Summer 2019 - looking back

OK, not the summer itself – weather wise it’s been a real mixed bag hasn’t it? I am talking about my time away in Patsy for a month or so and many no doubt okay, maybe some, will have observed the absence of any blog posts during and about the trip.

It was always going to be a tricky one this with the first anniversary of Trev’s passing slap bang in the middle and with this increasingly playing on my mind; as term drew to a close my usual enthusiasm for an upcoming trip was waning considerably. I even cancelled the first port of call, Henley-on-Thames.

Eventually though, I did depart the south coast, my destination being the Camping & Caravan Club site at St Neots in Cambridgeshire, a nice easy reach from the A1 with an expected journey time of around three hours. Yeah, right.

D_NHxefXUAA4omBWith multiple closures on the M25 it took nearly five hours in total, the frequent stop-starting doing Rosie’s ageing clutch no good at all. With around half an hour to go I decided I’d punished my bladder enough and turned off for Baldock services and duly followed the signs for caravan parking. There were three spaces and only one car/caravan combo in residence but they’d selfishly managed to take up all three spaces. There were some choice words delivered to no-one in particular as I dragged Patsy through the car park and out again. Fortunately, a lay-by a bit further on provided an opportunity for some, by now, urgent relief and I was mighty glad when I eventually got to the site and quite chuffed when I successfully reversed onto a lovely grass pitch under the watchful eye of my new neighbours.20190712_120327

It wasn’t the most ‘productive’ of stays, lethargy and lack of enthusiasm rearing their heads frequently, but a nice walk around the town gave me a good overview, the knee largely behaving itself for the duration. There’s a little video slide-show HERE if you want to take a look. I put up the new sun canopy and with the fridge struggling at least initially, deployed the little USB fan we picked up last year, to help with air flow. The Cadac got it’s first - and last - use of the summer, and probably the year. The whole outdoor cooking thing no longer holds it’s appeal.

DSC_0132The undoubted highlight was an impromptu run up the A1 to the Nene Valley Railway. I was in time for the first train and was made up when I saw that we were to have both steam and diesel traction for the day. I stopped off at Overton for tea and cake, fuelling up for a brief walk around Ferry Meadows, noting with interest how close the Caravan & Motorhome club site was – definitely one for a future visit. Back on the train, the journey continued to Peterborough, where I had a stroll around the grounds of the cathedral before returning to my starting point for the run back to the site. Again, a short video HERE if you’re interested. DSC_0091

Next stop was Cambridge, my old home town and at just 22 miles between sites, one of my shortest tows to date and I felt happier as soon as I arrived.

I gave my first ever lot of blood at the nearby blood transfusion centre at Addenbrooke's Hospital and a friend and fellow caravanner joined me for a long weekend, staying at a nearby B & B and I had a lovely time showing her around. You can read her account of her stay HERE.

Once back on my own though, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to meet up with many people, but a couple of meals out and pub quizzes were good fun and it was great to catch up with fellow caravanner Andrew who was also on site for a few days. On what turned out to be the hottest day of the year I took an early run out to Wandelbury Country Park for a pleasant meander while the heat was still comfortable. Just a few minutes drive from the club site at Cherry Hinton and yes, there’s a video HERE.

20190726_134705Next stop was Suffolk and Clockhouse Farm near Long Melford, just for four days and it didn’t start well. The motor mover was giving me grief and it took ages to get the sun canopy properly taut. My obvious relief that an unsecured bottle of Pinot Noir that had escaped from drinks cabinet and landed, unbroken under the dinette table was tempered by the dent it had made in the worktop on the way down. The only outing in the end was to a supermarket in Sudbury and I spent far too long on the phone to Powertouch about the mover - and even longer waiting for them to phone back. I was annoyed with myself for not making more of my stay in what is a lovely area but also aware that this year was always going to be different.20190731_090308

Then it was time for my next tow – south east to Essex and a return to Woodpecker Meadow. I had decided, soon after I came home last year that I wanted to come back – at least this year - on the anniversary of Trev’s death and had soon booked and had confirmed that I could have the same pitch. So I was somewhat put out when I was advised on arriving, that I couldn’t have that pitch as the electrics were playing up and I’d be on the opposite side. My mood was not improved by the heavens opening shortly after pitching and, not trusting myself to keep my cool face to face, I fired off a polite but firm email.

Well, as you know if you follow me online I got nowhere, my frustration more coming from the sense that she (the site owner) didn’t understand the problem. There was a tent occupying ‘my’ pitch and I harboured faint hopes of him leaving the next day, but it wasn’t to be.

DSC_0106Away from the site though I went out with Andy & Janet - and Poppy - their eight month old Cockapoo - for a walk along the waterfront at Maldon and later for a meal at the Layer Fox pub, the food as superb as it was one year ago when Trev and I were there. The light, as the sun set on Abberton reservoir wasn't as impressive one year on though.20190801_091725

And so to the 1st of August. Shortly after nine A.M. I positioned my recliner looking across to the pitch where it all happened last year, with a small glass of Trev’s favourite whiskey on the side. Thought back to the events of a year ago, sobbed for a few moments, then at 09.20 raised a glass in his memory. It was the moment I’d been working myself up to for some time and now it was here. Year one, done. The relief came, not like a tidal wave, but gradually over the course of the morning as I pottered about and was thrilled to hear that Amanda – Andy & Jan’s youngest - had given birth in the early hours. Somehow it just seemed right.

I’d booked for four nights but decided it would be good to get away a day early, so the next day I hitched up and pulled away, confident I wouldn’t feel the need to return again. The next destination was back in Suffolk, on the coast at the White House Beach club site in Kessingland. My cousin would be joining me the next day but was delighted that fellow caravanners Rob and Andi would be on site and I ended up pitching next to them.

There was only one thing definitely on the agenda here and that was to replace the rollers on the motor mover, which I did two days after I arrived, wanting to attempt it early in case it didn’t work out. I didn’t want to attempt it at all but having given up on Powertouch sorting out an engineer I felt I had little choice. It wasn’t easy but I got there in the end, not least thanks to help and encouragement from Rob and Andy. Having people around to bounce ideas off when it wasn’t going well was invaluable. No video, but for those of you interested, there is a blog post about the process HERE.

DSC_0214The rest of the stay was pretty relaxed. I went out a few times with Andy & Jan for a drive, calling in at some delightful little villages on the Broads, often for a lunchtime pint and portion of chips. There was a couple of solo outings too, one of which was to the East Anglia Transport Museum, just a ten minute drive from the site. I had a fun couple of hours wandering about and grabbing rides on the miniature railway, tram and trolley buses.

Another day I took the bus to Lowestoft, hopping off at the train station. I had no plans other than to take a train somewhere for a ride 20190808_114329around and plumped for the next train which was to Norwich. It was clear my birthday had a come a day early when an old Type 37 hove into view as it rumbled along and towards the platform. I hadn’t seen – and more importantly heard - one of these in action since I was a child - waiting at the crossing at Histon as the goods train rumbled through hauling hundreds of tons of sand. Grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat I spent the whole of the 35 minute journey to Norwich in the company of an enthusiast in the doorway, both sticking our heads out of the windows to take in the sounds and smells. I was truly made up.

At Norwich I paused for a pint – the most expensive one I’ve ever bought, and it was dire - before boarding another train, back to the coast at Great Yarmouth. This was rather dull in comparison, the engine of the Sprinter class sounding like a lawn mower compared with the power of the awesome old Growlers.

The triangle was completed with a bus ride back along the coast and a welcome pint with my cousin back at the pub near the site.

We had a run into Southwold on the Sunday – our last full day – to meet up with Sarah and her family – that’s Andy and Jan’s eldest – for a birthday lunch.

I’d decided to head home after – I was beginning to feel quite jaded generally but didn’t fancy the likely four hour run in one go so decided to break the journey at the handily placed Kelvedon Hatch Camping and Caravan Club site near the A12 and M25. The app had only let me book a minimum of two nights but on arrival the extremely helpful and friendly couple at reception amended it to one. Patsy had a bit of a clean up and by lunchtime the following day we were back home.

Well, that was riveting wasn’t it! Again, I was frustrated with myself for not blogging the trip as I went along – it’s what I do and have done for years – but at least there’s this albeit rather truncated version, to look back on.

Thanks for reading – and thank you once again for your support this summer. As I hope you already know, I very much appreciate it.

Cheers & Beers

Rich

Powertouch motor mover roller replacement.

Those of you that follow my exploits on Twitter will know that I recently had to change the rollers on my Model 3 Powertouch motor mover. I did initially think of vlogging it but to be honest it was a job I was not looking forward to and the last thing I wanted was the added complication of filming - never mind trying not to swear!

Ideally I would have happily paid someone to do it, but when it first started playing up I called a mobile engineer that covered the area I would be in. He was not available for a month and whilst it was certainly possible to get the caravan back in it’s storage spot without the mover, the yard’s owners had a strict no servicing or maintenance policy on site. Ideally I needed to get it sorted whilst on the road.

Powertouch said they would arrange for an engineer to get in touch with me to arrange fitting, but having chased up numerous times I decided to bite the bullet and order the parts to fit myself. I never cancelled my request for an engineer but, to date am still waiting.20190802_175034

Fortunately instructions were available on their website but, perhaps unsurprisingly it didn’t quite go according to plan, so I thought I’d write a blog post about the whole process in case anyone else finds themselves needing to do the same thing. You will find the instructions I used HERE but what I’m going to do is repeat them below, then add my own comments but it’s worth explaining first why they needed to be changed:

The bearing on the offside roller had completely disintegrated and whilst I may have been able to just replace the bearing, the rollers did occasionally struggle in wet weather anyway, so the newer fluted design would be a worthwhile expense.

1) Remove the 3x M6 screws(10mm hexagon head)

No problem, handily I had a 10mm spanner but the adjustable would have been ok.

2) Remove the roller end cap

No problem on one side, although it turned out that the remains of the bearing came with it. The other side refused to separate from the roller until that had been removed too.

3) Remove 2x M6 screws from the secondary gearbox cover and remove the cover

Again, 10mm, easy enough to undo but quite awkward to see clearly due to limited clearance and having no way of jacking up the van. I was glad I had some latex gloves knocking about as there was lots of grease inside.

4) Remove the gear located on the inner end of the roller by firstly unscrewing the counter sunk screw using a 3mm Allen key

Easy enough to undo the screw but the gear did not just come off. It would not shift by hand but yielded eventually by using a brace and tapping firmly whilst someone operated the mover, rotating the gear in short steps. This was perhaps the hardest bit, not least because of lack of space and vision.

5) Remove the roller drive gear and keyway

When the gear eventually yielded, the keyway came with it.

6) Remove the roller

Again some brute force was required to get it to shift. Due to the chassis it was impossible to strike directly with a hammer. On old large drill bit came in handy, one end being help against the inner end of the roller, the other being hit with a hammer.

7) Insert the new roller into the housing and gently tap the outer end by using a soft faced mallet to fully drive the roller home.

No drama here, although a hammer and folded cloth were the nearest I could get to a soft faced mallet. I’m assuming this is to protect the bearing in the end of the new roller.

8) Replace roller end cap and re-tighten the 3x M6 screws 20190805_100843

I had to bypass this step. The remains of the old bearings stubbornly refused to separate themselves from the end caps despite considerable effort from a caravanning friend. I ended up having to order new caps as well.

9) a) Replace the keyway in the roller slot, then slide over the gear locating the keyway in the gear.

Fiddly, not least because of above and the roller still being free but with someone holding the outer end firm I was able to position the keyway and gear, then hold in place whilst tapping the outer end of the roller until it was firmly in place.

9) b) Fit the countersunk screw and re-tighten

Yep, easy enough.

10) Re-grease as appropriate using general purpose grease

Funnily enough I didn’t have any to hand! However to my untrained eye there seemed more than enough as loads had gathered in the corners of the gearbox cover. I made a point of smearing that over the three gears as liberally as possibly and it’s something I can do at some point in the future.

11) Refit the gearbox cover and tighten both M6 screws (10mm hexagon head) to 7.5nm

Whilst I had a torque wrench - to check the road wheels - I didn’t have the necessary socket so tightened them to what seemed appropriate.

20190804_140739I ordered new endcaps that afternoon and to Powertouch’s credit they came very quickly indeed. These needed to be tapped into place - again using a folded cloth and hammer, before fastening with the three M6 screws.

Right, some figures. The rollers cost £60 for the pair, the end caps were £15 each. Delivery was included in both cases, so total cost was £90. All in all it took me about four hours including a much needed coffee break. I don’t doubt for a minute that it could be done much, much quicker by someone who had more of an idea what they were doing! I was extremely grateful though for the help and support of friend Rob and my cousin Andy, particularly when things were not going well.









Guest Blog Post | Expedition Cambridge

After another bout of our usual planning, we managed to get diaries aligned and with that Expedition Cambridge was on. A mix of sightseeing, chilling, food and drink beckoned with Richard acting as tour guide of his home city. The weather on the Friday when I travelled did not bode well, but it proved us wrong as the weather was dry, sunny for the most part, the breeze being most welcome, apart from it pulling down Richard's new sun canopy. Kindly the next-door neighbours retrieved it before any damage was done to both Patsy and the canopy.

In our planning, I had one main request and that was to see the Cambridge of the locals, often that gives you a real feel for a place and I was not disappointed. After a lovely evening meal on the Friday at the local pub/restaurant, we were ready bright and early Saturday to start exploring. I was then treated to a tour of places where Trev and Richard had grown up, gone to school, started work and so on. It was a real trip down memory lane for Richard and there were one or two surprises for him since he was last living there. Perhaps most notable was where his Mum and Dad had lived and the current owners, somehow, had managed to build a new detached house in the side garden. It was certainly narrow and really needed a second glance to see, yes it was separate and not simply an extension.

We also took time out to visit the Madingley American Cemetery, I have a good number of American relations so was as much a visit for them as for me. It is small compared with the American ones on the near continent, however it was a site of tranquil reflection and some beautiful mosaics and glass plaques of each of the States.

We then moved onto Grantchester, a place obviously famous for the TV series of the same name, perhaps less so as the home of Jeffrey Archer. We were headed to a place in the village called The Orchard Tea Garden,  I was pleased to hear that this was a new place for Richard too. By now the sun was high and it was indeed warm. It was a very pleasant place, as you will see from the website it has a rather illustrious history following its planting in the late 18thC. A Cambridge University student’s tradition of taking afternoon tea in rural locations, saw the orchard being added to the growing list of places. From famous poet Rupert Brooke, author Virginia Wolf to more recent times, Stephen Hawking and HRH Prince Charles have all graced the Orchard Tea Garden. It is most certainly worth a visit and as they say, take time to relax, think your own thoughts and chat with friends is a delight in our fast-paced days.

20190720_131346Throughout the orchard were scattered groups of deckchairs under the trees, the trees being full of ripening apples. It is fair to say a knowing glance passed between us and we opted instead to sit on the nice wooden benches under the umbrellas. A potential embarrassing episode had been neatly avoided in the getting in and out of the deckchairs! A lovely lunch of freshly made baguettes and cooling drinks went down a treat and enabled us to people watch, as it was busy with people seeking lunch and a cool shady place. We then decided to amble down to the side of the River Granta across the cricket field, thankfully no match on, so we were not target practice. It was a very pleasant sunny afternoon and we treated ourselves to an ice cream on the way back to the car.WP_20160320_14_23_36_Pro

Our next stop was Ely, a visit to the Cathedral, which is certainly impressive, particularly the tower and its octagonal shape; why this is built like this we were to learn later during the river trip - operated by Liberty Belle Cruises. Ely is very quiet and picturesque, the waymarked walk from the car park to the riverside passed through some pleasant park areas and cooling under the tree’s walkways. Richard had been on the boat trip with Trev some time ago and they had really enjoyed it. A quick drink at the Riverside Bar and Kitchen,  by the boarding point and we were off. The views were excellent, and we saw herons and truly massive swans. There were a couple of Dutch, flat bottomed sailing ships moored up and you could only imagine the skill and timing DSC_0043required to get them across the North Sea. Of course, there was the usual piece of history as to how Ely got its name, through the catching and sale of Eels. Not a delicacy I was tempted to try. It was lovely to see Ely from that angle including how close the railway line is through the city. The reason for the unusual shaped tower in the Cathedral was one day in the 14thC, a massive rumbling started in the city and many people feared for their lives as the previous square shaped tower collapsed into the cathedral. The resulting octagonal shape enabled the very tall tower to be rebuilt and its continued presence a testament to their forethought.

Tonight's dinner was at a very picturesque pub and restaurant in the nearby village of Fulbourn at The White Hart, very olde worlde and we both opted for the Wagyu burgers, we were not disappointed as we both agreed they were some of the nicest ones we had eaten for some time. Richard continued to grow his Ale Archive, strictly in terms of research of course! A slice of home-made cake and drinks marked the end of a most enjoyable day.

DSC_0079Of course, you cannot visit a place like Cambridge and not do a bit of strictly tourist sightseeing, so Sunday morning beckoned, a quick cuppa and we opted for the Park and Ride nearby the site into the city.

We spent several very interesting hours ambling around looking at the various colleges, parks and the river, far too many to mention individually but all equally good. Some highlights were the end of the London to Cambridge bike ride, admiring the fitness DSC_0087required to take part in such a race. Christ College has recently had the coat of arms and shields re gilded and painted which shone brightly in the sun,  It was very busy, as you would expect, and we had coffee in the lovely Agora @ The Copper Kettle café overlooking Kings College entrance,  to catch our breath.

Another memorable sight was the Corpus Clock, a rather strange mix of a gold cymbal, a fiery dragon like creature and piercing blue lights gifted to Corpus Christi college in 2008.

We had so enjoyed our coffee we decided to return to the same café for our lunch and a well-earned sit down. By now it was early afternoon and the city was hot and stuffed full of tourists.

We both agreed that we were overdue a chance to sit and relax back at the site. On the way back we had a quick drive round the massive site of Addenbrooke’s and the new Papworth Hospital. A strange place to sightsee you might think but I worked in the NHS for many years and so a bit of a ‘busman's holiday’. It’s an amazing sight and the amount of building still going on, particularly for the research centre, is phenomenal. Batteries recharged, dinner time at the nearby pub ended another fabulous day.

The following day was, sadly, departure day for me. For my part, I had a fabulous weekend, full of fun and excellent company. Thanks, Richard, for all you did.

Site Review: Lincolnshire | Monks Wood Farm CL - by Sandra

Monks Wood Farm, Threekingham, Nr Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Caravan & Motorhome Club listing.

65170790_316326892649376_2192542815622266880_nThis is a 5 van Certified Location for the Caravan and Motorhome Club. It is located about ¾ mile off the A52 between Grantham and Boston.

Approaching from Grantham on the A52, you go over the A15 roundabout and in about 2 miles, you see a left-hand turn, part of a staggered crossroads, signposted Sleaford, Highfields Country Holiday Fishing Retreat on your left and you turn into Mareham Lane. Check out the Site Arrival video.

The CL is about 180 metres up this road on the left-hand side, turn left, straight up the drive and the CL entrance is at the end on the left-hand side, take care when entering the field.

Inked64697055_481588782647331_8645825198991343616_n_LIAll level grass pitches with electric hook-ups, water tap and rubbish bins on field. The complimentary toilet is at the side of the farm buildings and you pass the chemical disposal point on your right on the way to the toilet. The field and facilities are well kept but it should be noted that this is a working farm.

There are pleasant farm field views to two sides and there is little discernible road noise given its proximity to the A52.

Nearest petrol station, local supermarket is in Sleaford. Nearest pub/restaurant is The Three Kings Inn, which is back on the main road as you near the turning for Mareham Lane, travelling from Grantham direction.

This site makes an excellent and central base on its own but equally is an excellent overnight stop point for those people coming from the north and west of England on their way to Norfolk.


Site Review: Derbyshire | Aston Heath Farm CL - by Sandra

Aston Heath Farm is a 5 van Certified Location for the Caravan and Motorhome Club. It also offers bed and breakfast and self-catering accommodation. It is located about 1.5 mile off the A50 between Uttoxeter and Derby. Care is required in the last half mile as the road narrows but there are passing places.

dsc_1240The CL has a mixture of level grass pitches with electric hook-ups, and some hard standing, fully serviced pitches, however these are narrow, and awnings are a tight fit. Rubbish and recycling bins are by the entrance to the gate to the field. There is a unisex toilet and shower room, (small charge for use of shower) and is at just before the field gate on your right as you pass the farm buildings. The chemical disposal point is situated outside the toilet/shower room. The field and facilities are well kept and the owners are available and helpful if required.

There are pleasant farm field views to two sides and there is little discernible road noise given its proximity to the A50.

Nearest petrol station is on the A38 towards Lichfield. This site makes an excellent and central base on its own but equally is an excellent overnight stop point. Local attractions include, Sudbury Hall & Museum of Childhood, Kedleston Hall, Calke Abbey, National Memorial Arboretum, National Brewery Centre and Alton Towers, to name but a few.

Site Review: Norfolk | Two Mills Touring Park - by Sandra

Two Mills Touring Park is by North Walsham in Norfolk and is part of the Tranquil Parks scheme. It is an adult only site. This is a site review following a two week stay in June/July 2019.

The site has 81 hardstanding pitches, the majority of which are fully serviced. The site is laid out over 3 tiers on the side of a hill.

66362035_463900541109523_9218410378965286912_nThere are two facilities blocks, the main one situated on the bottom Tier 1 also includes a washing machine and dryer, (additional charges), the only chemical disposal point for the whole site, a dishwashing area, a handwashing laundry room and a separate portacabin wet room and toilet facility for people with disabilities.

The facilities block on Tier 2 comprises male and female showers and toilets only with a small dishwashing room at one side.

Both dishwashing facilities are only available between 9am and 9pm.

Although the showers and toilets are free to use, the showers are of the push button variety and there is an additional charge for use of hairdryers provided in each of the blocks. There is no facility block on Tier 3.

The main reception area comprises an information room and some seating to make use of the free to use Wi-Fi whilst sitting in this area. This room closes at 9pm. There is a very basic shop in the office part of the reception area and papers can be ordered daily. The shop and office close at 5pm each day.

Wi-Fi can be purchased, at additional cost, to be used throughout the site but speeds are low and there is a limit on usage. This service, as it clearly states, is insufficient for downloading and/or streaming of TV programmes and similar.

TV signal is very poor, as stated in the literature. Digiboxes can be hired, at additional daily cost, plus refundable deposit to ensure a good range of TV programmes.

Mobile phone signals, depending upon your provider are generally very poor, with mobile data strength being weak to moderate at best. There is a telephone kiosk on site, situated by the reception area.

Pitches are of mixed layout, Tier 2, with the most expensive tariff require your caravan to be parked on a concrete base, if you require an awning, then that is placed on the gravel part of the pitch to the side. It should be noted that it is not possible to use an annexe with a full-length awning due to the flagstones at the front of the pitch, which make a good sitting out place.64997382_456939691750063_6940257784118116352_n

Tier 1 and 3 comprise fully gravelled pitches but you would be advised to carefully check with the site the dimensions of your outfit including any awning and/or annexe you may wish to use.

The site is situated in a dense wooded area and, as stated in the brochure is tranquil on site. The site, however, does have a very busy road running alongside it and road noise is noticeable. The site entrance does not have a security barrier.

The site and all its facilities are kept in an immaculate state and wardens are friendly and more than willing to help if asked.

There is a good dog walk around the top of the site and is enclosed with seats and dog bins. Dogs must be kept on leads at all time.

There are a wide range of activities and places to visit, eat and enjoy across the whole area. A good starting point is www.visitnorfolk.co.uk

Places visited during the visit included, Felbrigg House; Blickling Hall Estate; Horsey Windpump, (all 3 are National Trust, non-member charges apply). www.nationaltrust.org.uk All 3 venues offer the usual National Trust facilities, of note is the walk around the Lake at Blickling Hall which is wheelchair accessible; Horsey Windpump is a newly restored and opened attraction with onsite café and nearby boat trips onto the Broads, which come highly recommended. www.wildlife-boat-trips.co.uk You will need to book ahead as there are only 12 places on each trip. All attractions are within 15 miles of the site and dependant upon weather can offer a whole day out for each.

Cromer, with its famous crab is about 10 miles away, there is a train from North Walsham to Cromer if you do not wish to take the car. www.thiscromer.co.uk Equally, it is possible to catch a train direct into Norwich itself.

There are also several heritage railways in the vicinity, Bure Valley Narrow Gauge between Wroxham and Aylsham offers you the opportunity to visit Wroxham and the Broads at the same time. Another railway is the Holt to Sheringham Steam Railway, about 22 miles from the site, this is a full-sized heritage railway.

For beach lovers, there is a whole coastline to explore, much of which is dog friendly, but you do need to check. Mundsley, Winterton on Sea, Cromer are near the site.

There is a restaurant, Scarborough Hotel which is 5 minutes’ walk from the site, they do a wide range of food and allow dogs as well.  There are a wide range of takeaways and several pubs in North Walsham itself.


Guest Blog Post | Chester Fairoaks Caravan & Motorhome Club Site Review

This site is located approximately 5 miles from the world famous Roman walled/Medieval shopping rows city of Chester. It is very easy to access from the nearby M53, please see the Site Arrival Video

Site photoThe site is level and has 100 pitches of which 89 are hardstanding. The site is open all year round. Booking ahead is strongly recommended as this site tends to be busy at most times of the year. The Reception block provides the essential basics and has a well-stocked information room of leaflets and points of interest. It is advisable to check with Reception when you visit to see if there are any discounted attraction tickets available at the time. There is a secure dog walking area to the left of the site entrance. On site there are the usual service points and a generous sized toilet block, with dishwashing, laundry and disabled standard facilities. It should be noted that there is no late-night arrival facility at this site. It is open to members and non-members and tent pitches are available. There is a children’s play area available.

It should be noted that due to the proximity of the motorway, some road noise is unavoidable.

Wi-Fi is available on site and is rated as Bronze by the Club. TV reception is noted as good. Mobile telephone signal, dependent upon your provider, has very good coverage.

There is an almost endless list of things to do, whether it is a dry or wet day. For this review, it has been limited to an area of approximately 5 miles from the site.

The nearest supermarket is Sainsbury’s, which includes a petrol station and is sited next door to the McArthur Glen Cheshire Oaks Outlet village.P6120004

Transport links are good, although if you are venturing into Chester with a car, it is far better to use the Chester Zoo Park & Ride, which is about 3 miles from the site. Parking in Chester is very limited and highly expensive. It is also possible to walk from the site, about 10 minutes, onto the McArthur Glen Outlet Village and catch either a No1 or X8, (correct at the time of writing) bus into Chester. You need to check that you are at the Chester bound bus stop side. www.stagecoachbus.com

P6120017 (2)For ideas of what to do, where to eat, shop etc, in the city of Chester, the best place to start is www.visitcheshire.com A few places of note are the Roman City Walls, Medieval Shopping Rows, Chester City Cathedral, Roman Amphitheatre, River Dee and the oldest racecourse in the country at Chester Roodee.

Nearer to the site are several pubs/restaurants, all within easy level walking. The nearest is the Rake Pub,  which you pass as you drive to the site turning, this pub does allow dogs. Slightly further on from the site, on the main road, are The Harvester and Old Home Farm, the latter of which offers a carvery. Chester-Zoo-March-2018-1

There are also numerous fast food, cafes and restaurants within the Cheshire Oaks, Outlet Village and are all within walking distance of the site.

World-famous Chester Zoo is close by the site and adjacent to the Park & Ride mentioned earlier. You should allow at least a full day to get around all that the attraction has to offer.

For those people who enjoy shopping, you are very well catered for with the McArthur Glen Outlet Village.

Again, due to parking constraints and if it is a bank holiday, very lengthy queues are routine; it is highly advisable that you walk there. Dogs are allowed on leads to walk round the site and sit in the many outside catering areas but are not allowed in the shops or restaurants.

For good family fun, the nearby Blue Planet Aquarium offers a range of activities, based around marine life and the oceans.

Further on from the Blue Planet Aquarium, past Marks & Spencer is the Coliseum Shopping & Entertainment Area. This includes the multi-screen Vue Cinema, Ten-Pin Bowling and Crazy Golf.

There is a public swimming pool available nearby Marks & Spencer’s at the Ellesmere Port Sports Village.

Slightly further afield is the Ellesmere Port Waterways Museum, a museum, café/shop and you are able on certain days to take a ride on a canal boat. There is ample free parking right by the Manchester Ship Canal and if you are lucky, you may see a ship sail past. You will need to check as to whether dogs are allowed as it can vary. It is recommended that you take binoculars as you will have a good view to the skyline of Liverpool and across the water to John Lennon, Liverpool Airport. www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

For those who enjoy walking and or cycling, there are a good number of walks and cycle routes nearby, including the possibility of walking along the canal to the museum.

Slightly further afield is the City of Liverpool and all its attractions. This will be covered in more detail in the Wirral Caravan and Motorhome Club Site review due out in the next few months.

Guest Blog Post | Twittercamp First timer

Since joining the Twitter caravanning community, probably nearing 2 years ago now, I had often heard of this thing euphemistically called ‘Twittercamp’. My curiosity was certainly piqued but in the early days caution made me watch from afar. By the early summer of 2018, I felt confident and safe enough to consider, at the very least, calling in on one of these events, if it was within hailing distance to see what it was all about. Then, of course, there was the tragedy of Trevor, Richard’s husband sudden death and it seemed that my opportunity had passed. I quite understood that there might not be another one as Trevor, along with Richard, had had a major role in organising these events.

By later 2018, posts started to appear suggesting that another Twittercamp would be held in 2019, to be held in honour of Trevor’s memory and to fundraise for Papworth Hospital as Trevor had been the recipient of life saving surgery there some years ago. I was really pleased that I might get, at least one, chance to sample this event and see what was going on, the excited chatter amongst the group reassured me that I would have a special experience.

We move forward now to the end of May 2019 and, amongst great expectation and, if truth be told, not a little apprehension, I set off to Moreton in Marsh for a long weekend of events at Twittercamp for Trevor, as it had become known.

I arrived after a very good journey down and set up at a site I had not visited before. If there was a bit of a downside, the site was it. The pitches are narrow, cars must be parked in front of vans, the quality of the pitches were not up to the usual Club standards. But no matter, I was there for much more important matters than a pitch grumble.

I made my way round to meet people, who although I had not met in person yet, I already felt I knew quite well, certainly in relation to the caravanning world. I need not have worried as I was very warmly welcomed and made to feel totally at ease.

We had a quiet day or so before the main event started but those who had already arrived got together for a chat over drinks and nibbles on the Friday evening. Even though we were not at full strength, it was quite an impressive sight to see all the vans, cars and then at the bottom of the cul de sac, a not inconsiderable gathering of chairs and people sat in an ever-growing circle. People were very friendly, and conversation flowed easily. We all agreed to meet the following morning for an outdoor breakfast of croissants, rolls, meat and cheese, along with copious amounts of juice, tea and coffee. It, for me, set the tone of the rest of the long weekend, one of friendly camaraderie and everyone mucking in to help.

By lunchtime, pretty much everyone who was to attend had arrived, including my good friend Richard who was, de facto, guest of honour. The afternoon consisted of games, drinks and conversation. It was surprising how quickly the hours flew by and even dogs got to play and meet new friends, some more successfully than others. I have to say my two did well, given the large number of people and other dogs on their first event.

That evening, with the weather being very kind to us all, started with a BBQ, a local butcher must have thought his Christmas had arrived early, given the very large order for beef burgers which landed on his door earlier that morning. It is to their credit that they managed to fulfil the order with some very delicious burgers to be eaten. The organising the team even provided salad and piping hot new potatoes, all of which were delicious.

The next event was a fun and very competitive pop quiz. Teams quickly formed and the entrance fees collected. The next couple of hours passed in friendly rivalry and much laughter. Sadly, the team I was on did not win but we had a great time, nonetheless. We spent the final couple of hours that evening chatting over drinks and nibbles.

Sunday morning, I awoke to another dry morning and made my way for, yet another delicious breakfast made on Cadac’s galore, I had to smile that there was no small amount of good-natured competition between the chefs as to the production of cooked goods for our consumption.

The afternoon was a quiet time, to catch up with the inevitable caravanning chores and a bit of sleep too!

I had booked on to the Sunday evening meal at the Swan pub close by the site. The organisers were also going to hold the raffle after the meal. We all arrived and just about fitted in the event room at the rear. We all had the choice of three types of carvery which was delicious. Again, everyone was friendly, and a lovely atmosphere was at play. Following the meal, was time for the raffle, probably one of the biggest I have ever seen. People had been so generous, in honour of Trevor’s memory. I was pleased to win a box of chocolates, always a good prize to get I feel. It was then time to return to the site and move all our chairs again to the head of the cul de sac and to end the evening with yet more drinks, nibbles and good humour.

Monday morning came around far too quickly, as I had to leave due to commitments which I could not change. We met for one final breakfast, time to say goodbyes and with a heavy heart I took my leave. A straightforward easy journey home completed the most delightful long weekend in memory of an amazing person. I thank all the organisers and each and everyone who attended for making my bank holiday a truly memorable occasion. I hope one day, soon, to meet you all again, so a final thank you and best wishes for a fabulous summer of caravanning.


Guest Blog Post | Penrhos & Cae Mawr CAMC sites review

Due to the proximity of both sites, we are offering you two site reviews and a joint section of additional information to help you make the most of your visit to the island of Ynys Mon - or Anglesey if you prefer.

It is the early Bank Holiday, May 2019. The first part of the review is for Penrhos Caravan & Motorhome Club site on the island of Yns Mon, near to the seaside village of Benllech.

The site, sited off the B5110, is spread over three distinct areas and has 92 pitches, 75 of which are hardstanding and 8 are serviced pitches. Click HERE for site map. The site is open from March to early October each year.

The site has one centrally located toilet block servicing the whole site, which is key operated and includes the usual facilities including a fully accessible toilet and shower room, reached via the use of a Radar© Key. There is also a designated disabled pitch next to this facility. There are a number of waste, clean water and rubbish disposal points throughout the site. The Motorhome service point is behind Reception.

The Reception sells pre-ordered newspapers, essential food supplies and a good range of caravan supplies. There is an information room to one side.

Arrival time is strictly 1pm. This is due to the access lane being single width with no passing places.

The site is quiet, being set well back from the road and despite being pretty full, the site was always quiet during the weekend. There is a children’s play area at the top of the site and a secure large dog walk field by the entrance with a much-appreciated bench on which to sit.

This part of the review features the Cae Mawr Caravan & Motorhome Club site.

Although we did not stay at this site on this occasion, we have regularly stayed here over several years. This is a smaller site, about 1.5 miles from Penrhos on the same road. This site does not have a toilet block. Reception provides the usual facilities including the option to order a daily newspaper if required. The site is over two areas, the top half being mainly grass only pitches, the lower half is predominantly hard standing. Check out the site map HERE. 

There are several water, waste and chemical disposal points throughout the site. The motorhome point is in the lower field.

The site is also situated off the B5110 and it should be noted that the access lane to this site is also quite narrow and care needs to be taken when nearing the site entrance. If in doubt about your van or motorhome, you are advised to ring the site directly to check. We have seen American style/size RV’s on site on several occasions.

The site is spread over three distinct areas and has 73 pitches, 41 of which are hardstanding and is open from March to early October each year.

The site is nearer the road, but traffic noise is minimal.

There is no designated children’s play area or dog walk on site, however, there is a pathway which runs adjacent to the top of the site, by the entrance which allows you to let your dogs have a little run.

Benllech village is the nearest place to both sites, about 3 miles away. There is a Tesco Express and Co-Op, cash tills and a very wide range of fast food takeaways. This is also the nearest beach. Car parking is very limited and there is a charge during main season. Dogs are not allowed on this beach during main season too but there is a list in the Information Rooms of up to date beaches which allow dogs.

A Site Arrival video for both sites can be found HERE

In terms of places to visit whilst on the island, the list is almost endless. The best starting point would be www.visitanglesey.co.uk

A couple of places which we visited on this trip were Rhosneigr, good surfing and kite surfing area with a small range of shops and restaurants. Dogs are allowed on this beach. https://www.thebeachguide.co.uk/north-wales/anglesey/rhosneigr.htm

For a fabulous place for Sunday lunch or, for any day of the week for that matter, we would recommend Sea Shanty Café in Trearddur Bay.

 

It is totally dog friendly, both inside and out. There are usually a lot of dogs at the restaurant, but we have never seen any problems. A bit of a drive but worth it for the food. Just one piece of advice, book ahead in good time.

In addition to these places we visited on this occasion, here are some more venues we have seen over our visits.

For those of you who are cyclists, National Cycle Network Route 5 runs close to both sites.

The nearest swimming pool is in Llangefni which also holds a small open-air market on Thursdays and Saturdays.

History lovers will find many places of interest throughout the island, one of the nearest to the site is Beaumaris Castle, situated on the south east of the island. It is quoted as being, “the most technically perfect castle in Britain has few equals”. The castle is dog friendly, with the usual caveats.

www.cadw.gov.wales/daysout/beaumaris-castle

The adjacent village of Beaumaris is worth a visit too and there are a good number of fish and chip shop on the high street. In high season, boat trips are available to sail down the Menai Straits, dependent upon the weather and tides. Visits can also be made to the nearby Puffin Island which is a nature reserve. www.seacoastsafaris.co.uk

By complete contrast and one for all adrenaline fans is the Anglesey Circuit, can be added to a trip to Rhosneigr. There are a wide range of races and events throughout the year. Please note dogs are not allowed anywhere on the site and cannot be left in vehicles at all.

Both sites offer a very different caravanning experience, depending on your preferences. There is always something to do on the island, whether it is raining or not.

Guest Blog Post | Troutbeck Head CAMC Site Review

This review is for the Troutbeck Head Caravan & Motorhome Club site and is based on a visit during Easter 2019, the site and amenity blocks were extensively refurbished in 2019. As with any review of sites in the Lake District its nearby attractions and amenities, there is an almost limitless choice. I have chosen a few options which are relatively close to this site.

The site is based close to both Ullswater, Keswick and Derwentwater. It is easily accessed from the M6 and A66.

The site is split into two areas, one to the right of Reception is for non-serviced pitches, the area to the left is exclusively serviced pitches on two tiers.

The site has 156 pitches, 148 of which are hardstanding and is open from March to early January each year. Arrival is from 12 noon and non-members are welcome but there are no tent pitches.

The site has two toilet blocks, one with family room and laundry, the other has a disabled access room.

There is an information room which also has some pool tables and children’s games. There is also a children’s play area adjacent.

Please note that there is no official Club Wi-Fi currently available on site and 4G services are very limited.

TV reception is good and is via a bollard signal booster. You need to bring your cable with you.

There is a small, unfenced, dedicated dog walking area alongside the entrance to the site and there is also a walk from the top of the site which exits out on to Matterdale Forest road and can be part of a longer circular walk. Dogs must be kept on leads at all times due to the presence of livestock.

A fish and chip van, which is very popular, calls twice a week in an evening.

The usual CAMHC services are available and a small shop selling essential provisions and gas refills is in Reception. There is also a late-night arrivals area. Entrance to the site is via barrier key fob.

There is a bus stop, on the A66, about 1.5-mile walk, (where you turn left to drive towards the site).

Rookin House Activity Centre is next door offering a whole range of outdoor experiences including quad bikes, clay pigeon shooting etc.

Next nearest is Aria Force,  car park (charge to non NT members), information room and café. The walk takes about half an hour on clearly marked paths. Please note that on weekends and bank holidays the car park can get very busy. A relatively new steamer stop has opened here and there is a signposted walk from there into Pooley Bridge, about 7 miles. There is also a car park at the top of the falls, which is on the A5091 and which you pass driving from the site.

Pooley Bridge, with its shops, pubs, post office and stopping off point for Ullswater Steamers is about 20 minutes’ drive from the site.

At the other end of Ullswater is Glenridding,  base of Ullswater Steamers  and home to two huge hotels, Inn on the Lake and the Best Western. The latter accepts dogs, at the time of writing, in its bar/restaurant area and has excellent Wi-Fi service. A local grocer and Catsycam shop are also located there.

Slightly further afield is Keswick which has a wide range of outdoor and mountaineering shops, plus the usual range of market town shops and banks. Booths Supermarket is probably the biggest in the area. The Theatre on the Lake also produces a wide range of shows and productions throughout the season. Boat rides are available from by the lakeside. Car parking is available but at a cost. Keswick is probably one of the most dog friendly places you could ever wish to visit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keswick,_Cumbria

Some views of the town’s main street and the well known Old Keswickman fish and chip shop.

Rheged Centre,  which you pass when leaving the M6 is a Discovery Centre. There are a regular range of activities aimed at families and young children and is a good wet day spot to visit.

Penrith is the nearest large town and has the full range of services, including the mainline rail service from London to Scotland.

For a slightly longer day trip, you might want to consider a visit to Gretna Green, the world famous place where you have been able to get married over the anvil for hundreds of years. The site is split over two main areas, plus several hotels in the area. The first area you will encounter after leaving the M6/M74 will be the Outlet Village, free parking, you can easily spend a couple of hours there, cafes and a good variety of shops.

Dogs are allowed in the open air mall and seating is provided.

A couple of miles further on is the main Gretna Green visitor attraction area. Here is where the anvil room is located, we were unable to visit this on the day as there were weddings taking place. There is a café/restaurant/specialist food shop plus a historical room and a tourist shop selling whiskey, keepsakes and even your very own kilt, sporran and jacket!

Easter 2019 was blessed with uncharacteristic excellent weather, the site is just as good a place to kick back, relax and enjoy some peace, quiet and fresh air.