December 2020

A three stop trip, the first of which did not involve Patsy at all but a long run up to the north-west, staying with my friend Sandra in a flat owned by a friend of hers. I broke the 260 mile journey just once, stopping at Oxford services just long enough to refuel on coffee and chocolate. Not the most healthy but the combination of caffeine and sugar seems to work well on long drives.

Stop 1 | Chester | 10th-14th December

Parkgate | 11th December

Parkgate provided a great coffee stop on our brief run out, with lovely views across the River Dee to North Wales.

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Chester | 11th December

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The city centre was spookily quiet when we walked around - necessary in the current Covid climate but still somewhat sad to see, if that makes sense. At least no drunken idiots making a nuisance of themselves though. 

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Llangollen, Horseshoe Pass, Ruthin, St Asaph and Rhyl | 12th December

We were rewarded with a lovely cold but crisp and sunny day for our drive into North Wales. As expected the Llangollen heritage railway was not running but it was a pleasant stop nonetheless. Some Welsh themed goodies were procured at a lovely little deli including some ales which you will fine in The Ale Archive. Our decision to take an early coffee and snack break proved opportune as our intended stop - the Ponderosa Café on the Horseshoe Pass - was closed. Lunch was taken in Ruthin before heading towards the coast, stopping to capture the beauty of the cathedral at St Asaph.

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Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight | 13th December

The village of Port Sunlight was on my list to do during my ill-fated trip to the north-west, planned for last March. However it most certainly wasn’t the weather to mooch about outside so our reserve came into play. Pre-booking was required, but entry was free and was well worth a couple of hours of our time. It would be easy to spend longer here and I thoroughly recommend it. Check out their website HERE.

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Then it was a silly o’clock start to head back down to the south coast, first to the flat to drop off some items and pick up the contents of my fridge, before heading to the storage yard to pick up Patsy and return back up the M23.

Stop 2 | Henley-on-Thames |14th-18th December | 96 miles @ 28mpg | Pitch 35

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Finally got around to doing the Henley Treasure Trail that I bought prior to my trip here in 2019.. As usual it was a circular route, starting and finishing at the train station car park, taking us into the town centre, up beyond the market square and back down to and along by the water. I’ve done several of these as you may recall and once again it was very interesting and informative. I generally find them more rewarding than wandering aimlessly.

Henley-on-Thames & Marsh Lock

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Marlow - Town & Lock

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Cliveden National Trust

The weather took a turn for the worse as we approached Cliveden so did nothing more than stop for a nice lunch in the café before heading back to the site for a lazy afternoon in Patsy. On my list for a return visit though.

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Basildon Park National Trust

The journey to Basildon park was dominated by speculation on the imminent announcement by the government about each areas’ Tier status. Any increase would have meant termination of the trip and a return home. However the news came through, as we ate our packed lunch on arrival, that the Tier categorisation on our home, current and next localities would remain the same for the time being. The trip could continue.

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Hurley Lock & Village

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Stop 3 | Cambridge | 18th-24th December | 101 miles @ 28.4 mpg | Pitch 15 |

A leisurely pack up and departure from Henley thanks to arrivals at Cambridge Cherry Hinton club site not permitted until after 1pm. A short hold up on the M25 - how unusual - but the journey was otherwise trouble free. There was time for a quick nap before my appointment to dispense some more A+ at the blood donation centre at Addenbrookes hospital. In the evening we met a friend for a socially distanced meal at a pub in the neighbouring village of Fulbourn.

Kings College Chapel and around

I would never normally attempt to drive into the city, never mind park, the combination of traffic, eye watering parking charges and a comprehensive park and ride network make it nonsensical. However, showers were promised and in the current climate we didn’t relish the prospect of a ride on a likely busy bus. Our decision was vindicated, there being no queue for the central car park and the sun had come out by the time we emerged from the car park and through the Grand Arcade shopping centre for the short walk across the market square.

I can’t recall having even been inside the Chapel, despite having lived locally for 30 years. Pre-booking was essential as per usual at the moment,and not free. The famous ‘Carols from Kings’ had already been recorded a week prior, without a congregation this time of course. Visits can be booked HERE.

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Cambridge University Botanic Garden

With Sandra due to depart late afternoon we wanted to make the most of what time remained. The forecast proved accurate so I quickly booked tickets for the botanical gardens. I remembered from my previous visit three years ago with Trev that there was some on-street parking just a few minutes away, however this time, being Sunday it was free! It’s just a short drive from the site and easily accessible via bus too.

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The Fitzwilliam Museum

Again I eschewed the park and ride option and drove into town in plenty of time in the hope of nabbing a parking space nearby the museum. I need not have worried - there were spaces everywhere, even directly opposite I took the opportunity to go and juice up Rosie for the run home just before New Year.

The reason for the empty spaces came clear when I entered the details in the parking app. Jeez! However in the current climate I was happy to pay for the convenience and at least entry to the museum was free.

I’m sure I would have visited on a kid, probably on a school trip, and was probably bored witless. however this time it was fab, the first floor with the paintings being particularly appealing. My two hour visit - governed by the duration allowed in the parking space - was nowhere near long enough to do it justice. Check out their website HERE.

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That afternoon, no sooner had I stirred from a nap and read that the club would be closing all sites on the 26th December, there came a knock at the door from a very apologetic warden explaining same. Wondering what the club knew that we didn’t, it wasn’t long before changes to the Tier system were announced and I would have had to go home anyway.

In the end, as many will know, I decided to leave on Christmas Eve - the forecast for both Christmas Day and Boxing Day looked a bit ropey - especially from a towing point of view. I was able to meet a friend for a couple more meals though, which was good.

The journey home was excellent, getting away from Cambridge in good time and feeling very smug with my swift and efficient packing up. It wasn’t until I’d deposited Patsy in her spot in the storage yard, got home and made a cuppa that I realised I hadn’t emptied the toilet cassette before leaving site! So back I went, armed with latex gloves, plenty of cloths and some spray cleaner. Thankfully spillage was minimal and the contents were dealt with back home.

Given what was to follow - and that I didn’t go away in October -  I’m really glad I was able to make this trip. Patsy’s next outing will be to the service centre at some point to have a small but significant patch of damp dealt with. Liberal application of duct tape seemed to help on the trip but for now she’s sitting with a roof cover to hopefully prevent any further water ingress and increasingly expensive damage. I’m bracing myself for the bill as it is.

Thanks for reading and, until next time - whenever that may be - stay safe and well.



1 comment:

  1. Brilliant as always. We did Cambridge last year, it was beautiful. We got there some time in September just for the day and we couldn't get in the Fitzwilliam, definitely on my to do list. Great pics Rich!

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