The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 3

Tuesday, and time to head north again for the second stop of my trip and a return to York Caravan Park on the outskirts of er, York.

With around 135 miles to do and a check-in anytime after midday I’d planned on a 10’ish departure but for once was running early and pulled away at 9:40am, heading north on the M42.

I was in no rush and soon came up behind a Turners lorry doing a tad over fifty, so I tucked in behind at safe distance and watched with satisfaction as Rosie’s MPG climbed gradually, soon hitting the heady heights of 30 as we continued onto the A42 then the M1.

Clearly Rosie had sated her thirst on the way up from Brighton 4 days prior as the figure continued to rise – 31, 32, then more slowly to 33. Surely it couldn’t climb any higher – Patsy is no lightweight even though I had had a bit of clear out at the end of last year. Then it hit 34. That must be it I thought then at some point on the M18 the display edged to 35. I couldn’t believe it and thumped the steering wheel in delight. My darling Rosie, hardly in the throes of youth was truly awesome. It couldn’t last of course and a number of inclines in the A1(M) saw the figure drop but it still read 33mpg as I pulled in to York Caravan Park and was very happy indeed.

Having successfully moved Patsy onto her pitch without the motor mover for the second time, set up was fairly swift and after a cuppa and quick sarnie I set Rosie on course to the Monks Cross shopping centre where as thank you for her efforts replenished her with cheap supermarket diesel then picked up some bits and bobs in the shop. I’d come away with plenty of meals from my batch cooking efforts at home, crammed into the freezer compartment but, needed a bit of variety. Needless to say (too late) some new research samples were also procured for a thorough evaluation at some point.

York Caravan Park has many great features – nice serviced pitches and luxurious en-suite shower rooms to name but two – but one of the handiest ones is the bus stop almost literally outside the entrance. Trev and I used this many times when we we were here last – 2 years ago – but always into York. On the Wednesday though I boarded the bus travelling in the opposite direction – destination Whitby. I have to say I was a little apprehensive – 2 hours is a long time on a bus – but it was actually very comfortable with comfy spacious seats. I grabbed a seat on the top deck to make the most of the view as we travelled east to Malton, Pickering then onto the moors diverting off to Goathland, better known to many as Heartbeat country, before arriving at Whitby.

Back in the days when there was a ‘we’, I’d been to Whitby several times, once staying at a lovely little site behind the pub in Lythe just up from Sandsend. Remarkably though we’d never got to climb the famous 199 steps from the town on the eastern side of the Esk, instead getting to the famous Abbey by the road out of town.

I must admit to being a little out of puff by the time I got to the top - and thanks to the emerging sun, quite warm too – although the coat stayed on. Just. It was worth the effort though and the views across to West Cliff and back along the Esk around the harbour were terrific.

Lens clicking was interrupted as I found a spot in the grounds of St Mary’s church to devour a rather uninspiring home made ham sarnie and neck some caffeine, amused that most of the local er, residents up here wouldn’t appreciate the view:

The Abbey site was closed for building work until April but it was still possible to get some photos from the path by the perimeter wall, the traversing of which brought an unexpected ‘research’ opportunity in the shape of Whitby Brewery. The pint of Jet Black went down very well indeed and the courtyard was such a sun trap, the coat was reluctantly shrugged off. Temporarily I might add. I did ponder bringing some research samples home but at over three quid a bottle soon decided against it.

The descent was quicker and I had a pleasant amble through the shops, checking out some of the famous Whitby Jet, thinking that maybe a pair of cufflinks wouldn’t go amiss but nothing really caught my eye, so I crossed the bridge and made my way along by the harbour mouth and up to the West Cliff. Again, oddly, we never made it up here but once again the views back across to East Cliff and the Abbey were lovely and I got to see up close the Whalebone arch and the Captain Cook memorial.

I began my descent back into town, noting that there was still an hour until the next bus and after a brief consultation with that troublesome part of my anatomy that divides my left leg, decided that some medication was in order. The dispensary of choice was the Little Angel, a pub I remember from our previous visits – quelle surprise - not least because on Wednesdays they have a promo on all real ale at just over three quid a pint. Perfect.

Whilst taking my medicine I thought about my visit – both this and previous ones - and it reawakened a few dormant thoughts. You see Trev and I often talked about moving ‘up north’ and Whitby was one of the places that we considered – nice little town close to the sea and affordable – but we’d more or less discounted it because of it’s relative remoteness. It had got me thinking again though, after all, who knows what the future holds? Thankfully.

On my return to the bus station I got to meet Adam, one of the regular Coastliner drivers who would be taking us back as far as Malton. We’d talked a little on Twitter and it was nice to at last meet properly.

Predictably, given the medicinal intake earlier, the walk back to Patsy after jumping off the bus was a little brisker than ideal. Entirely my own fault obviously, but it had been a really good day however, a quiet night in was most definitely called for as there was another busy day ahead on Thursday.

The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 2

I was keen to get the charger issue sorted as soon as possible so, had shovelled the Lidl version of Special K into the cakehole faster than a stoker on the Titanic, on the Saturday morning as the sun was making it’s presence felt.

It was immediately obvious what the issue was – the mains power connector had worked loose. A nice easy fix although it took longer to get the cover back on the unit and into position. I have found with caravans that when it comes to wiring, they either leave way too much excess and have it trailing around needlessly, or trim it so short it’s impossible to work with. Anyway, at least I didn’t have to replace the charger. So far so good.

The next item on the agenda was the outside light – the awning light, had we have had one. I didn’t mention it in the blog posts from the London trip but came home one night to find it noticeably dull outside the ‘van. There was a strip of LED’s in the light and it looked like most of them had given up the ghost entirely, with the remaining two or three clearly suffering from a severe dose of CBA and emitting about as much light as a candle in the wind.

Anyway, it was time to have a closer look and the reason looked pretty obvious – it was half full of water, brought about perhaps by not having the shelter of the pull-out canopy - which I’d removed last October. Whilst I was mildly miffed that the light had only lasted three years – it wasn’t the original – I was more concerned with whether water had seeped into the cavity behind the light.

Thankfully not. Removing the control panel from above the door revealed it to be dry as a bone but despite taking the light to bits and carefully drying it out it was clearly knackered and couldn’t be coaxed back into life. I put some tape over the holes left by it’s removal to hopefully prevent any water ingress.

I’d nothing planned sightseeing wise but the knackered light gave me an excuse to go and mooch around Jacksons of Old Arley, about a fifteen minute drive from the site. This is one of the best caravan and camping spares and accessory shops I’ve ever been to and could have spent hours here – and a lot of money in the process. What I didn’t come away with though was a new light. They had several and most fit my requirements of either being LED or with a bulb that could easily be changed to same, but not having packed the power drill I would have been unable to make the necessary holes for fixing and cable entry. It wasn’t a wasted trip though - a tube of sealant was my unexciting but useful sole purchase.

Back at Patsy I’d decided to set up the telly and the signal strength meter suggested all was good – and the telly soon found a load of channels but the picture kept freezing and pixelating so I packed it away again. It could have been a number of things but – given England’s performance in the rugby later on - it was probably just as well or a new telly might been required. Dear dear.

That evening I met with digital marketeer and keen motorhomer Richard and his wife Diane for a meal at the  Clarendon Arms just around the corner from Kenilworth Castle. We had a good chin-wag and catch up over some great food. Richard kindly picked me up so I could indulge my passion for ‘research’. It was a very enjoyable evening and great to meet up again and I have found now I’m on my own that I’m grasping these opportunities to meet up with people so much more.

There was more of the same on Sunday afternoon when I met with site owners Angela & Marc along with a Ken, a friend of theirs, with proceedings getting under way at the Griffin Inn, a lovely old boozer near Shustoke. Serious chin wagging – obviously – and a nice couple of pints before we adjourned to the Manor House in Fillongley for one of the best Sunday lunches I’ve ever had, with a beer or two. Obviously. I spent most of the evening back in Patsy dozing before going to bed but no matter, a great time was had.

Monday was my last full day in Warwickshire and I wanted to make the most of it. A cunning plan was hatched – and then almost immediately changed – to head in to Birmingham on the train then, a certain body part permitting, I’d head to Worcester, a city I’d yet to visit.

Not five minutes drive from Somers Wood is Hampton-in-Arden. It has an excellent pub in the While Lion but it also has a railway station with trains into Brum every half an hour. Trev and I used it on a previous visit and it’s very handy, although then we clearly struck lucky with car parking as this time the station car park was rammed. It took a bit of driving around to find somewhere safe – and legal - but the car park of a council leisure centre came to the rescue just a a few minutes walk from the station. I read – and re-read – all the signs but there were no restrictions as to use and, satisfied that I wouldn't come back to a ticket on the windscreen I headed off to the station.

I said that my plans had changed and for once, logic took over. I’ve been to Brum but not Worcester so it made sense to head there first and, there wasn’t long to wait for the next train either.

It was a pleasant journey, heading south west out of Birmingham’s New Street station, initially hugging the canal arriving in Worcester some forty minutes or so later. The route to the cathedral was a pleasant stroll through the partially pedestrianised centre learning along the way that one Edward Elgar - that Last Night of the Proms regular – hails from nearby.

Entry to the cathedral was free although a donation was welcomed. I happily paid the three and half quid for a permit to take photos along with another couple for a fridge magnet. Well worth it my opinion for it is truly a stunning piece of architecture.

I took my packed lunch in the cathedral grounds overlooking the River Severn but any plans to take the Riverside walk back were thwarted by the fact that it was underwater.

The St Andrews Garden of Remembrance was a good place to pause though and neck the last of my coffee.

The train back to New Street was going to be a while but instead I jumped on the one that would take me into Birmingham’s Snow Hill, the plan being that I could take a slow walk back across to New Street taking in some of the sights along the way. The weather had other ideas though and the angry looking clouds above had finally delivered on their threat. Thus, most of the walk back to New Street was via shops and shopping arcades and my needs/want calculator went into overdrive but the wallet somehow remained shut.

There was no ticket on the windscreen when I got back to the car and was soon back in dear old Patsy, reflecting on what a great few days it had been. In sightseeing terms I hadn’t done much but it had nonetheless – thanks to friends – been another great stay at Somers Wood.

The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 1

Right, here we go again. Easter might be late but the school’s Easter holiday remains the same so once again, the middle of March means it’s Patsy time once again. Be prepared for vaguely regular blog posts recording my trip up north, calling in on some of the sites and areas that Trev and I enjoyed so much, along with a new one too.

There were, as it turned out, two spanners trying to get amongst the works on my day of departure, the first of which bore the inscription Royal Mail. I’d ordered something online the weekend prior with a promised 48hr delivery and, even allowing for the weekend I thought I’d be OK but it wasn’t until the early hours of Friday morning that I got the delivery notification text, stating sometime in the morning. Great.

The other issue of course was the weather. I’d kept a very close eye on the forecast, particularly concerning the high winds. I didn’t want to delay but also there was no way I was going to put myself, Patsy or others at risk - there’s too many memories and anyway I love her to bits. A look through the forecasts at various points on the route though revealed that as long as I took it steady I’d be OK. So I got the car packed up as much as possible and waited for the intercom to go, thinking gloomily that the one time I need the postman to be early, he’ll be running late.

Thankfully he wasn’t so by 0930 with the food loaded in I was on the way to the storage yard – and in fact the timing could not have been much better as the winds had improved considerably. I was still behind my planned schedule though so there wasn’t much unpacking done – the food was thrown in the fridge, Patsy’s nuts and tyres were checked and we were ready.

There was no need to negotiate the sharp right turn as Patsy’s right hand neighbour was absent and the solar panel had kept the battery alive enough for me to turn her out and inline with the car. By 1030 we were away.

My decision to travel proved correct. Prior to each service area I pondered whether there was a need to stop and decided to carry on. There was little sideways movement and keeping the speed down certainly helped – sometimes forced by roadworks and traffic anyway. 4 hours later I was pulling into the arrivals area at Somers Wood Caravan Park near Meriden in Warwickshire. Many will know that we were here exactly a year ago on the start of our trip then. It’s a lovely site in a great location and it was good to be back.

Check in was swift and the lovely Angela had sorted me a serviced pitch and a few minutes later I was alongside pitch 42, next door to the one we had last time. Now us humans are funny things – I don't need to tell you that. Normally I would have one quick go at reversing then engage the services of the motor mover, and given my current state - tired, skull ache and aching bladder that’s probably what I should have done. But no, the empty pitch opposite was too tempting and within a few minutes and only a couple of corrections I’d got Patsy perfectly on the pitch. Or so I thought. I’d been concentrating too much on the offside and while indeed she was inline and level, I’d not left enough room for the car on the other! Numpty. This is when the remote would have normally appeared, but no, I had another go and – get this – managed to get her spot on. I congratulated myself as I scampered to the loo…..

Lunch consisted of a hastily thrown together cheese and paracetamol sarnie which preceded something approximating a nap and, later when I returned, somewhat reluctantly to the land of the living I was already hungry again so decided to start dinner – one of my er, delicious concoctions from the freezer at home, namely a sausage casserole – thank you Colmans.

It was when I put the fan on above the cooker that it became clear there was an issue. The radio cut out and the display flashed on and off, and the lights started dimming at regular intervals. Luckily Patsy has a couple of wall mounted mains lights as well as my table lamp and globe so, after switching off the 12v – and switching it back on again just in case – I was able to continue with dinner.

The toolbox came out soon after and some prodding with the multimeter probes revealed that the battery was clearly suffering from a dose of CBA, only offering up 10 volts and clearly not being charged up by the onboard charger.

Now, attentive readers may recall that, some years ago, the charger failed as we began our usual Easter holiday trip up to the north-east. Patsy was still under warranty then and a quick diversion to Marquis just south of Newcastle got it sorted.

So, this was the target of my investigations assuming – not unreasonably, that it had failed again. It sits, rather too snugly in my opinion, above the fuse box and is not easy to extract – but whilst swearing and cursing and being generally cack handed, normal service was resumed – the lights resumed their normal brightness and the radio came back to life. Clearly there was a loose connection somewhere but it was getting too dark to investigate properly so I adjourned further investigation until the morning.

It may surprise you to read that not one drop of beer passed my lips that night. You see I’d bought my caravanning starter kit – beer, wine, cheese, cooked meats and biscuits - a couple of days prior but had accidentally drank the beer the night before – well it was the end of term of course, an event always worthy of celebration. I have to report though that the Co-Op Merlot made a very pleasant accompaniment to the inevitable cheese salami and biscuits later on. And with Patsy nice and cosy, a good book on the go and the radio playing quietly I was back in my happy place and looking forward to what the trip would bring.






London February 2019 - Part 4

And here it is, the fourth and, I promise you, the last blog post about my recent caravanning trip to London, staying at the Caravan & Motorhome Club site at Crystal Palace.

Right, Thursday and with the second of my visits to the theatre on the agenda for later I wasn’t rushing about to get going, enjoying a leisurely morning involving not much more than a book and coffee at various intervals. The sun was out and another lovely day forecast. I may have nodded off. More than once.

The days expedition began after lunch, once again on the trusty number 3 bus as far as Brixton, changing to the number 159. That was after a short interval during which I’d boarded the 59, only discovering my mistake when the nice lady in the cupboard under the stairs announced the bus’ route. Numpty.

My destination was an area known as Lincoln's Inn, populated as you may well know, by London’s legal eagles, much like Temple to the south which, you may recall, I had a wander around with friends during my October visit.

Like Temple it is an oasis of calm and relative tranquillity and seemingly a very agreeable place to work. Lincoln’s Inn Fields was still well occupied with those enjoying a late lunch in the sunshine but it was much quieter in the gardens.

I’d had thoughts of making it as far as Clerkenwell for a look around but the aforementioned part of my anatomy that shall now remain nameless was having other ideas. I did get as far as Hatton Gardens though – where in truth there isn’t much to see – and traversed Leather Lane too. Well it had to be done…

Then followed the first tube ride of the trip – a short hop from Chancery Lane to Oxford Circus and a thence a wander around Carnaby Street. It’s changed a lot since my first visit some twenty years ago when I was looking for my first long leather coat – no such garment can be found here now, it’s all brands and designer labels so the plastic stayed firmly in the pocket. At least until I came across the Old Coffee House, in Beak Street. One of those great little back street boozers that I love so much that hasn’t been mauled at the hands of greedy pub co’s and still retains some authenticity. A good range of local ales but trying them all and making it to the theatre would have been a er, challenge. I settled for one. Oh, alright then, two.

Whilst trying new places can be fun, sometimes I like just going with what I know, so it was the White Horse that I returned too for my pre-theatre meal and was even lucky enough to get a table by the window. Aware that variety is indeed the spice of life I opted for a chicken burger rather than another beef burger. It was a good though.

The theatre was a little walk away so I took my time, brandishing the DSLR on the way. Results were mixed, many of the resulting photo’s being too blurry, but one or two came out OK.

The show – as many of you will know, was Mamma Mia, at the Novello Theatre and it was every bit as good as I hoped, a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting evening marred only slightly by a foursome a couple of rows in front who shrieked their way through the songs and stage whispered their way through the dialogue. Several audience members spoke to them at the interval along with a member of staff and they did quieten down in the second half. Two of them beat a hasty retreat soon after never to re-appear. Given the obvious difficulty in putting one foot in front of the other, combined with a prevailing air of urgency, my money was on an impending psychedelic yodel in the toilets.

Unusually, there was no desire for a post show pint but I took the opportunity during a rather long walk to the bus to grab some more photos, I’m no photographer, straying rarely from the ‘Auto’ setting, but was quite pleased with the results.

Seemingly every bus in the TFL fleet went past before the one I wanted eventually appeared which had my pondering the decision not to use the loo before I left the theatre and whether I’m at the time of life when Tena Man is worthy of investigation. It was packed but soon thinned out and was nearly empty by the time I hopped off near Brixton and renewed my acquaintance with the number 3 for the journey back to the site and the welcoming outline of Patsy.

Friday, and my last full day. I spent the morning packing up as much as possible as I wanted to make an early getaway in the morning to avoid the likely traffic on the Purley Way.

It was a funny morning in truth. For the first time in the caravan since the early days I was overwhelmed by an intense feeling of loneliness. I couldn’t understand at the time, thinking that feelings like these generally recede as time passes, but then it occurred that up to this point the trip had been entirely on my own. Every other trip I’d taken since Trev’s passing had involved meeting up with friends and family. It eventually passed but was to return later.

After lunch I met up with some friends from Brighton at Victoria for a very enjoyable afternoon er, sightseeing with just a pub or two on the way, purely for medicinal purposes obviously. The ultimate reason for the expedition – QPR v Watford failed to hold my attention as the sadness returned and I did several times contemplate leaving early but of course, as always it passed.

Back in Patsy my stomach was thinking my throat had been cut so I prepared a large plate of cheese, cooked meats and biscuits, accompanied – quite sensibly for me, by a glass of water rather than the last remaining beer in the fridge. I’d already had quite enough and didn’t wanted to put my intended early departure at risk.

Well, as per usual I was late leaving the site Saturday though this time I had an excuse. Let’s just say it was wise that I’d emptied the toilet cassette the day before and was thankful there was plenty of room in it. I did the rest of the packing up, never straying too far until things had er, settled down and I could get hitched up and start the journey home.

So, there we are, another trip done and dusted. I do love London, there is so much to see and do and it needn't cost an arm and a leg either. I’m booked in again for October, making the most of the site while it’s still open. It will close in December unless another extension is agreed by the local council.

Right, thanks as always for reading. Not long know until my next trip, heading back to some sites that Trev and I enjoyed so much, and a new one too.

Until then,

Cheers

Rich

London February 2019 - Part 3

OK, here we go again. I realise I’m rather behind with these – my upcoming trip is now closer than the last one but I’m afraid life keeps getting in the way – and the fact that I’m still pretty disorganised at times. Anyway, here we go.

Another bright morning greeted me as I opened the blinds somewhat later than usual having enjoyed a nice lie-in. In truth it was not that late but it’s all relative and when you’re used to getting up at silly o’clock anything beyond sunrise is a bonus.

I went through the usual breakfast routine which, almost invariably, involves silencing the smoke alarm, then went out to check the water and waste. The chap from the motorhome opposite came over and said hello and after the usual pleasantries he mentioned that I’d left Rosie’s boot lid up when I went out yesterday. He didn’t call her Rosie, obviously, but you know what I mean, and when it started to become dark and it was clear that I wasn’t about, he went over and shut it. I thanked him profusely and thought that in a world that seems overflowing with nastiness and hatred, there are still decent people about. More than perhaps it seems. Anyway, having established that nothing had taken up residence in her I turned the key to make sure the battery was OK.

Unenthusiastic is probably the best way of describing the battery’s response but grudgingly Rosie came to life and I left her running for a few minutes to replenish some volts.

My assignation with the Rough Guide had resulted in a cunning plan which would give me plenty of opportunity to lens click while taking care of my knee and late morning I set off, back on the number 3 bus again, destination Lambeth Palace. What a wise decision that turned out to be.

At some point in the journey north – probably around Brixton, the nice lady that sits in the cupboard under the stairs and does the announcements declared that the final destination had changed and the service would now be terminating at Lambeth Bridge – the exact stopped I had planned to get off. No reason was given and yes I could have probably found out on the TFL website but it didn’t really matter. My money was on some protest around Westminster at a guess.

Anyway, by the time we got there it could – with a little generosity of spirit – be considered lunchtime so I sat in the little garden on the corner and wolfed down some sarnies and a cup of coffee before commencing my walk along the South Bank.

I had no idea how far I would – or could – go but considered that if and when my knee became uncooperative I could turn off at one of the many bridges crossing the Thames and hop on a bus.

It really was a very pleasant day as you can see from the photo’s – and side from the area around the London Eye, not very busy at all. Across the water was the Houses of Parliament, the tower housing Big Ben shrouded in scaffolding, Somerset House, and in the distance St Paul's cathedral and the City.

On my side I passed the memorial to the Special Operations Executive, the back of the famous old St Thomas’ hospital and the London Dungeon and London Eye, pausing to remember the last time we were here – three years ago – and how much busier it was back then. There were plenty taking their lunch outside, making the most of the sun in the nearby Jubilee Gardens.

I paused again in the area just ahead of Bernie Spain Gardens for a another coffee and to take in the views of the city before proceeding on past the Oxo tower and on to the Tate Modern, once again grabbing a picture of St Paul's from the Millennium Bridge. I contemplated checking out the gallery but time was clearly running out on the knee so decided to carry on, and anyway, it was too nice a day to be inside.

Further along I came across Shakespeare's Globe Theatre though to be honest it was the adjacent Swan that was pique my interest. With an unusual display of willpower I resisted and pressed on passing, next under Southwark Bridge, thinking it was very nearly time to bail out and get a bus.

Remember what I said about it being too nice to be inside? Well, ignore that because next up was The Clink Prison Museum, something I must confess I’d never heard of. At seven pounds fifty it was pretty reasonable as London attractions go so I thought I’d give it a try.

Said to be one of the oldest prisons in England it gives you a glimpse into London’s grisly past with gruesome artefacts from back in the day and displays and narrated tales of torment. Fascinating stuff but it’s not that big and would probably take up no more than an hour of your time.

Beyond the museum was a replica of the Golden Hinde, Francis Drake’s famous ship, sadly rather obscured by scaffolding, however the adjacent Old Thameside Inn wasn’t and I decided it was time for some medicine.

With said medicine duly consumed – a nice warming winter ale by the way – I briefly contemplated continuing, maybe as far as Tower Bridge but then decided to call it a day, passing Southwark Cathedral and taking in the mouth watering smells of Borough Market on the way to the bus that would take me to Brixton, swapping to the number 3 again for the journey back to the site.

Patsy was still basking in some sunshine and so was warm and cosy when I got back and, having had dinner – a portion of pre-prepared chilli, and rice - I pondered a walk up to the triangle for a pint or two, but in truth was happy to stay put. My knee had done enough and having changed into scruffs on my return I really couldn’t be arsed to get tarted up again. A couple of glasses of Merlot along with some savoury nibbles proved a good substitute though.

And that’s it for Part 3. A little short on words this one but it seemed a sensible place to call a halt to proceedings but stand by for what is likely the final part coming at some point – hopefully sooner rather than later – in the future.

Thanks as always for reading

Rich.

P.S I can email you when a new blog is published if you like - just drop me an email to legsdown@outlook.com and I’ll add you to the list. It won’t be used for anything else and you can unsubscribe whenever you like.