Caravanning Diary 2003

On this page I have listed details of sites and places visited in the UK during 2003

Chatsworth

30th March, our first trip away for this year. Our destination is the Caravan Club site at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. Although we are up early there is no point in rushing as we are not allowed to arrive before 1.00pm because of access difficulties to the site. (see site report for more details) The weather recently has been very good and today was no exception. Funny then that Lord Bill Deeds on Breakfast with Frost said that the weather is often good when we are at war. Apparently it was in 1944. 

I rarely look forward to driving on the M1 but thankfully today the traffic was reasonably light. It seems strange trying to get to somewhere slowly! We stopped at the services at Leicester Forest East for a coffee and something to eat to slow our journey down. We needn't had bothered as when we got to Chesterfield we discovered that they had dug up the A619 out of the town which slowed everything to a crawl. As we got towards Baslow more traffic queues as everyone seemed to be out on a Mother's day jaunt. 

Once into the driveway of the site we joined a convoy to reception. I suppose the arrival restrictions help create this. I had a cheery welcome at reception, the duty wardens seemingly unphased by the sudden rush of arrivals. Anyway the minor tribulations of the journey are well worth it. The site has been formed out of what was a walled garden. All pitches are now on hardstandings, having circled the site twice we decided on a pitch almost outside reception!

31st March, we woke to a heavy frost, no wonder it was cold as I poked my nose out of the covers! Anyway it was a good sign as it proved to be a lovely sunny day and quite warm although there was a chill in the wind. Time to get some exercise. In the morning we walked into Baslow via one of the estate footpaths. There is not a lot in the village although there are several pubs/hotels/restaurants plus a cafe so there's plenty of choice to look after the inner man. We wandered back along the road into the site. It is obvious that if you had several caravan going in each direction there could be problems, despite the provision of passing places.

Our return to the campsite allowed a lunch break before we set off again. This time we went back out into the estate, campers have a key that give direct access. Our destination was Chatsworth House itself, although it does not open for a couple of days yet. Once outside the campsite you have a clear view of the house. The nearer you get the more magnificent it looks. Despite the house not being open there were lots of people enjoying the grounds and the sunshine even it did resemble a theme park for the over fifties, I should talk!!! 

1st April why is it that weather forecasters are only right when they forecast bad weather! Unlike the last two day we awoke to pouring rain and windy conditions. On days like this you have to have an alternative strategy, so a visit was on the cards. In Milton Keynes we do not, with the exception of White Arches at Rushden, have a large caravan retailer. So we decided to have a trip out to Glossop. The journey took us out on the A623 and A624 across the Moors. In the gloom of the rain the patchwork of stonewall surrounded fields provide an interesting vista. Likewise the lightscape changed every few minutes as we alternated between sun and rain.   

By contrast to the open Moors, Glossop seemed dreary not helped by the fact that we had difficulty finding Glossop Caravans despite having visited a couple of time before. When we did the heavens opened including hailstones. All of this when we were trying to find somewhere to park. We discovered that in fact the parking areas were completely full so we turned around and went food shopping instead! Later we made a second attempt which was successful at least in terms parking. I was a bit disappointed in the selection of accessories and there were a couple of things they did not have, including steel awning pegs.  

The real treat of the day was the drive back to Chatsworth via the A57 and the Snake Pass, the changing weather adding to the atmospherics. It had been very wet but now with quite a warm sun mist was coming off the trees as they dried. At Ladybower we turned towards Hathersage and Grindleford, did I really tow a van along that road! Soon we were back to Baslow and the end of an interesting day with beautiful views.

2nd April A lazy day spent around the van in the morning. After lunch we walked up towards the house but took a slight detour to Edensor which is a small village on the Chatsworth Estate. Without further investigation I assume that Edensor is an estate village although I can imagine many people who would be happy to live in those surroundings. The houses and church are substantially built. After a quick tour we made our way back towards Chatsworth House which opened to the public for the season today. We did not intend to visit the house as we had been a couple of times before. However Margaret was on the hunt of a birthday present which meant we had to exhaustively explore the shops in what was the rather grand stable block. The hunt was unsuccessful but at least we had a very nice tea in the Stables Tea Room. On the way back we stopped and sat on a seat especially located so you could view the E 11 R that had been created in dry stone walling on the hills above the river.

3rd April Out and about today. First to the rather excellent Garden Centre at Calton Lees. Lots to see and buy if you want. Otherwise a very convenient coffee stop! On then to the Estate Farm Shop. Superb quality produce but at a price although there did not seem to be any shortage of customers.  Final destination before returning to the van for lunch was Bakewell. Plenty of choice of Bakewell Puddings plus a very nice shopping destination. A particular favourite of mine is the specialist tool shop, it has an amazing selection of tools all immaculately laid out. Back to the van for lunch before heading out to the other side of Chesterfield to Robinsons Caravans. They seemed to have a good selection of both new and second hand vans. Their accessory shop was quite good as well and I was able to buy a few things I needed. 

4th April What a beautiful day, bright sunshine all day even if it was a bit chilly in the wind. An ideal day for a walk. We headed out across the valley meadow from the campsite, gradually climbing up to the tree line looking for the track that would take us around the top of the estate. First of all we hit a brick wall, literally, anyway a slight diversion found steps over the wall and up a step woodland path to the track we were looking for.  This track takes you around the top of the Chatsworth estate passing the hunting lodge with good views over the house. On the way back to the house, now fortunately all downhill, you also pass the water supply that powers the Chatsworth waterfall and fountain. Although it had only been open a couple of days it was surprising to see how many people were visiting Chatsworth.

 After lunch we started to pack everything away including taking down the awning in readiness for going home on Saturday. For most this is the start on the weekend and this was confirmed by the influx of new caravans that arrived well into the evening. By the time it was dark the site was pretty well full.

5th April With most things packed away the day before it did not take long to get ready to leave today. We left the site, with some regret, around 10.00am. Even Chesterfield proved to be reasonably quiet as we made our way towards the M1. I was a bit surprised at the lack of commercial traffic on the motorway as we made our way south and we were able to maintain a good speed without the need to dart from lane to lane. Even when we did everyone seemed to be good mannered necessitating me to do lots of twinky, twinkies!!! We got home around 12.30pm and rather than reverse in I decided to use the Motor Mover, much to the amusement of our neighbours, to put the van into the back garden. 

Post Script

We had a very enjoyable 6 days at Chatsworth and we would recommend the site to all. There is a lot to do if you wish to but equally it is a lovely place just to relax. We were very lucky with the weather, which with the exception of Tuesday has been really excellent considering the time of year. 

 

Standlake

17th May This is our first weekend proper we have managed to take this year. As usual this means leaving work around 4.00pm, getting home, getting changed, getting the van out of the garden and on our way. All this in less than an hour.

We are off to Lincoln Farm Park at Standlake in Oxfordshire. Our route is fairly straightforward, Milton Keynes, Buckingham, Bicester, Oxford and then onto the A40 to Witney, left onto the A415 for Abingdon and Standlake is a few miles along this road. It was Cup Final Day so I expected less traffic. (my side was unable to repeat their success of 1976 and lost 1-0 to Arsenal) The weather alternated between sunshine and heavy rain, particularly heavy near Witney yet bright sunshine when we got to the site which is only a few miles away.

We arrived at the site around 6.00pm, no problem with that time as reception stays open until 8.00pm. I noticed that the pull in opposite the reception also doubles as a late arrivals area, complete with electrics. The site is barrier controlled. 

 

18th May Although it was a bright start to the day we were aware that the forecast was not so good. After breakfast we went for a walk around Standlake, there are two pubs and a post office which is also a general store plus lots of pretty stone houses. Its a pity the campsite does not provide TV points to all pitches as reception is pretty poor, at least with a standard Status Aerial.   This was important as we wanted to watch the Austrian Grand Prix to keep an eye on our local Grand Prix team Jaguar Racing where number 2 son just happens to work. I appreciate Jaguar might not be in the same class as Ferrari but another two useful points for Mark Webber was very welcome and not a completely disappointing weekend for my sporting interests!

Its not often that we go to commercial sites and tend to make a judgement on such things as toilet blocks by comparing then with the standards set by the Caravan Club. Lincoln Farm could also be held as a standard barer at least equal if not ahead for the best abolition block. One minor gripe would be the push button showers but in every other respect they are superb. Oh, I nearly forgot there is also musak, mainly easy listening, you always know the age group by who signs along to Frank Sinatra!

 

19th May  We were encouraged that the day was bathed in bright sunshine. It was our intention to walk down to the Thames as we had discovered a footpath route just across the A415. No more than a hundred yards and it started to rain, by the time we had turned round it was very heavy rain. There was nothing else to do but to take shelter in the Black Horse. After a Guinness or two and a Ploughman's I was in no condition to go on long walks. By mid afternoon the sun was out again and at least it did allow for three quarters of an hour in the sun.

As I have mentioned Lincoln Farm Park is a commercial site and of an excellent standard, in some ways it seems to out Caravan Club the Caravan Club!! What seemed surprising was that by Monday it was less than a quarter full. Even on the weekend it was only half full. I know the weather forecast had not been good for the weekend but are caravanners so fickle?

20th May   I was obviously in need of a weekend away and very restful it has been. I must have been in some state before I left home as I forgot to bring the charger for the mobile and the electric drill. Now the drill can be replaced by the old fashioned method, but the mobile! As a consequence I used the mobile very sparingly over the weekend and I just seemed to have enough power left to send number 1 son, Paul, a Happy Birthday greeting by text. Poor lad is working this evening but hopes to get the pub later.

The weather was forecast was supposed to be better but it was still spitting with rain as we had breakfast. There seemed no point in hanging around to midday, the official time by which you have to depart. We had travelled light so there were only the basics to pack away and by 10.30am we were away. The journey home was uneventful if a bit blustery. I did notice as we approached Buckingham a few police mobile speed traps. We live on the corner of a small close of about 7 houses. Depending on where people park it can be a challenge to get the van back in the back garden. During the day this is usually not to bad as most people are at work. However our neighbours at the back of our house have been have a rather large extension built and of course this has meant numerous vehicles. So when we arrived space was a bit tight. However using the Motor Mover we got it in the back garden without too much difficulty. Over the years I have noticed that the arrival of my caravan in the close always seemed to signal the need for our neighbours to go out in their cars, just as we start to manoeuvre the van. Why oh why don't they just go back inside their house for 5 minutes?

 

Bo Peep Farm Adderbury

02/08/2003 The advantage of Bo Peep Farm for us is that it is only 30 miles from where we live, so when we rush home from work we only have a 45 minute journey albeit mainly on country roads so no traffic either!  When we got to Bo-Peep it was pretty full. We did notice that there were only a couple of vans in the Poppy Field area. The warden recognised me as I walked into Reception, perhaps he has got used to my mug over the years! As we suspected the site was full although there were pitches available in the new area. We went to have a look but it was just a bit too much on the slope for us. Also pitches are arranged around the electric connections so you could get a feeling of being close to the next outfit, although the reality is that there is plenty of space for everyone at Bo-Peep.

We eventually went back to the Poppy Field ( each area of the site has a name). As the warden only wanted vans on one side we decide to face the caravan in the direction of the setting sun and over looking Adderbury Church which was in the distance. For weekends away in the summer we use a Dorema Sun Canopy which is very easy to put up and take down. All this made me hungry so our evening meal did not come soon enough.

 

03/08/2003 Sunday dawned as the sun had set the day before, wall to wall sunshine. Newspapers were enjoyed before settling down to watch the German Grand Prix. New Jaguar boy Justin Wilson who had shown so much promise in the qualifying on Friday unfortunately got mix up in the crash at the start of the race and despite the mechanics changing some of his suspension he had to retire after a few laps. Simon said that it was amazingly hot at the track.

Its not unusual to have a few Dutch campers on a site in England but the tent area was full of Dutch cars. The strange time was that they were nearly all Fords of various ages from Cortinas to Focus. I think there must have been some sort of rally nearby. Bo-Peep has a few permanent pitches and one of these must hold the record for the highest number of windbreaks used on one pitch. Not quite sure I understand the siege mentality!

 

04/08/2003 The papers were full of whether we would break some previous temperature record in the coming days. It indeed was very hot so you did have to find a shady spot. After breakfast we went for a walk around the site. The owners maintain a whole series of mown walkways around the fields that go to make up the farm. The warden's wife told me that if you went a complete circuit you will walk three and a half miles. You do come across some interesting things as well. As we sat eating our lunch we reflected on what a really relaxing campsite this is. No wonder we keep coming back!

Dorset

Sunday 5th October. What a contrast in the temperatures as we left Milton Keynes at around 9.30 in the morning. 6 Degrees showing on the gauge which is  at least 20 degrees lower than our most recent trip to France. Not so much traffic as we made our way down the A34. At the M4 junction, north of Newbury, there are roadwork's and a ridiculously low speed limit of 40 miles per hour. Despite this the work they are undertaking will benefit those travelling north and south. There will be a slight diversion of the A34 to allow it to pass under the M4 thus eliminating the roundabout and traffic lights. I appreciate that in the scheme of things this will only save a minute or two but for those of us who have been travelling on this road for the past 30 years it is just another link in easing the journey. As we came off the Newbury by-pass we were treated to a beautiful display of autumn colours, at least some road builders are pleasing on the eye.

As I said traffic was generally light, that is until we got to the end of the A 34 where traffic was starting to back up. The M3 must be full, but no it was just the funnelling effect of traffic trying to join the motorway.  As far as junction 2 on the M27 was a familiar journey to us as Margaret's mother lives in Totton. As the motorway ends the road gets progressively worse, we make our way past Ringwood, Bournemouth and Poole.   Eventually we get to the outskirts of Wareham, looking for the signs to Bere Regis. The CC site, called Hunters Moon, was half a mile past the Silent Women public house, an interesting name for a pub I thought to myself!

Hunters Moon is a typical Caravan Club site. Neatly arranged with a mix of hard standings and grass pitches. I was surprised how full it was. Despite a chill wind we were able to sit outside the van in  bright, hot sunshine. So these people that caravan at this time of year know a thing or two!!

Despite warnings of gloom and rain Monday dawned surprisingly bright and a little warmer. No rush to get going, things to do, papers to read. Just before noon we stirred and set off for Swanage, passing the ruins of the impressive Corfe Castle on the way. There were only long stay parking bays left when we got to the town and at 2.50 for two hours a bit pricey! Mind you the parking area had wonderful views over the bay, with Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight clearly visible. I suppose  being early October the town was bound to have a slightly run down feel. No doubt two months earlier it was bustling with holiday makers of all ages but now only us oldies were in evidence. There seem to be very few English resorts that capture the chic of many French seaside towns.

On Tuesday we went to visit relatives, always an exhausting process in my book. At least I was able to buy diesel at 73.9 a litre after an extra discount for spending money in store at the local Safeway. 

Wednesday was the last full day away and it turned out to be a surprisingly warm day, although the cloud never completely cleared. We drove out to Durdle Dore. You approach the parking through a caravan park run by Lulworth Estates. The parking is right on top of the cliff, make sure the handbrake is on!! Although the campsite is predominately mobile homes it does have a fairly large area set aside for tents and the touring area is behind the car park on the cliffs with wonderful views over sea towards Portland and Weymouth. The path down to the sea is quite long and steep but worth the effort. Getting back up is another matter! You can walk as far as Weymouth in one direction but for a shorter walk try the other way to Lulworth Cove. 

Thursday dawned bright and sunny. An older gentleman next door, who was also departing today was explaining that all his 12 volt electrics had broken down so they were unable to use the heating or his motor mover to get off his pitch. I offered my services which he gratefully accepted. Although we did not rush we were packed up and ready to go by 10.30 am. As we have come to expect on any mid week journey in the UK it was slow without being particularly held up at any point, but what's the rush anyway!

On this trip, as an experiment, we did not run the fridge whilst on the move. Before we left to come to Dorset we had left the fridge plugged into the mains so that it was really cold for the journey as it was on the return journey. Also the temperatures were much lower generally so we did not envisage a problem. So why all this fuss and bother? Since fitting the caravan mover we had experienced a loss of battery power whilst running the fridge on 12 volts on the move. My little experiment worked, we had ample power in the battery to run the mover at both ends of our journey. It is obvious that the fridge is draining power from the battery whilst on the move which it should not do. As drastic as this may sound the problem will be resolved (hopefully!) when we change the van and car next year.