UK Caravan Diary 2011
Moreton in Marsh
The last day of February and our first trip away in the caravan. It seems to have been dull for months with only the occasional bright day. Today was no exception, we were promised at best Ďwhite cloudí which we did get a bit of but it has also been raining off and on and is quite cold. The journey here experienced all those weather conditions. By the time we got to our destination, the Caravan Club site at Moreton in Marsh, the caravan was completely filthy. Glad I did not wash it before we left! We found a pitch with dire warnings from the warden not to drive across the grass. Strange really as when I returned to reception I happen the mention that the pitch was a bit narrow and he told me it was OK to park a little bit on the grass!
I thought I should remove some of the grime from the van. As I was working away the guy next door came and asked me if I had a Thetford fridge. When I said yes he went of to explain that the blue light was flashing whilst on mains, when it should be a solid blue light. He invited me to have a look and through a process of elimination we decided that the mains was not connected. It seems he did not realise that the cable socket had to be twisted into the site bollard. Although to be fair there are many sockets out there that do not require to be twisted. Later on we had a wander around the site and were surprised how full it was given that it was not a weekend.
Tuesday and itís the 1st of March but it has not heralded any spring like weather! Perhaps itís us just getting old but the electric heating just does not seem to keep us warm enough. In the afternoon I swapped over to gas heating and that was much better. Perhaps it was the walk round the Market in Moreton in Marsh during the morning that chilled our bones! Margaret likes markets, I am a bit more sceptical. I like how they look but having worked all my life in what would be considered, at the very least, a good quality retailer I find the quality offered in markets to be poor. On the plus side I think for other things like plants and fruit and veg in country town markets can be better than markets in larger towns.
Wednesday dawned the same, dull, cold but dry. We sat around all morning as it did not seem to make sense to just get cold. However just after midday this strange golden orb made an appearance in the sky. We were unsure what it was but it did emit a sort of heat. Thinking we could take advantage we put on layers (an additional one each day so far!) and headed back to Moreton in Marsh. At least the mellow Cotswold stone showed at its best in the sunshine.
We treated ourselves to a meal out during the evening at the ASK Italian restaurant in Moreton. The meal was very nice and the service very pleasant, although unless I am out of touch it was not cheap!
Thursday and our last full day at Moreton in Marsh. Still dull and unlike yesterday no sign of the sun by midday. No particular rush to go anywhere. It seems whilst at home, despite being retired, there is always something going on so relaxing on a campsite for a few days is not unlike it was whilst we were at work. The site is still fairly busy but itís not quite as full as it was when we arrived, perhaps people staying a day or two extra after the weekend. The Caravan Club are now into recycling! Having felt guilty for years for putting into the general rubbish things which I knew to be perfectly recyclable. However they go about it a strange way and also in a way that does not encourage members to take part. Itís difficult to know if Moreton in Marsh is typical but all recycling has to be taken to the big bins near to reception. As far as I can tell there seem to be the same number of normal rubbish bins at the service points although they do have notices affixed with dire warnings about not using them for items that can be recycled. Might it not be more straight forward to share the bins at the service points between normal rubbish and recyclable or perhaps provide a sack when you book in for all things recyclable. The latter seems to be occurring more now on the Continent and is a good way of encouraging people to sort their rubbish.
In the afternoon we drove out to the Batsford Arboretum to visit the Garden Centre. It is a fairly small affair but the plants are off a high quality. After the Arboretum we went onto Budgens in Moreton. Itís a nice little supermarket.
Would you believe the day we leave for home the sun comes out! Having said that it was still chilly. We decided that we would use a different route home. From Chipping Norton we headed towards Oxford and just after Woodstock we took the A4095 to Bicester. Despite being an A road it was only slightly better than the road we had used to get to Moreton in Marsh but once at Bicester we were on familiar territory and the journey was only about 5 miles longer.
Given that we canít arrive at the site until midday does mean a bit of hanging around before setting off or perhaps no need to rush! Mind you we were not going to get far as I tried to pull the van forward with the car but had not disengaged the mover! Itís only a relatively short journey to the CC site called Bladon Chains at Woodstock but we still encountered delays. Although it was for a good reason as they were resurfacing the Tingewick bypass which had suffered badly from the ravages of the winter weather. We got to the site a little after 12.00 and just in good time it seems as within the hour all the hardstanding pitches were taken and many of the grass pitches were also taken. It seems there are no quiet times now!
Tuesday dawned grey although very little in the way of rain and that is the way it stayed all day. After a lazy morning we walked into Woodstock in the afternoon. It is an attractive Cotswold town with lots of small shops and lots of pubs/restaurants. The only general food shop come supermarket is a compact Co-Op which is a bit Tardis like but surprisingly well stock and looked after.
Margaret likes her ĎSoapsí so I use the opportunity to take a few turns around the site roads, not only as a way of avoiding the likes of Eastenders but also to get some exercise. Only about two thirds of the site is open but what is open is pretty full with only a handful of pitches free. Also interesting is the mix of outfits with about a third being motorhomes. The mobile fish and chip shop was doing a good trade although I suspect its customers had to wait a bit longer and pay a bit more than their local chippy!
What a difference a day makes! Wednesday dawned bright and sunny with the promise of a lovely day. We were heading for the City of Dreaming Spires or Morseís patch if you prefer! We donít think we had visited Oxford for many years although we have driven around the bypass perhaps a hundred times on frequent journeys between Southampton and MK. We decided to take the bus as Margaret had established that we could use our bus passes which save us £10 in fares and no hassle with trying to find a parking place. At the bus stop we got into conversation with another couple who, it turned out, were also from the campsite. They had hired a motorhome for their trip and were trying to decide whether to go for a caravan or motorhome. From what they said it seems that a caravan was winning the argument!
Oxford was very busy as we wandered off from the main thoroughfare making our way to the Tourist office to buy a simple map. We were charged £1.50 for the pleasure. Continuing along the road we came to the Bodleian Library. We could have gone inside for a guided tour but at a price and rather strangely we were offered the last two tickets! We politely declined and walked around the Radcliffe Camera which is an imposing building. From here we found the Covered Market which was surprisingly upmarket with some lovely market stalls. By now we were getting a bit peckish but rather than having a coffee we decided on an early lunch at the Mitre in Cornmarket Street. It is actually a Beefeater restaurant so nothing special but at least you know what to expect and its good value. From our table we looked out onto a busy alley way. There were fresh faced students carrying their handfuls of books, there were business people and tourist and was the man on a cycle, on the cusp of middle age wearing a crumpled corduroy jacket, some famous university Don or an ordinary man going about his business?
Refreshed from our meal we made our way down to Folly Bridge on the Thames, or should that be Isis? We passed Christ Church College but it seems you are no longer free to wonder around without paying for the privilege. For some reason there were large groups of French school children everywhere. Crossing Folly Bridge and taking the tow path along the river brought back many happy memories of our boating days back in the 70ís. Sweet Thames flow softly.
We returned to St Aldateís via Christ Church Meadow and made our way into the shopping area. Margaret enjoys a dose of M&S whenever possible! There was still more to see but we decided to head for the bus stop and make our way back to the campsite. The late afternoon sun was a delight and we were even able to site outside the van with a cup of tea. Oh what a tonic after such a miserable winter.
Thursday we were again lucky with the weather, in fact if anything it was brighter and warmer than the day before. We headed off for Blenheim Palace. At the payment booth we had a double strike of good luck as not only did we get the senior rate but also an additional discount because we were staying at Bladon Chains which is on land owned by the Estate. We were also given the opportunity to convert our daily ticket into a one year annual pass at no extra charge although it remains to be seen if we will be in a position to take advantage.
My heart sank a bit as we entered the main courtyard in front of the house as, yet again, we encountered scaffolding at a historical monument. It was also noticeable the day before in Oxford that a lot of work was being undertaken. Perhaps itís being done this year so that everything is ready for a massive influx of overseas visitors in 2012?
The House is certainly grand both inside and out but it seems strange to imagine living in such a place! Obviously a lot of the exhibition is based around the war time Prime Minister, Winston Churchill who was born at Blenheim Palace. One of the stories that amused me was when he was a correspondent in the Boer War when he was captured but managed to escape. The Boers offered a reward but the amount was to be a disappointment to our hero as it was only of the magnitude of £25, he thought it should have been more! There was also an interesting map of the number of overseas visits he made during the Second World War given the obvious risky nature of such trips. The grounds of the Estate were a gift to the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, from a grateful sovereign after he beat the French at the battle of Blenheim in 1704.
Having completed our tour of the house we turned our attention to the gardens both formal and informal. There is a nice circular walk to the restored Cascades and back to the house. As we were walking we met again the couple from the bus stop yesterday who were touring the gardens before moving on to Cirencester. There is a nice cafť at the house, almost in the formal garden where we enjoyed a restorative cup of tea and shared a rather large portion of coffee and walnut cake, by the distance we had walked, well earned! Having been restored, we exited the grounds via the gate that takes you directly into Woodstock and returned to the campsite via the town.
In late August until the end of September we visited Scotland. Rather than add the details into this page I have written a separate Blog which can be accessed by clicking the button below:-