a number of years since his Mum & Step Dad were neighbours when we first moved to the south coast. Hailing from Nottinghamshire but now living - and loving - the London life we’d not had chance for a proper catch up since Trev’s funeral and then, understandably only briefly. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, the pub hopping interrupted only by an apparently authentic ruby that whilst not my usual Madras or Vindaloo was extremely tasty. Grog, grub and a damn good chinwag. What’s not to like? I knew where to catch the bus back but Ash was keen to steer my in the right direction and we parted ways at Trafalgar square after admiring the homage to Queen down Carnaby Street with a hug and a promise to catch up again soon.

The cold air had hastened activity down below but fortunately the chance to relieve my aching bladder came right by the bus stop. Sadly it was a pub and it would have been rude just to go and use their loo without buying a drink wouldn’t it. Of course by the time I eventually got back to the site after an hour on the bus I was bursting!

It was back on the number 3 again the following morning, destination the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road. I was happy to walk from Trafalgar Square but without warning the bus terminated in Whitehall. Mildly peeved and again concerned how my knee would react it soon became clear why, the western side of the Square was completely gridlocked - mostly by buses it seemed - and walking was certainly the quicker option.

First job though was to locate a purveyor of cheap specs. I’d left my reading glasses back at the ‘van and gone are the days when I could still manage the phone or a menu without. Luckily there was a Boots nearby and I even got a compliment on my attire from the guy behind the counter. Little things like that do wonders for the ego.

I’d been loitering with intent for less than a minute outside the theatre when my next ‘dates’ arrived, in the  shape of Richard, director of insurance company Cover4Caravans and his digital marketing chap Jason. I’ve known Richard for quite a few years now and we were due to meet him at his offices to do some videos before dinner on the tragic day in August. When I mentioned I was coming to London Richard invited me, along with Jason to see ‘Bat out of Hell’ the musical. As with pretty much anything these days I accepted immediately.

First on the agenda though was lunch and nearby Five Guys did the honours with burger and Cajun chips that really were superb. Following that we had a good catch up over coffee before it was time to head to the theatre.

20181024_141920Well, what a show it was. Many will know that my musical tastes are more Abba than Meatloaf but it was superb, the energy right from the start was infectious. It was too, surprisingly emotional in places - I assumed it was just me but Richard - who was seeing the show for the third time - said the same. The final song I’d Do Anything for Love could have been written for a musical and was delivered with such power and feeling by all involved it almost took my breath away. Fantastic and I urge you to consider it if you’re heading to London before it closes in January.

After a post show ‘come down’ coffee we parted our ways, them heading for the train and me the dear old number 3 back to the site.

Given the size of the burger at lunch a sandwich sufficed for tea and then I fired up the laptop to start the first of the blog posts of the trip. Having made considerable progress I  had a walk to Westow House on the corner of the triangle for a celebratory pint. It’s a nice pub but my - well both Trev and I’s - favourite was the Grape & Gran across the road now sadly boarded up. We used to love, once all set up, heading down there for a late Sunday lunch before watching folk dance to a jazz trio or quartet over an ale or two from one of the dozen handpumps.

Still, Westow House does a good range as well as though I didn’t get past trying more than two.

And there we are, time’s up again. So, once again thanks for reading and look out for Part 4 - which WILL be the final part - out real soon. Ish…

Cheers

Rich

The Half-Term Duo - Part 2

Welcome back, recollections of my recent half term getaway continue.20181021_153357

So, with the departure of Andy & Janet we were back to four. The wonder that is the Brighton & Hove Buses ticket App allowed for the purchase of a ticket covering four people so in the gorgeous early afternoon sunshine we headed in to Brighton. I was looking forward to this almost as much as my friends because it was ages since I’d walked around Brighton just for the sake of it.

The North Laine area was first with it’s wonderfully varied shops, stalls, pubs and eateries. I’d never pondered this before but walking around it very much reminded me of Camden Town, though on a smaller scale. I managed to resist the temptation to open the wallet but it didn’t take long for the others to part with some folding. A quick pint and a healthy late lunch of er, nachos and chips suppressed the hunger pangs before we headed towards the front and Brighton's famous The Lanes, the only expenditure here being more erm, refuelling.

20181021_152234Last port of call was the pier. It’s years since I’d been on here so was really pleased to have an excuse. Donuts were procured and soon consumed in the late afternoon sun. I was tempted to have a go on the Waltzer - which is about my limit when it comes to fairground rides, but not tempted enough to part with nearly a fiver, robbing gits.

The evening saw us head out in search of a Sunday roast. Not too hard you wouldn’t think on a Sunday. Hmm. My local Stonehouse pizza/carvery joint would happily serve us three meats, greens, carrots, Yorkshires and gravy. But they’d run out of roast and mash potatoes. We bundled back in the car and headed a few miles east to their Peacehaven restaurant who’d thrown in the towel entirely and were packing up. Third time lucky? Well, not really. On entering the Smugglers we were greeted with a Sales Prevention Officer who said ‘we’ve got a very limited menu tonight and please don’t ask for any roasts’. What a welcome. The immediate instinct was to walk out but our bellies had other ideas and eventually we settled for burgers and fish and chips, all of which were at least very tasty.

On of things I wanted to do before the inter was take off our canopy that resides on the awning rail. It’s not light and it seemed silly to haul it around when I probably wouldn’t be using it until next May at least. At over four meters long its unwieldy  but I knew I could find somewhere in the flat for it if only I could get it off and home. The screws in the stoppers had both sheared off but some careful parting of the awning rail with a large screwdriver done the trick and the canopy was soon on the deck unrolled to get rid of any moisture. Some gentle taps with the hammer closed the gap on the rail back up. It wasn’t perfect and I wouldn’t have done it on a new ‘van but Patsy has her fair share of war wounds now anyway so one more minor one won’t make much difference.

Adam very kindly said we could put the canopy in his car - well most of it anyway - there was still a fair bit sticking out, and between us we got it up the obstacle course masquerading as the stair well in my block and dumped it in the hall. It was a job I was glad to have got out of the way and also glad that I had some help doing it.

Rosie doesn't go very far without being burdened by Patsy on the back these days so I was happy to drive as we decided to head east again, stopping first for a walk on the beach at Seaford, before heading around the town and finding a car park from which we could walk over Seaford Head to the Cuckmere estuary. Now I pass this everyday on the main road and have always wanted to do the walk - to me it’s one of the most picturesque parts of the Sussex coastline and the view, taking in the old cottages is just wonderful. I found myself again reflecting that Trev had never got to see this view as I know he’d have loved it. Oh well.

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Our final stop saw us again on Eastbourne pier indulging in afternoon tea, sarnies, scones and cake. Once again we apparently randomly chose a table with five chairs. That reminder again. Anyway, it all went down very well indeed and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

The boys did their own thing for tea in their ‘van whilst I joined Alison for another buffet in hers. The boys joined us later on to help despatch the rest of the last supper and make the most of our last night together. I reflected on how much fun I’d had showing everyone around my adopted home city and county. It had been a cracking few days - couldn’t have been much better probably but there was of course a noticeable absence.

I was the first to depart on Tuesday and thanks to a little bit of thought packing up was reasonably swift. Ok, it’s always going to take longer with just one of us but I’d been pondering ways to save a bit of time here and there. I left the bed up - there was no need to put it away - but the one time consuming task I’d found was finding homes for all the bits and bobs that go out when I set up - table lamps, fake orchid, that sort of thing. All stuff that doesn't seem to naturally fit anywhere else. My solution? A large plastic tub, wedged in-between the seats at the front with cushions and a chock to stop it sliding backwards, Anything loose was chucked in here, using Trev’s tried and tested method of cushions wedged in the gaps to stop stuff rattling. It worked a treat and would save time the other end too. Outside, the motor mover wrench wedged over the break pedal made checking the lights easy.

Much hugging and kissing ensued before I pulled away - sad to be saying goodbye but happy in the knowledge that I would be seeing them all again for New Year. A little apprehensive too as I was going to be on my own from now on although I was also relishing the tow up to Crystal Palace.

Ok, so now you might be confused. How can you have a duo with three parts? Well the duo refers to the two sites - honest. See how I got on at Crystal palace in Part 3.

Cheers

Rich.



The Half-Term Duo - Part 1

Welcome back everyone.

Yes, another school holiday can only mean one thing - another trip away in dear old Patsy. This trip would of course be different as it would be my first as a solo - and single caravanner. So, how did it go? Well those who follow me on social media will already know the answer but hopefully this blog will give a bit more of an insight. You don’t get away that easily!

I was determined to take less stuff away on this trip. In the past we’ve never travelled light but even with the obvious differences - one persons clothes, one chair etc - it still seemed to take forever hauling stuff down to the car on the Thursday afternoon. Never mind a previous visit to Patsy with some bits and bobs during the week. I may just have overdone the clothes, but one can’t have too many leather coats and jeans I find. Trev would have done his nut!

I’d already discovered how much longer everything takes when there’s just one of you and must confess to not being the most organised, dashing from inside to out following no sensible order whatsoever. Eventually though, her ladyship was hitched up and it was time to move off sporting her smart new towing jacket thanks to the lovely folk at Pro-tec.

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Now getting out of the storage bay involves a sharp right hand turn that needs to be taken as wide as possible to avoid Patsy getting personal with the protruding hitch of ‘van on the end of the centre row. It’s given us problems in the past but providing someone spots on the blindside we could usually get around in one go. Not so this time. Despite a number of goes reversing and changing line I still couldn’t get the angle wide enough. It was warm and I was getting pretty frustrated by now although the problem was of course fairly easily solved thanks to the motor mover but I did feel a bit of a failure at the time and it dented my confidence a little.

It was the first time I pondered the sense in such a big ‘van for one person. It’s not a thought I’ve entertained since and don’t intend to again.

Anyway, the tow was fine - the whole er, ten miles of it as I was heading to my local site in Brighton. My cousin Andy, Janet and friend Alison were already on site and I was able to pitch near them. I’d arrived with renewed determination after the carry on at the storage yard and was going to reverse that bloody ‘van on the pitch perfectly if it killed me. The reality was somewhat different - the first attempt I got it roughly right but had neither the energy or the patience to keep trying and the motor mover was pressed into service again. It is what it’s there for after all. Of course I could use the excuse that I’m preserving Rosie’s ageing clutch but that’s only partially true!

I'd decided to have a play with setting up the 'van differently. There was - obviously - more room now and thought I could use this to my advantage, so made the bed up on the left side and kept the right in the usual daytime lounge setup. The sides and backs just fitted underneath which meant they wouldn't be cluttering up the shower. Which also made the shower more usable. I’d got into the habit of using the onboard shower quite a bit at times in the summer.

We all agreed that a quiet night in wouldn't hurt so Andy and I were despatched to the Marina to procure some ingredients for a buffet, which was served in Andy and Janet's 'van along with a drink. Or two.

The girls retired at a sensible time but Andy and I carried on talking for a while, and of course talking can be thirsty work. Quiet night in? Yeah, right….

I honestly had no idea what time we called it a night but the fact that the first time I managed to prise my eyes open wide enough to look at the clock it was nearly 9am - almost unheard of for me particularly recently. Janet recalled it going quiet around 02:45am - ridiculously late but very enjoyable - at the time anyway. The more we 20181019_132116we talk the more we discover about each other.

Heads had cleared by about midday so we set off, having a trundle east along the coast, eventually dropping some coins in the meter near Eastbourne pier where we enjoyed a pleasant walk around for an hour or so. The gardens were looking good and the weather was superb.

The drive back took us via Beachy Head where we decided to stop at the pub of the same name for a late lunch. It was warm enough to sit outside so we did, relishing the lovely view to be had across the Downs to the lighthouse and the coast.

20181019_141932It was Alison that noticed an empty chair at our round table. There were plenty to choose from but we’d chosen a table for five - drawn to it perhaps. Of course it should have been occupied - and I so wish it was - but it got me thinking that although Trev and I had driven around here a number of times - mostly with his Mum - that in thirteen years we’d never ever stopped at the pub. A shame, as Trev would have loved the views, not to mention tasty food and a decent ale too. Oh well.

We stayed in again that night, devouring more of the buffet later on and generally enjoying a quieter more relaxed night. I for one was just so happy to be away in Patsy again.20181020_182610

Saturday lunchtime saw the arrival of Alison’s son Adam & partner Jamie. We sat around the ‘van in the lovely afternoon sunshine having a good chinwag and catch up before later heading down to the Marina for a lovely meal. Some went in a taxi - Andy and I walked. The operator had, perhaps understandably, mis-understood ‘a taxi for six’. It arrived at six pm but could only take four. Oops! Thankfully there would no such misunderstandings on the return.

Sunday, sadly saw the departure of Andy & Janet who had to cut short their stay due to work commitments. They were great company as always and it was lovely to have them on site with with me. I will be spending my first Christmas alone with them this year, pitching up on Andy’s drive for a few days, and am looking forward to making the best of what will likely be an odd time.

Right, that’s it for Part 1. I’d hoped to squeeze the whole of my stay at Brighton in one blog, but no matter. Stand by for Part 2, very soon. Probably!

Cheers & Beers

Rich

Planning ahead.

Hello everyone and welcome back. It's been a while I know thanks at least partially to this half-term being one of the longest in the school year. Still, just a few days to go and Patsy will at last be on the road again as I embark on my first complete trip as a single caravanner.

The first leg shouldn't be too difficult as I'm going to our local site in Brighton just four miles from home and only a bit further from Patsy's resting place in the storage yard. It will be the first opportunity too to use the new Towing Jacket from the lovely folks at Pro Tec.

This was to be a Twittercamp meet but after losing Trev I just didn't feel like a big meet so there will be just a few of us including my cousin which will be nice.  That's not the end for Twittercamp however as there is to be a very special meet next year - more later.

For the second half of the week I'll be returning to the Caravan and Motorhome club Crystal Palace site. This was to be our final visit before it closed and something we'd booked months ago. However it's been given a reprieve as the council has extended the lease for another year at least and I've booked for February half-term too. That will be a proper sightseeing trip but this time it's all about meeting friends, musicals and footy and am very much looking forward to it. I'm planning on a Site Arrival video and Site Tour too.

I intend as well to take off the Fiamma canopy for the winter. It will be the first time it's been off since 2015 when we bought it but it seems pointless carting it around for six months or so when it won't be used. At over four metres long it wont fit in the car but it will a school minibus so I can transport it home where it will probably live in the hall for a few months.

Patsy's next trip out will be early in December but only across to West Sussex for her annual service. She seems solid enough but I'll still be nervously awaiting the results of the all important damp test to see how her seals are holding up.

Then next will be the Christmas holidays and this year it's all about making the best of what will likely be a difficult time for obvious reasons. After a few days in Holland with friends I'll be hitching up Patsy again and heading first for the club's Henley site for a few days, then to my cousin's drieway for the Christmas period. Janet is on call with her job so it may well be Andy and I doing the dinner - perhaps a good distraction.

For new year I'm heading to another site so far un-graced by the presence of the Blogger in Black and Patsy - Bearstead in Kent. Friends are joining me for that one and we will make it as good as it can be. Not only that but new sites gives me the opportunity for some new Site Arrival and Site Tour videos too.

So that takes us into 2019 and I've already made some plans based around my idea to revisit some of the sites and places Trev and I enjoyed most. 2020 will be about exploring but 2019 will be more retrospective. As I already said, the February half term is at Crystal Palace but the schools Easter break - which this year comes long before Easter itself - will see me heading to the North East again. I'm not sure far yet but have booked a few days at the lovely Somers Wood in Warwickshire again to break the journey. There's so many places up there that we enjoyed it's going to be a fun challenge deciding where to stay and where to go.

And that brings us to the half-term at the end of May and I was thinking of staying put. However some caravanning friends have got together and organised a special Twittercamp meet in Trev's memory which I think is a lovely idea. It centres around the bank holiday weekend, so from Friday 24th May until the Tuesday and it's at the Moreton-in-Marsh Caravan and Motorhome club site in the Cotswolds. We've had two meets there in the past, the most recent being just July this year. All are welcome, just book direct with the site in the normal way but please do let me know if you're coming so the organisers have a rough idea of numbers. I'm really looking forward to it.

Beyond that it's the summer holidays and I have only one site booked so far, a return visit to Woodpecker Meadow  and I'll be there for a few days around the 1st August, for obvious reasons. I have the urge to return there, next year at least.

And that is the extent of next year's planning so far. I hope to get the Easter break sorted before Christmas then next year I'll look to the summer, which given my need to be in Essex at the beginning of August will probably revolve around East Anglia. We'll see though.

Anyway, that's enough of my waffle for now. Look out for a blog or two from my upcoming trip in the next week or so. 'ish.....

Thanks as always for reading and I've said it before but will happily say it again and again - thanks for your support. We have a great caring caravanning community here.

Cheers and Beers
Rich.