Travels in the UK 2018
Travels in the UK 2018


 

Peterborough

Sunday 28th January. Our first trip of 2018. We are heading over to Peterborough for a few days at the CMC Ferry Meadows site. We have stayed there many times over the years and I seem to recall it was the first site we ever stayed at, about 37 years ago!

The day dawned pretty dull and damp. I decided that we would try the old route we used to take to Peterborough via Olney and Wellingborough on the A509, A45 and A605 rather than across to Bedford and north on the A1. For most of the way it was pretty quiet so that was another plus. The sun decided to make an appearance and it developed into a lovely sunny day and unseasonably warm with temperatures up to 14 degrees.

They have changed the entrance to the site with an additional barrier near the entrance. You now have to use the intercom for the site staff to raise the barrier. I think they may have had some problems with travellers. As a result of this work the site no longer has a late night arrivals area. Once booked we found a pitch around the back of reception where we have stayed before as it’s near a service point.

Rather strangely it was getting rather warm in the van because of the sun streaming in. Going away at the end of January I had imagined the first thing I would have done was to put the heating on! After some lunch we thought we should get some benefit from this lovely day by walking up to the Information Centre in Nene Park. We weren’t the only ones who thought we should get out in the sunshine as the Park was very busy with locals enjoying their walks. We had picked up a map of Nene Park at the campsite and it showed various marked walks through the Park. I am never confident that my knees will allow a longer walk but they seemed reasonably well today so we completed one of the walks which was about 2.5 kms and I was pleased with myself for managing quite well. We will see how they are tomorrow!!!

Monday 29th January. Unlike the beautiful day yesterday today dawned grey and dull. However by the time we decide to go out which was about 1.00pm the sun was starting to show through. Up to then we had had a pretty lazy day. Although we were entertained by a fifth wheeler getting ready to leave the campsite. I have never quite understood fifth wheelers. I can see that with their slide outs they give a lot of internal room and I am sure that is one of the main reason people chose them. The odd thing is that when they are hitched to the vehicle, always a pick-up truck, they make what is a pretty big vehicle look tiny!

When the rain stopped we walked down to the Notcutts Garden Centre. I was tempted to buy some pot grown Snowdrops as my attempts to grow them from bulbs but have failed miserably. The trouble with Garden Centres is that if you walk to them you have to carry everything back! Talking about snowdrops there were some lovely clumps of them in the verges on the way down the road. This visit had a part two and that was the Granary Pub next door where we had a meal. Hardly haute cuisine but not bad for £33 including a bottle of wine!!! The walk back to the site was in bright sunshine which was nice but it looks as if it’s going to be a cold night!

Tuesday 30th January. I was right about it being it being a cold night! One positive from that was that it dawned a lovely sunny day even if there was a grass frost. The choice today was either to catch the bus into Peterborough or to have a nice walk around Nene Valley Park. I think the walk won because it was easier. The best start, we thought, was to stop for a coffee en route at the café by the lake. Fortified we set off round Overton Lake. Still lots of people out and about, some with their dogs, some mums with their prams and some office workers taking a lunch time constitutional. Whilst the sun was lovely there was also a stiff cold breeze depending on direction of travel. Ferry Meadows is a good place for a few days if you don’t have any form of transport as everything is on your door step.

Wednesday 31st January. Our short stay at Ferry Meadows was over and it was time to return to Milton Keynes. We first had to negotiate the rather awkward motorhome waste point. CMC motorhome waste points are not the best but the Club have started to provide drive over gridded drains which are a lot easier. Unfortunately these improvements have not yet reached Peterborough! It is bad enough having to lift a heavy drain cover but when that cover is not in the right place it starts to make thing difficult. We had to basically block the site road in order to get our drain tap over the drain in the road.

Mission accomplished we head for the open road. We decided to use the same route as the outward journey which was fine but obviously a bit more traffic. The weather was reasonably bright but it seemed much colder and we were glad to get into the house and get the heating on!!!

Henley on Thames

Monday 16th April. When we were last away, at the end of January, it was difficult to imagine that when we got home we were going to experience one of the worst winters for some years. Not only exceptionally cold but also very wet. So two months later we are getting ready for our second trip of the year to Henley on Thames to the CMC site there. It remains to be seen but the weather forecast seems set fair for the next week so fingers crossed.

TomTom always seems to want to take you via the M1 when you head south but that didn’t seem the most natural route to me so I opted to go across country towards Bicester and use the M40 instead. It was certainly less busy than the M1 would have been. There is a handy service’s just south of Oxford. However typical of many motorway service’s the signing for caravan/motorhome parking was not always clear. The signs disappeared or were transferred to the road which is a bit confusing! There may be a bit of “method in the madness” here as it seems to keep the HGV’s away from that area because it’s signed to the coach park. Coaches take up on side of the parking area and the other side is for caravans and motorhomes. It is nose in parking or reverse in depending how you feel about it into marked bays.

Rested and refreshed by a coffee we made our way back out onto the motorway. Being the M40 you pass under the Vicar of Dibley Bridge. No it’d not called that but it may as well be. We, of course, are going the wrong way compared to the view used in the opening title sequence of the well-known comedy series. We pull off the motorway at High Wycombe and take the Marlow bypass and leave at the first junction for the last eight miles to the site. This involves navigating (well the Thames is nearby!) through Marlow which is both busy and fairly narrow but we manage. The rest of the road is two way but narrow in places and we hear the Fiamma awning brushing against some branches as we hug the side of the road to give the maximum space for ongoing traffic. The campsite is just on the edge of Henley so no need to get involved with town traffic fortunately.

The site is pretty busy and the choice of pitches is limited. For those that don’t know the site it runs parallel to the A4155 which is a pretty busy road so people tend to avoid using those pitches that back onto the road. If we want to avoid that it is Hobsons Choice because there is one pitch left on the other side of the site roadway. We are still fairly near but further away than we would be and at least the bedroom of the motorhome is at the rear. We had thought of using Swiss Farm which is next door but set much further back from the road but at £6 a night extra for a similar pitch we stuck with the CMC site!

Tuesday 17th April. It dawned fairly dull today although not cold. We walked into Henley today. Probably with the passing of the years the distance into the town seems to be getting longer! The last time we were here we stayed at Swiss Farm which has the advantage over the Club site of a bit neared to Henley. When we got into the town we walked down to the river rather than head for the shops! It didn’t stop Margaret looking in the Estate Agents windows as she does every place we visit. I think the conclusion was that we don’t have enough money to live in Henley on Thames!! Our own house is far from modest but I don’t think its value would be enough for a deposit on some of the houses for sale! The guide book on Henley we picked up from the site information room lists many of the celebrities that live in and around Henley, including the late Paul Daniels and of course the lovely Debbie McGee!!!

When we got down to the water’s edge the sun made an appearance which immediately made everything look so much better. We continued to the bridge over the Thames and I left Margaret outside the Angel whilst I walked across the bridge to try and get that iconic shot of the Bridge, the Angel and Henley Church. If only I could magic away the vehicles crossing the bridge it would be easy! On the other side of the bridge we found a seat overlooking the river and cast our minds back over 40 years when we used to use our boat on the Thames. Lots of launches for hire as we walked along the towpath. We doubled back into town for a coffee before making our way back to the campsite.

Wednesday 18th April. It dawned a beautiful day today, everything the forecasters had promised for a change. The trouble is I think my body thermostat is still set to winter and I struggled to adjust to the heat but I am happy to get used to it. Today we took the bus into Marlow. I think the weather has brought everyone out for the day as the riverside park was very busy, especially the ice cream man, although at Marlow prices! We went to have a look at the famous Marlow suspension bridge with its wonderful views of the Thames and Marlow weir with the Complete Angler on one side of the river and Marlow Church on the opposite bank. We wandered along the river bank and into the park and found a shady seat. Red Kites are a feature of this area of the Thames Valley and people love to see them gliding around in the sky. This was probably not true of the chap sitting on a park bench eating his lunch when one of them swooped down and tried to steal it!! Thinking it might be safer to eat under cover we made our way across to Burgers Artisan Bakery for a coffee and something to eat before making our way to the bus back to the site.

When we were back we got the chairs out and enjoyed a cool beer in the shade of the van. The warden was passing by and he came over for a chat. I mentioned the traffic noise to him and he said the Club had investigated a special type of fencing that would reduce the road noise but not eliminate it. However it was so costly that they had second thoughts. There was no better news on the motorhome service point which is still the old fashioned lift up drain cover. He reckons a new style open grill is not in the plans for at least two years. Currently the site is about two thirds hardstandings and a third grass pitches. The latter only open from May onwards and they are looking at ways to extend the number of hardstanding because the site is often full and they could get more units on with more hardstandings. I know some people are not keen on more hardstandings but it seems to be a choice between allowing more people to use the site for longer against a fairly limited season with grass.

Thursday 18th April. Another beautiful day, the only difference was that we decided to stay put today and just relaxed on site. I often struggle with the concept of sitting around and doing nothing but at least with the sun and temperatures in the mid-twenties I was able to reconcile it it!!! We are ideally situated to watch the comings and goings as our pitch looks directly out onto reception and the site entrance. I was amused by one car that had the registration number P45 YES!!! From the arrivals today I reckon the site is all but full, although none of the grass pitches are being used at the moment. When I say relaxed one does have to take into account the noise from the road which is about 25 metres from our pitch. It is fairly constant during the day but now and then it goes completely quiet and you do wonder if you are suffering from a loss of hearing!! Unfortunately sanity is soon restored as the next batch of vehicles traverse the road. This is our last day here and back home tomorrow.

Friday 19th April. Another lovely day for the journey home. First job was to empty the waste. As mentioned earlier they are often not the most user friendly and Henley was no exception as they still had heavy drain covers to remove and the positioning meant that you blocked the road!!! I was not looking forward to travelling along the road between Henley and Marlow as whilst its fine for most of the way there are narrow points where you have to pull right over to allow oncoming vehicles to pass. I shudder as I hear the (hopefully) Fiamma awning brushing against the bushes. After that the rest of the journey was quite straight forward calling in at the Oxford Services for a coffee and Tesco in MK to refuel.

Oxford

Friday 11th May. A short weekend trip away to the C&CC site at Oxford. Being so close at hand, 43 miles, we couldn’t leave too early which meant a bit of hanging around. I suppose it’s one of the disadvantages of C&CC sites and their policy of not allowing you to arrive before 1.00pm. Its fine if you have a reasonable distance to travel but more inconvenient if it’s only a few miles. Traffic was fairly heavy on the A34 northbound with queues seemingly the norm these days between Oxford and the M40. We arrived at the site not long after the 1.00pm curfew and were escorted to our pitch as is the norm of C&CC sites. One interesting aspect of this site is the number of European visitors. We have only ever stayed on a handful of UK sites where this happens. I suppose rather like when we go abroad we tend to gravitate towards the major centres of interest.

Once we had settled in and had some lunch we set off to explore. First to the Park and Ride, which is quite near to the campsite, to check out the frequencies? However there is a service from immediately outside the campsite which would suit us better. Further along the road there is small Tesco where we were able to buy a few things. Before going back to the site we called into the Go Outdoors which is in front of the campsite. It is something of an Aladdin’s Cave compared to the large modern store we have in MK.

Saturday 12th May. It dawned a bit dull today but at least it was dry and the sun was making an attempt to break through. We took the bus into Oxford today from the nearest bus stop rather than the Park and Ride, it’s nice to have choice. It dropped us off outside the new Westgate Shopping Centre which was built on the site of the medieval West Gate entrance into the City. The centre has been remodelled in recent years and now incorporates a large John Lewis where we headed for a coffee. From our seat overlooking the Shopping Centre we notice some escalators seemingly heading up to the roof so when we had finished we set off to check it out. It turned out to be a public view point overlooking Oxford’s “Dreaming Spires”, there are even restaurants up there where you can eat with a view of the City, it’s worth a look if you are in Oxford. The whole City seems to be bustling with shoppers and tourists which is good to see.

We wanted to check out where the Ashmolean Museum was so we made our way through the shopping area where we first found the Randolph Hotel, often used in the Morse TV series. The Ashmolean was just round the corner. As the museum deserved more time that we could give it today it was  just a look to see  where it actually was. In Broad Street we saw the Tourist Information Centre so we went in for a map. Unlike many European towns that have those tear off give away maps ours cost us 50p! At least the young lady suggested a route back towards Folly Bridge. Outside a tour guide was explaining that one of the Colleges was closed because of a Graduation Ceremony. We noticed the bowler hatted officials as we passed by. The Bodleian Library and the Radcliff Camera are really magnificent buildings and you almost feel history oozing out of the mellow yellow Cotswold stone. We cut down Magpie Lane which took us down to the meadows behind the colleges and  back to where we needed to catch the bus. Other than London I don’t think I have seen so many buses! We decided to take the one back to the Park and Ride to see what the alternative was like. It’s a choice of more frequent services and a slightly longer walk. Whenever we stay anywhere new I try and see if the local bus provider has an app which I can download to my phone. In this case Oxford Bus did and it proved very useful in providing real time information.

Sunday 13th May. The forecast suggested rain today but we awoke to beautiful blue skies and it stayed dry and mainly sunny all day. We returned to the City Centre on the bus but rather than be stuck in a museum for a couple of hours we opted for the Botanic Gardens which are near to Magdalen Bridge. Before entering the gardens we went to have a look at the action on the River Cherwell with people trying their hand at punting. From my point of view something that is better to watch than have a go at!!! The Botanic Gardens were founded in 1621 and they are lovely to wander around. For those of us that don’t always remember the names of plants they are all neatly labelled. There are several glass houses with different temperatures, I avoided going in the hottest as I always find it steams up the lens of my camera! Around the garden information signs telling you about certain plants and the contribution they have made in history.  Apparently the builders of the Pyramids ate onions and garlic. It is rumoured that they didn’t have many friends!!

Having finished with the gardens we made our way down to the River Thames. There was very little river traffic which surprised me given that it was a Sunday. We walked round to the Head of the River pub with the idea we might have something to eat. It seems they only do full meals so we didn’t bother and made our way back to the bus.

Monday 14th May. A trouble free journey back to MK. A Dutch caravan left immediately before us and turned right out of the site. I am not sure which general direction he was heading in but he passed us on the opposite carriageway as we headed for the A34. When we booked the Oxford C&CC site I was not really sure what to expect having read quite a few reviews. OK we had pretty good day time weather during our stay but I thought it quite a nice site. Certainly if you want to explore Oxford it is ideal with its excellent transport links. The City is almost within walking distance if you prefer to make your own way. It’s doubtful whether it’s worth taking a car into the City Centre.

 

South Coast Tour

 

Chichester

Sunday 3rd June. We set off today on our first longer trip of the year, albeit only 17 nights long. Our first of three sites is the C&CC site at Chichester.  As we got the motorhome out of the back garden it had the makings of a fine and warm day. Within ten minutes of leaving home we were in a queue of traffic on the A5 D as we call it. Or the A5 diversion as it was originally called. We have a habit in MK of referring to the design names of things when the City was being built some forty years ago! In all that time we have never been held up on that road but resurfacing work at Old Stratford meant we were reduced to one lane. About half an hour after leaving home we were on the move and heading towards Buckingham and beyond. It was only a couple of weeks ago we were heading down the A34 to Oxford but this time we kept going. The traffic was very heavy today but not sure if this was because it’s the end of the half term holiday or the fact that it was just a nice day.

We arrived at the site about 2.30pm to a very warm welcome by the site team. Unfortunately our choice of pitch was pretty limited due to our length and the fact that we had booked a hardstanding. The site only has 58 pitches and apparently is one of the best performing sites in the C&CC network. The site managers were celebrating a recent three year extension to the lease which was good but looking across the site you can see a new housing development and you have to wonder how long the site will survive?

Monday 4th June. Today we took the bus to visit the Fishbourne Roman Palace. Fortunately there is quite a regular bus service that passes the site but it was more of a problem deciding where to get off. Depending on the bus company you can often download apps to your phone and in this case it was Stagecoach which I already had. The advantage of these apps is that they often show the progress of the journey so you can identify the stop you need to alight at. Mind you it does also depend on a good mobile and GPS signal! If all this fails you just ask a local on the bus who you have just happened to have struck up a conversation with. Once off the bus it was about a half mile walk to the Palace.

We decided to have a coffee before setting off on our exploration. The Roman Palace at Fishbourne is reputed to be the largest palace ever discovered in the UK. It is, of course, famous for its mosaic floors. These are now all covered by the building that now protects them. On entry to the Museum you are invited to look through the exhibition that traces the history of the Roman invasion and occupation of parts of what is now the UK. Quite a bit of the exhibition is about the nitty gritty of roman life which is interesting in itself. The area covered by the mosaics is very impressive and some of them are in remarkably good condition. You can also get quite close to them. Guests are invited to view the gardens where they have tried to recreate them as close to the original as they can. I am sure that is on a best guess basis but also backed up with some evidence. It seemed that during construction most of the top soil was removed. So when they wanted to plant a tree they had to dig a pit which obviously contained a different soil than all around so they were able to work out where the original trees were planted. It is quite instructive to go to the furthest point in the garden to get an impression of the scale of the original palace as the museum only covers half of the original size. The rest is still under housing and a road adjacent to the Museum!

Tuesday 5th May. It has been a bit of a dull day today so we had quite a lazy day. We did walk up to Southbourne Station just to check where it was and the train times. We are thinking about a trip into Portsmouth and the train is quicker compared to the bus but by the time we walk to the station it’s about even-stevens. Looking at a lot of the houses in Southbourne it seems as though most were built in the inter war years. However new houses are now being built and according to a notice on a lamppost the local council want to build about 500 more new ones. The same thing is happening all over the South of England. We took a different route back to the main road as we wanted to visit the local Farm Shop. We tend to find most farm shops overpriced and I don’t think this one was any different, however the produce did all look good. We did purchase a small pork pie for lunch and some strawberries for later!

Wednesday 6th June. Lovely sunny day today but with a fairly stiff breeze. Well, it was the intention to go all the way to Portsmouth on the bus today but we encountered quite a few delays en route and decided that we would abort the journey at Havant as not only was it going to take so much longer than the usual 50 minutes I was not sure my bladder would stay the course!!! I don’t wish to be discourteous to Havant but the centre does not seem to have much about it beyond a rather nice looking church. I could be wrong but I wonder if it suffered war damage because of its proximity to the Naval Dockyards at Portsmouth? There is an eighties style shopping centre but that would hardly be considered a destination! We did grab a coffee before having a look round.

We decided that we would backtrack to Emsworth, a place the bus had gone through en route. It is a much more picturesque place and we wandered alongside one of the water inlets that abound in these parts. Obviously a popular place for sailing. Emsworth has an old world charm that Havant lacked. Thinking that we should find somewhere to have a bite to eat. We first found the Blue Bell Inn which looked rather nice but all the outside seating was taken. A Bit further along was the Coal Exchange which we discovered had a nice little beer garden at the rear to enjoy a beer and a sandwich. A walk through the old town we came across another part of the harbour. The reason for the Roman Palace being at Fishbourne was the access offered by this multitude of water channels that all connected to the Solent.

Thursday 7th May.  We eventually made it to Portsmouth today! Weather wise it was a bit dull but humid. We decided to take the train so we walked up to the station in Southbourne. I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised but the train was ten minutes late, well it is Southern Rail! We had to change at Havant for the Portsmouth train that takes you right down to the Harbour. The odd thing about arriving at this station is that you are surrounded by the Gunwharf Quays Shopping Centre and the wonderfully redeveloped waterside but the station looks a right dump!!! You would think there would be a bit more joined up planning on this score. To add insult to injury there is even a brand new bus interchange in front of the station.

I suppose I had to bow to the inevitable in that we would have to look around a few shops, at least I got a coffee out of it!! The waterside has a way marked millennium walking route which we followed round to Spice Island. Passing en route the Camber where apparently they say that it was here that potatoes where first landed in the UK. Sailors, who had also brought back tobacco caused a stir in the town when they were seen smoking it! Something that surprised me was to find a fair number of fishing boats in one of the docks as it’s something I had not associated with Portsmouth. The Harbour is a bustling place with the various IOW ferries coming and going. We even watched one of the large Brittany Ferries ships come into port. There is a nice viewpoint just in front of the Spice Island Inn. It’s one of the places on the waterfront that you can get a landscape photo of the iconic Spinnaker Tower which at a height of 170 metres towers above the waterfront. You can, of course go to the top of the Tower but we thought we would save the £10 each price tag!  The problem with this walk is that it is not circular so you have to retrace your steps. By the time we got back to the station we were pretty exhausted. At least the train was on time and direct. There is so much more to do in the area of the waterfront which will have to wait for another time.

East Cowes, IOW

Friday 8th June. We left the Chichester C&CC site this morning and headed towards Southampton to catch the ferry over to the Isle of Wight. I had intended to fill up with fuel en route but somehow seemed to completely miss a turning to the fuel station we were aiming for and instead found ourselves heading for the centre of Southampton so we had to do an about turn and gave up on the fuel! All this was a bit embarrassing as I was born in Southampton and should know the area better!!!  We managed to get back to the M27 and made for the Rownhams Service Station in order to wait a bit before heading for the ferry, it also proved to be a useful coffee stop. Our ferry was due to depart at 1.00 pm so we timed our arrival just after the previous ferry should have left. It was still there but loaded so no risk of being turned away like the last time we were here. I purchased some sandwiches in the shop as it’s always a bit of a bun fight on the actual ferry. Given the constraints of unloading and loading it was surprising that we managed to get away from Southampton so near to the planned departure time.

The journey across to East Cowes was nice and smooth and we sat at the stern of the ferry watching first Southampton and then Southampton Water gradually disappear as we crossed the Solent. We are heading for Waverley Park which is a commercial campsite in East Cowes and our journey from the ferry to the campsite was probably the shortest on record. The site is terraced on quite a steep slope down to the Promenade. The site has a lot of statics but a rather nice terrace of touring pitches with views out over the Solent. A bit of a treat for us is the fact that it is serviced with its own water and waste point. There was a lovely sunset this evening and we even saw the Cunard Queen Victory depart the Solent.

Saturday 9th June. First task today was to do some shopping. There is a handy Waitrose supermarket almost next to the Ferry Terminal and only perhaps about half a mile from the campsite so within reasonably easy walking distance. So it was out with the granny trolley and off we went. The road down to East Cowes is pretty steep so we had that prospect to look forward to in the opposite direction on the way back! Shopping done we face the hill akin to the north face of the Eiger, we did struggle a bit! The stupid thing was is that we could have probably found somewhere to park the motorhome had we taken that!!!  The rest of the day was spent recovering from our labours!!

 

Sunday 10th June. We decided to explore West Cowes today. When we left the weather was a bit dull but fairly warm, but as that comedian used to say “it turned out nice again” eventually. We walked along the promenade into East Cowes along the way was an old propeller from HMS Cavalier  the last Destroyer to be built on the IOW and launched in 1944 at the Whites shipyard. Apparently they built 23 destroyers during the second world war.  H.M.S. Cavalier is now berthed at the Historic Dockyard, at Chatham in Kent, minus one of its propellers! We had to wait whilst the Red Funnel ferry disembarked, including a lot of caravans and motorhomes. We were heading for the Chain Ferry over to West Cowes. Strangely they only have return fares but at £1.50 each hardly a King’s Ransom!  This ferry saves  around trip via Newport of about 12/15 miles. West Cowes is obviously the destination with a nice pedestrianised centre with lots of coffee shops and restaurants and of course yachting stores. Once through the shopping area you  rejoin the promenade which we follow up to the Royal Yacht Squadron HQ. It is from here they start a lot of the sailing races. They use a canon to signal the start and people are warned they could go off at any time. The sun was now out and it was getting quite hot and we were flagging a bit so we started on our way back.

Once back into East Cowes we wondered if we could find a way back to the site without using the exceptional steep road up to the site. It didn’t seem to work because whilst not as steep the route was longer! Back at the site it seems to have filled up a bit.

Monday 11th June. We had a bit of a bus marathon today. Margaret has for a long time, wanted to return to Alum Bay famous for its coloured sand. To achieve this goal we first had to get to Newport and then to change buses. It takes about an hour from Newport to Alum Bay so we decided to take a break about halfway at Yarmouth. This turned out to be a delightful spot. We found a café, interestingly called Gossips Café! Yarmouth is perhaps better known for its ferry to the mainland at Lymington. We had time to look around before heading back to the bus. Roads on the IOW are not renown for being wide or straight and I am sure the bus drivers earn their pay having to negotiate around some impossible roads. From what we saw today I am not even sure that towing a caravan or driving a larger motorhome is recommended without some planning! The arrival at Alum Bay is something of a disappointment as you appear to have arrived at some theme park. Margaret went to bottle a container of coloured sand, another nic nac to find space for at home! We did walk down to the view point overlooking the Needles, that collection of sharp looking rocks that form the western tip of the Island. Back to the bus and we have decided to do the complete journey in one go. The number 7 bus service is half hourly but is basically two services. Although the start and finish is the same alternate buses take a different route. This had more than a passing interest as our return journey would take us through Newbridge where a campsite called the Orchards is situated. We stayed there many years ago when the boys were young and it had been an option for this trip.

We eventually got back to the campsite after 6.00pm, quite late for us! We had been blessed with a beautiful day. We decided to pop into the site bar for a cooling drink and I was surprised at what good value it was. Although we did have an idea for a meal when we got back to the van we decided to eat at the pub which saved on the cooking and washing up!!!

Tuesday 12th June. We felt that so far this trip we had been on the go almost nonstop so we decided to have a rest day on site. It dawned quite sunny but most of the day has been dull. It seems that quite a few of our fellow guests spend more time on site than we do. You can hardly blame them as there is always something going on out at sea. A few units have left today but there has been a trickle of replacements through the day. We have cottoned on the fact that once we see the ferry come past the breakwater, within half an hour we are likely to get a new arrival with the site being so close to the ferry terminal!

Wednesday 13th June. It dawn bright and sunny today. We were off to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway today at Wootton. This entailed us taking a bus to Newport and then taking the Ryde bus out of Newport. You have to be a bit careful with buses on the IOW as the same service number may use two different routes to get to their destination. The number 9 service was no different so we checked to make sure we were on the right bus! Fortunately we found the railway station but when we got to the platform we were told we had another hour to wait for the next train. The Station Master suggested we walk back up to the road and cross over to the Methodist Church where they did tea and coffee. We had a drink and a piece of cake each but there was no set menu of prices as they just asked for contributions so we put a fiver in but they wanted to give us change!!! It’s all for a good cause as once a week they do a lunch for the local pensioners. Joining us was an Australian couple who were doing a month long tour of the UK.

Refreshed we made our way back to the station and the train. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway is only about five miles long but still accounts for about ten percent of the original Island rail network. They can’t extend the track towards Newport as the original cutting was unstable and was filled in years before the restoration. At the other end of the line there is talk of extending the line a bit further towards Ryde but that is still under discussion. We travelled from one end to the other and then back to Haven Street where the HQ is and the Museum. The place was very busy in part due to a school dance competition underway on the field next to the station. We thought we should have some lunch which we did at the Station buffet along with everyone else it seemed! Much of the exhibition area has been funded by the National Lottery. What would we do without it? The whole place is a train buffs paradise. Having seen all that we wanted to we had the choice of either waiting for the train to go back to Wootton or getting on the train to Smallbrook and doing another complete loop of the line which we did.

Thursday 14th June. A bit of a surprise today as we awoke to rain and a pretty stiff breeze. It was all part of storm Hector sweeping across the UK. We had nothing particularly planned for today except to go back to Waitrose for more shopping which should see us provisioned until the end of the holiday. Well the best laid plans of mice and men, as John Steinbeck would have us believe don’t always go as planned!!!  We got to Waitrose and started our shopping using one of their Quick Check terminals. Half way round the system went down which meant a manual shop using the checkout, something we rarely do these days! During the course of our shopping we recognised someone we had worked with in Milton Keynes but now works in Waitrose East Cowes. It took a second or two to recognise us in the different surroundings. It turned out her parents were also in the shop and we worked with them as well in MK. The plan was to get a taxi back to the campsite and I had taken the precaution of getting some numbers from reception. We had the granny trolley full and two other bags but thank goodness we decided against a second pack of mineral water! Why you ask? Well when I tried the phone numbers for the taxi both were unavailable! The Customer Service Desk in Waitrose even tried but no success. We were really left with no option but to carry and pull the shopping back up to the site! Margaret wasn’t keen but there was nothing else we could do. The good news was that we made it up the hill in one piece if not exhausted. It’s often surprising what you can do if you put your mind to it!

This is our last full day on the Isle of Wight. We feel that we have done quite a lot and certainly made a lot of use of the bus services. It would have been nice to have hired a car but that would have added quite a bit to the holiday cost. We have enjoyed it here at Waverley Park, except for that hill!!! However a car would give us more freedom.

Poole

Friday 15th June. We were up and ready today before we really needed to. It was a nice day with plenty of sunshine. Our ferry was at 11.30am so the earliest we could sensibly get to the ferry port was just after 10.30am. Even by then there were vehicles in the queue. One thing that annoys me about Red Funnel on either side of the route is the narrowness of the queuing lanes. We literally took up the entire width of the lane so if we had a similar vehicle next to us we wouldn’t be able to open our doors. Anyway we managed to get on board unscathed and we were on our way back to the mainland. The crossing was quite calm which was fortunate and we spent some time out on deck .At one end it was too hot and the other very breezy! It didn’t take too long to disembark in Southampton and we were on our way. I had put in the sat nav a waypoint to stop at a Tesco fuel station near Poole, fortunately this time we found it OK. For some reason we were queuing in the road trying to get into the pumps. When I managed to get in I skirted around all the cars to find the Pay at Pump almost empty! Why don’t people like pay at the pump! Full of fuel we were on our way and we soon arrived at our next campsite, South Lytchett Manor Caravan and Camping Park.  We had a very pleasant greeting on arrival and we were shown to our pitch. It is without doubt a very popular campsite and seems pretty full. Unfortunately where we are pitched we can’t use the satellite because of the trees but they do have a TV hook-up on the electric bollards.

Saturday 16th June. Weather a bit dull today and not as warm. We took the bus into Poole today, there were quite a few people from the campsite also using the bus. Given the number of people on the bus you do wonder how they can only justify an hourly service, I would have though they should have been more frequent. Traffic going into Poole seemed quite chaotic but we eventually got to the bus station. Next to the bus station is a shopping centre where we found an M&S for a coffee. We then tried to find “old Poole” which I imagine is the High Street. Some effort has been made to smarten it up but I wonder if the preponderance of charity shops tells its own story? We were heading for the Quay but it started to rain so we thought better of it and made our way back to the bus. We were concerned about getting on because of the long queue but we managed in the end.

Sunday 17th June. We had visitors today. Joyce, Margaret’s sister, and her husband Rob drove over from Southampton to meet up for a chat and to go out to lunch. We had not booked anywhere so it was going to have to be pot luck with it being Father’s Day. We actually got no further than the pub half a mile away from the campsite called the St Peters Finger. Fortunately they had room. We also had a voucher from the campsite for a free bottle of wine which was a bonus. We had a very nice meal there. I am not usually keen on carvery type roast meals but I have to say this was really nice and more than ample sized meals.

Monday 18th June. The weather forecast was better than they suggested and it turned out to be quite a sunny day. We took the bus back into Poole today and rather than walk down to the Quay we took a local circular bus service which gave us a tour of the town before dropping us off on the waterfront. The Quayside in Poole has changed a bit since we were last here. For one thing no more Poole Pottery, where the factory was seems to be flats and restaurants overlooking the marina. We took advantage of a rather nice café overlooking Poole Harbour, one could just imagine one was in the South of France! Perhaps I was getting confused by all the Toutes Direction notices on the roads coming out of the Port. Having wandered along the Quay we moved into the old town which I have to say it looked a lot better in the sunshine. We actually managed to find the Tourist Office which we failed to do on our last visit on Saturday and obtained a free map, Oxford please take note! In the high street there was a lovely old fashioned hardware shop, good to see that a few still exist. Whether they sell four candles I don’t know. Having had a late lunch we made our way back to the bus station. There were still lots of people waiting for the bus although perhaps not as many as Saturday.  It was a bit surprising how many got off at the campsite, there must have been a dozen people. Today is the start of England’s World Cup campaign so time for our every four years of torture! At least the team did well to win their first game. On the other hand Margaret is not so pleased the football is messing up all her soaps!!!

Tuesday 19th June. Our last day here at South Lytchett, we go home tomorrow. We have had a pretty lazy day today. It’s been another day when the forecast has suggested it would be dull but it has turned out to be sunny and quite warm. In the afternoon we walked out of the back of the site to The Courtyard Craft Centre which also has a tearoom. This is another establishment where the site offer a discount voucher, this time for a free tea or coffee when you buy something to eat. Now Margaret and I had a slight communication breakdown as we were going to treat ourselves to a proper cream tea. There was my thinking she was suggesting we share a scone – as we sometimes do when we have a coffee out. But I said we should have our own. What Margaret was meaning was do we want one scone or two each. Well two each turn up, they were very nice but we had to do a tour of the site to work some of them off!!!

I am trying to make up my mind about this campsite. It is of a very good quality, it is well organised and busy.  But it seems frantic compared to a CMC site. Perhaps its lack of membership affinity?

Wednesday 20th June. Time to return home having been away for 17 nights. TomTom didn’t quite take us the way I expected which I thought would be up the A350 to join up with the A31. Instead it took us back past the Tesco at Poole we previously filled up with fuel, at least the route was familiar!!! Traffic wasn’t too bad either, even round Oxford. We topped up with fuel in Wolverton a mile or two from home.  

Hebden Bridge

Sunday 15th June. We are heading up to Yorkshire today to the CMC site at Hebden Bridge although more correctly just outside of Mytholmroyd. It meant an early start with the alarm set for 7.00am, a hard call after all the hot humid weather made sleeping difficult and Saturday night was no exception! Despite that it was not until 9.40am that we were on the way. We quite like to travel on a Sunday as there are fewer wagons on the road but no shortage of cars! I do sometimes wonder why some people use motorways as they saunter along at about 50 miles an hour causing the whole world and their wife to overtake them. This might be fine for solo cars and even motorhomes but I feel for caravans who are forced to overtake.  

At junction 42 we left the M1 having been on it since junction 14 and headed on the M62 which we followed to junction 26 where we left the motorway and headed towards Halifax. The road through the town is on an elevated section so you get a good view of what is below. Heading out of Halifax we passed through a place called Friendly which I though was a lovely name for a village! As we progressed out into more impressive countryside we reached Mytholmroyd where there are currently ongoing roadworks. You have to do a sharp left turn over the river bridge which is fairly narrow and they advise caution. In the end I didn’t think it was too bad but then traffic was reasonably light. Less than a mile out of the town is the site.

The Hebden Bridge site, formally known as Lower Clough Foot,  it is quite small with only about 42 pitches and has recently been refurbished. This included the addition of some service pitches which we have treated ourselves to. Although by the time we got to the site it was Hobson ’s choice as there was only one serviced pitch left. The site does not have a toilet block so at £20 a night it seemed a reasonable price to pay!  It has been a lovely day with lots of hot sunshine. Our pitch is under trees so  we thought no hope of getting a satellite signal but strangely we get a picture, no way that should have happened!!!

Monday 16th July. Rain was forecast for today. It was a bit grey but dry as we walked down to Mytholmroyd which was fortunately downhill. On the way down we  passed an ice cream factory with dozens of ice cream vans. I had always thought that such vans were owner operated but clearly not. You can imagine them on a hot Sunday scurrying off in different directions a bit like a Carry On film! En route there were some pretty solid stone houses reminiscent of Last of the Summer Wine although we didn’t see Nora Batty!!! Clearly this is cycling country with many houses displaying a model of a yellow bicycle both large and small.

The village didn’t seem to have much about it except for lots of roadworks.  They seem to be building flood defences. We wondered around looking for a half decent café but no luck but we did end up having a short walk along the Rochdale Canal. Thinking that we would get the bus back to the campsite we asked someone at the bus stop who said she thought it had already left.

Margaret suggested that we take the bus the other way to Hebden Bridge as there was bound to be a proper café there. We didn’t have to wait too long for the relatively short journey. Hebden Bridge is a delightful, bustling place. You could easily see one of those costume dramas being filmed here. We wandered through the streets, many of them pedestrianised, until we found a café that we liked the look of. It was next to a beautiful three arched bridge which I assumed is the “Hebden Bridge”. Refreshed we carried on our walk around the town where we found the Canal Wharf with the Tourist Office next door. The lady in the Tourist Office was very helpful with not only bus times but where the bus stop was for our return journey. There were several people waiting for the bus when we arrived and we got talking to one lady who despite her Yorkshire accent told us she was born in Hampshire. She tried to coach us in saying Mytholmroyd but after several attempts I don’t think we got it right! The locals on the bus seem to call it Royd!

The bus took us right to the entrance of the campsite.  The site is reasonably busy but there are empty pitches, including rather surprisingly one of the serviced ones. The sun was out and another hot day. I sometimes wonder if my body thermostat is up the creek as I seem to suffer unduly in this weather as much as I love it. Rain looked increasing likely by early evening so I took the precaution of hooking up the TV cable which turned out to be a good move as we had heavy rain from about 7.30pm and of course the first thing to go was the satellite picture!!!

Tuesday 17th July. We had heavy overnight rain which had an effect on today’s weather especially in terms of temperatures which were much more comfortable. We caught the bus from outside the site into Hebden Bridge today and then an onward bus to Haworth the home of the Bronte’s. Whilst all these bus services are in place there are often timing gaps of half an hour or more so you have to decide what to do in terms of filling that time! One good old standby is to look for a toilet. Not so easy in that part of the world! The ones at Mytholmroyd have been closed by the Council. One block in Hebden Bridge had several out of order, and of course you are required to pay!!! Probably the best cause of action is to find a café and use their facilities. Or in Hebden Bridge use the ones in the Town Hall, they also have a café as well.

Time for the bus to Haworth. I was not sure what I was expecting from this journey but it was certainly something of switchback long narrow and steep roads over the Moors. Previous readers will be aware of my admiration of the drivers of these country buses but this route must be one of the most spectacular. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of Haworth particularly the long and steep hill up to the church and parsonage. The bus dropped us at the bottom of the hill so we had no option but to climb the mountain. About two thirds of the way up we stopped for a coffee and a sandwich to sustain us on our visit. Being mid-week it was fortunately not too busy so it was quite comfortable touring the Parsonage. The story of the Bronte’s is well known. They were responsible for some of the finest literature which has more than stood the test of time. Such was the prejudice at the time that they felt the only way to get their books published was to use names that sounded as if they were men! It is amazing that despite their desperately short lives, they all died under the age of 40, they achieved such a lasting legacy.

Back to the bus and yet another wait, but this time it was put to good use by having a cup of tea at one of the many café’s in Hebden Bridge!

Wednesday 18th July. Very cold night last night, temperature well below 10 degrees! It did seem sunny first thing so we thought we would have a lazy day today sitting around a bit on the site. Unfortunately the sun did not last. Where did our summer go! At least it’s given me the time to experiment a bit using my phone as a WiFi point as this site does not have WiFi.  When I have tried it previously it used all my data in double quick time, probably doing updates. I discovered that I can set this connection as a  “metered”  connection which not only has a limit on how much data can be used before an alert it also stops major downloads like updates. We shall see!!!

Thursday 19th July. It was generally much nicer today weather wise. We went back into Hebden Bridge today as we wanted to explore along the Rochdale Canal. We meant to get off at the railway station but we missed the sign so we continued into the town and walked through the Park to the canal. The canals in this part of the country seem more substantially built than those down south which are mainly brick but solid stone here. There also seem to be a lot of redundant tall chimneys dotted here and there. We came across three locks on our walk. They are double locks rather than the narrow locks often found on canals. Perhaps sadder is that there were a number of semi abandoned narrow boats moored along the canal and you can’t help but wonder how they got to that state, there are unknown stories there.

We made our way back into the town, it was Market Day. Not a particularly big market but one stall was selling some nice plants. I would have been tempted on a few of the perennials had it not been for the bus. Interestingly one of the stalls was selling vegetables in pounds and ounces; obviously metrication has not got to parts of Yorkshire! Lunch time so we decided to try the café in the Town Hall, open to the public by the way! It was good value and they have nice toilets!!! Refreshed it was off to do some shopping. Hebden Bridge is not overly well endowed with food shops or supermarkets. Fortunately there was quite a nice Co-Op where we were able to get everything we wanted including a few things we should have left on the shelf especially the doughnuts! The bus timetable was giving us some spare time so we went off for a cup of tea, we have drunk a lot of Yorkshire Tea in the last week!!!

This is our last day here before moving onto North Wales tomorrow. We have been looking at possible routes out of the site avoiding the roadworks at Mytholmroyd. The sat nav will take us through the roadworks! According to the site warden and a neighbour I was chatting to the B 6138, the road the site is on is fine all the way to the A58 so it looks as if we will take that route and hope that TomTom catches up as we go along!!!

Chirk

Friday 20th July. The neighbour we were talking to about a different route gave us his print out of his route that he had used. So we set off up the B6138 towards the A58. The road was certainly wide enough although parked cars can be a bit of an issue in places but traffic was light so didn’t cause a problem. I had set TomTom to avoid the main road in Mytholmoyd and it worked out the route exactly as our neighbour suggested. At Littleborough we took the B6225 which again was a good road although as you approach the motorway the route gets a bit confused but TomTom was our saviour. We crossed some lovely countryside before getting onto the motorway.

People often complain about the M25 but I would certainly put the motorways around Manchester in the same category. Stop start for some of the way so we were glad to be heading out on the M56 which was generally quieter. Rain was a feature of today’s journey on and off. On the Chester bypass we did a slight detour so that I could fill up with fuel at a local Tesco. I have generally found that the way Tesco design their filling stations suit those of us with larger motorhomes as usually the far right pumps have easy exit out of the station. It didn’t take long from here for us to get to our site for the next three nights, Lady Margaret’s Park at Chirk. Its thirteen years since we were last at this site and I am not sure much has changed. A problem for us was finding a pitch where we could get a satellite picture; the first attempt didn’t work so we found another pitch opposite the toilet block where we could get a signal although in doing so we have sacrificed any privacy with people cutting down from other pitches to get to the toilet! Unfortunately we have had some rain today, it’s been a bit on and off and got heavier through the evening. Around 10.00pm we could hear fireworks that went on for some time so I assume it was an organised display.

Saturday 21st July. It’s been a generally dull day, if muggy, today but the rain seems to have stayed away. It’s been a lazy day for us mainly spent at the van. We did venture out this afternoon when we walked down to the Castle Gates near the entrance to the site. We then wandered down as far as the railway station and I was rather intrigued to see a sign advertising the Glyn Valley Tramway which a Trust is hoping to restore starting at Chirk  Station. If that comes to fruition then it will be an added tourist attraction  for Chirk.

The trouble with spending time on site is that you tend to notice things that either you wouldn’t normally see if off site for most of the day. We are pitched opposite the toilet block and we have a steady stream of people from the pitching areas behind us taking a short cut, some across our pitch. I wonder how they would feel? The other thing is the number of dogs! I can possibly understand people having a single dog or perhaps two dogs but some on here have five/four/three! I do sometimes wonder if the CMC is being taken advantage of because they don’t charge for dogs like many commercial sites? Dogs seem to outnumber children by a factor of ten to one. Given the Club’s aim of appealing to younger members I am not sure the plan is working!

Sunday 22nd July. It has been a better day today with more sunshine although still muggy. We had a walk down to the canal today along the path down the side of the campsite. This brings you out not far from the tunnel entrance by the Chirk Aqueduct. There is a nice little view point with a seat and lots of lovely flowers just before you turn down the path to canal level. We could see that a boat was coming through the tunnel as we could see the headlight although it took some time for it to emerge into the daylight. What was surprising was that a group of canoes followed the narrowboat out of the tunnel. Strategically moored near to the Aqueduct was a narrowboat selling coffee, sweets and ice cream. Who can resist a 99!!! Apparently they stay in one place for a few days and then move on to a new location.

The towpath was busy with people, some cyclist, some canoeists, and even babies in push chairs! After our ice cream we carried on across the Aqueduct and wandered up to the first bridge before turning round and heading back. Strangely as we started our return crossing of the Aqueduct there was a notice saying we were in England but we did not enter Wales until the other side so it seems the Aqueduct is in No Man’s Land or is because it’s in mid-air? This is our last day at Lady Margaret’s Park. It is a nice enough campsite but a few too many dogs for me, yet another van arrived with five dogs. It wouldn’t be so bad if the owners obeyed the Club rules on length of lead and not exercising on the campsite but our experience this weekend is that many dog owners disregard such rules.

Later on in the evening I was doing my usual checks outside when I noticed the silver screen cover on the front of the van was covered with flying ants. Up to that point we had not noticed any flying ants. However earlier in the evening we saw one of our neighbours peering at the ground and then poking it with a stick so I wonder if they had discovered an ants nest? If they had we got the benefit of their interference!!! I used several buckets of water to wash them off but only partially successful.

Monday 23rd July. It dawned a lovely sunny day, typical on the day we leave!!! Fortunately the flying ants had all but disappeared. Even by 8.00am it was very hot and on the way home the onboard temperature readout was saying 32 degrees!!! Thank goodness for air conditioning. We encountered quite a few stretches of “Smart Motorway” on the way home. There seems to be two sorts. Those where you can use the hard shoulder if the motorway is congested, when are they not! Or the other sort where they have basically created a fourth lane out of the hard shoulder which can be used as a normal lane. Every so often they have refuge’s should you need to stop. Not frequently enough in some people’s eyes. If we have to have them I think I prefer the latter as you can be fairly confident that you won’t come across an overhead sign saying lane closed?