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2012, A New Start in a "New" Van.
After our somewhat crumpled end to 2011 we collected our replacement motorhome on February 3rd. Initially we thought of it as a stopgap but were so impressed on the drive home that we determined it would be more permanent. Our first job was to have a solar panel & Alugas bottle fitted so a week and a half later we were off to Telford for a couple of nights to have the jobs done by Dave Newell. We had the opportunity to try out the panel and living off hook-up in the van for the first time during the last weekend in February when we had 3 nights at Drax with the C&CC. We had been a little apprehensive about blown air only heating but both the panel and the gas usage proved to be a success. Middlesbrough to Drax is only a short hop but the day before we left we realised we had to go to Buxton. An early start sorted that out but roadworks diverted us through the centre of Sheffield, not the place to be early on a Friday afternoon, especially when they seem to have installed 90% of the country's stock of traffic lights.
A month later saw us at Eden Camp with Fun, on the way to which we found that the van is perfectly capable of climbing the steepest hill in Bilsdale in first gear behind a tractor. At Easter we were in Chester with Fun again, our first trip where the weather was less than kind to us at times, but not as bad as our next trip.
We had planned to go to Holmfirth with the C&CC (Northern Area MCS) for a few days, then on to a THS at Epworth before moving to sunny Peterborough for the show. Unfortunately there was an accident on the A1 just about the time we set off. Garmin traffic service told us it was only a 7 minute delay so we weren't worried – but a bit less amused to be held up on the A168 for four hours when the A1 was closed completely. We arrived at Holmfirth in the dark and rain at about 7:30pm to find only two other vans there, they having had to be towed onto the field. Luckily the steward was very helpful and directed us to a small patch of hard standing for the night. No matter we thought, just off to Epworth a couple of days early – and a pleasant stay we had as well. Some heavy showers but some nice sun as well. The day dawned for going to Peterborough (well, it would have dawned if we could have seen through the rain). Perhaps the least said about Peterborough the better but, looking back, it was the only place we stayed where the rain got the better of us.
The end of May was totally different. We had four days at the CC site in Blackpool (where we had arranged to meet some friends) and then went on to Gargrave for another four days with the Northern Area MCS. Eight days of lovely sun.
Stratford racecourse with Fun was the next destination, followed by THSs at Abergele & York. A mixed bunch of sun and rain but not enough of the latter to spoil anything for us.
We had booked with Fun for Saltfleet in August and decided to break our journey by staying a couple of days each at THSs at Whitby and Fraisthorpe, where we enjoyed plenty of sun with only the occasional shower. At the end of the month we gave our spare 6Kg Calor bottle to our son, who needed it at short notice. So, we decided that rather than replace it we would have a second Alugas bottle installed. We didn't have time to make arrangements to visit Dave Newell again but Autogas 2000 are in Thirsk, not far from us, and were able to fit us in on August 31st at short notice.
At the beginning of September we managed a few days at the Northern Area MCS THS at Seaburn before rounding off the month at the Lincoln show, with a night at Market Rasen THS to break the journey. Building work at home then got in the way but we did manage a weekend with the Northern Area MCS at Rufforth at the end of November/beginning of December.
So, despite the generally wet summer we managed to enjoy, on balance, more sun than rain and proved that an 80w solar panel combined with sensible use of an 85Ah battery is perfectly adequate for extended stays.
2013, A Year of Changes.
Towards the end of 2012 we had a good look at the C&CC THS list with the intention of more extended trips, combining those with shorter stays at Meets but also taking a break from motorhome shows. The bad weather in the first two months or so of the year meant we had to cancel a couple of intended trips and then a family bereavement forced a re-think of our plans.
Despite the resolve to give shows a miss we decided, at the last minute, to have a weekend away at the Peterborough show in April as we were really missing our trips. Happily the weather was a lot better than 2012 so we returned refreshed from a good break.
The early May holiday weekend saw us in Alnwick at a C&CC meet and then a couple of weeks later we had a few days at a THS at Bridlington.
We recorded very little, photographically, of our first few years using our motorhome but purchase of a new camera in June 2013 prompted a desire to rectify that. The first opportunity was at Otley, June 14-19 2013, five great days with the Northern Area MCS.
July 1st-15th was our first extended trip of the year, the intention being to go to a THS at Blackpool run by the North West Area MCS, followed by the Shrewsbury Motorhome Show with Motorhome Fun and another THS at Settle run by the Northern Area MCS. In the event we went on from Blackpool to Shrewsbury as planned but then spent a couple of days each at THSs at Bridgnorth run by Shropshire DA and at Llangollen run by Snowdonia DA before moving on to Settle. Varied venues but the common theme, as always, was a warm welcome from the Stewards and fellow campers.
Our second extended trip was from August 5th-19th. We started off in Worcester where we stayed at The Ketch Caravan Site & Moorings, a lovely setting on the banks of the River Severn. Whilst there we were able to meet up with relatives who live locally. We also visited Upton upon Severn and Great Malvern. We had arranged to have a rear view camera fitted by Dave Newell so needed a site fairly close to Telford. As we hadn't managed to see the town of Shrewsbury whilst there for the show in July we stayed at the showground for a few days again before moving on to the Western Motorhome Show where, once again, we camped with Motorhome Fun.
Whilst Dave was fitting the camera he found that we had some damp in the floor of the locker at the rear offside corner so after we returned home we booked the van into Teesside Caravans to have it fixed. Luckily Dave had spotted it before it became too bad (the damp reading from that area at the habitation check in January was fine) so the repair bill wasn't too savage. Teesside Caravans had a good look at the rest of the van and confirmed that the problem was confined to that small area.
When the van was serviced in January our mechanic said there were signs of rust starting to appear under the front wheel arches. The weather and other circumstances soon afterwards meant that I couldn't look at it and then I have to admit I forgot about it. Anyway, I had a look after the damp work was completed and happily it wasn't so bad. Basically paint lifting over an area about the diameter of an orange. I gave it a good clean up with a wire brush which confirmed that it was just a patch of surface rust, painted it with Flag Rust Converter then, after that had dried, painted on some Hammerite Underbody Seal, pleased that I got to it before it became anywhere near serious.
A third job that needed doing was a repaint of the bonnet and radiator grille where paint was flaking after some stones came off a flatbed lorry. We took the van into GT Refinishers in Middlesbrough (our son recommended them after having work done) and are very pleased with the results, as shown by the before and after photos. Apparently the "Ducato" badge in the "before" photo (which was a bit tatty) was hiding a dent. They removed it and you can't tell there was ever a dent there.
The various jobs were all completed by the end of October but clashes with other commitments meant that we were unable to get away again until December 6th-8th, a meet at the National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield with the Northern Area MCS.
2014, A Year to Look Forward To.
January 6 was time for the MoT Test and annual mechanical service. The van passed the test with no problems and no work needed other than standard service items.
The result of the habitation service on January 22 was less happy as some work was needed to cure some damp problems but everything else was OK. It didn't stop our first trip of 2014, a meet at the Skipton Auction Mart with the Northern Area MCS from January 24-26.
Because motorhome engineers are busy at the start of the year it took a couple of months to get the van into the workshop and have the damp problems sorted out so our trips were curtailed for a while. Once it was done, though, we decided that we were going to have the upholstery refurbished as we had promised ourselves. We had talked to Tappers at Malvern in 2013 and received a quote from them. We arranged that they would do the work whilst we were staying at the CC site at Chapel Lane so we booked in for three nights from 7th to 10th April. On the first afternoon Richard Tapper came out to see us with the bolt of the cloth we had chosen and to finalise arrangements. He came back Tuesday morning and took the cab seats and side bench cushions, doing the work whilst we had a day out in Birmingham and returning the finished articles that evening. On Wednesday Richard collected the dinette cushions and door trim, the finished pieces being returned that evening after we had had another day out. Before and after photos can be seen Here.
Our next trip was from 23rd to 28th April. We spent the first afternoon and night at a C&CC THS at LyndonTop run by Leicestershire DA. We didn't realise that there was a lower field next door which was closer to Rutland Water but did get a few photos from there.
The next day we moved on to The National Motorhome Show at Peterborough, where we were booked in with Motorhome Fun. A chance to catch up with old friends, put some faces to forum names and spend money on useful and useless items.
We joined the MCC at the Shrewsbury Motorhome Show in July 2013 but, because of the work we needed to do on the van (described above) and other circumstances, we didn't manage to rally with them until May 2014, when we went to Sedgefield Racecourse with the Northern Counties Group (which we had become part of on joining the MCC). The rally coincided with the Sedgefield Mediaeval Fayre and was a most enjoyable introduction to MCC rallying.
Our first long trip of 2014 was to the south east of England. Rather than drive the whole way in a day we stopped the first night (May 27th) at a C&CC THS at Yarwell Mill near Peterborough and then went on to Canterbury, staying at the "aire" at New Dover Road P&R site. Two days later we moved to the Kent County Showground at Detling for the Summer Motorhome Show, rallying with Motorhome Fun. On June 2nd we moved to Kidbrooke Farm CL at Forest Row where my brother lives. Apart from catching up with my brother and family we managed trips to Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Crawley and East Grinstead using local buses. We had intended staying in the south longer but had to go to Glossop for family reasons. We broke the journey by staying for a couple of days at the C&CC Motor Caravan Section National Rally at Staffordshire Showground and then spent the last two days of our trip at Windy Harbour in Glossop.
Just as an aside, Kidbrooke Farm CL in Forest Row isn't a place for people who want full facilities but for those of us who enjoy a basic CL with a friendly owner it is great. There is a drinking water tap and an Elsan point (well separated) with its own cassette rinsing tap. Other than that you are in a quiet field with the sheep in the next field for company. It's half a mile from the village (restaurants, pubs, shops, bus stops) along a safe road and at only £6 a night it was great value.
The weekend of 27th to 29th June took us to Misterton for a Motorhome Fun rally. Another enjoyable weekend due to the efforts of the members who organised the event and those who attended.
In July we undertook another longer trip. We started off with a weekend Motorhome Fun Rally at Sandy in Bedfordshire from 11th to 14th July. From Sandy we moved on to Bourton on the Water, staying at the MCC CL at Bourton Rovers Football Club from 14th to 17th July. Whilst there, as well as looking round the charming town (and enjoy lunch at Mary's Rest Cafe), we were able to visit the Model Village and Cotswold Motor Museum plus take a trip to Moreton in Marsh. We had originally intended staying in the Cotswolds until we saw postings on Motorhome Fun that the MCC had rallies coinciding with the Upton Blues Festival and Welland Steam Rally on consecutive weekends. So, on 17th July we moved on to Upton upon Severn. The Blues Festival - all free - was a great experience, probably to be repeated in future years. As Upton is on a bus route we were able to meet up with relatives who live in Worcester again. We were unsure as to where we would stay between Upton and Welland but it turned out that there were several people with the same requirement. Some MCC members contacted the Drum & Monkey pub at Newbridge Green, a mile and a half out of Upton, and made arrangements for free camping between 21st and 24th July (just have a meal/drinks in the pub). The Camping Field has water and dump points (plus a few EHU). There is a bus stop half a mile away in Tunnel Hill, on the Malvern to Upton route, and we took the opportunity of a short visit to Malvern again. The Welland Steam Rally, where we stayed from July 24th to 28th is massive, with hundreds of steam and other vintage vehicles, models, trade stands and activities. Another great experience, probably to be repeated in future years. After Welland we had intended making our way home via a C&CC THS at Far Forest near Bewdley (a relatively short distance to travel) before going on to a MCC THS at South Shore Cricket Club in Blackpool. Unfortunately we were unable to find a suitable pitch at Far Forest where we could level the van sufficiently so we decided to go on to Blackpool straight away. Our stay in Blackpool included visits to Lytham, Fleetwood, Bispham and Cleveleys. In addition we went up The Tower and to see the Model Village. We returned home on August 3rd after a thoroughly enjoyable trip.
The last weekend of August we attended our second rally with the MCC Northern Counties Group at Bents Park in South Shields. In addition to exploring the South Marine Park and Promenade we took the Metro into Newcastle on the Saturday.
Some time previously we had been told that we would enjoy a visit to St Fagans Museum near Cardiff so when we found out that a rally was to be held there towards the end of September 2014 we determined to go. The original plan was to take a week to get there and a week to get back. We then realised that we had to be back earlier to be in time for our grandson's 18th birthday and received a message from friends in Canada to say they were coming to stay in the Oldham area on 16th September. We couldn't get away until after 19th September so booked a pitch at The Hawthorne Nightstop for the 20th to the 26th. Our friends took us around Oldham on the 21st, including a visit to Tandle Hill, and north Derbyshire on the 22nd, where we had a stop off at Castleton. We were able to visit my Mother the next day and then had a couple of days in Manchester including taking the Metrolink to Media City UK. On Friday 26th we journied down to St Fagans before returning home on Sunday 28th.
In October we had two long weekends away with the MCC Northern Counties Group. The first was to the Northumberland Vintage Tractor Club rally at Old Brunton Airfield from 17th to 20th October. The event is nowhere near as big as the steam rally at Welland but no less enjoyable. We were lucky with the weather in that the rain was mainly confined to overnight with the days sunny - very windy though, especially on the Sunday. The second was to Beamish from 24th to 27th October. As well as being able to look round the museum over 3 days we were also able to use the bus to go to Chester le Street and Durham.
2015, A Good Start to the Year.
As usual, January was the month for servicing. Monday 5th was the mechanical service and MoT test. Paul Barnard, who has done our mechanical servicing for more than 20 years, advised us that there was corrosion on the front pipe of the exhaust, so it should be replaced, but the van passed the test with no problem. It took a couple of calls to find somewhere which could replace the pipe on such a large vehicle but we were able to book it into North East Truck & Van at Billingham where they did an excellent job. We booked the habitation service and damp check with Leisure Tech North East again as Lawrence had done a good job the previous two years. We had a little trepidation because of the damp spots which were found in 2014 but the resealing of the joints that Lawrence had carried out proved to be just what was needed and the damp had gone. Regular servicing and looking after it should keep this van going for a good few years yet - not bad for something bought as a stopgap 3 years previously.
On March 20th we finally managed to get away again after various matters had prevented trips since October. We went to Newark Spring Motorhome Show with Motorhome Fun. Socialising in the Pig & Whistle on Friday night was followed by a trip into Newark itself on a cold Saturday morning and a chilly walk around the show that afternoon. Sunday was much nicer and warmer with plenty of sun.
Our first trip of the year involving several destinations started on 16th April when we went to the National Motorhome Show at Peterborough with Motorhome Fun. That was followed by a few days at the C&CC Yorkshire Region THS at Epworth where we enjoyed much better weather than in 2012. Our final destination was to a weekend meet at Doncaster Aeroventure run by the Derbyshire Area of the British Caravanners Club (part of the C&CC). Aeroventure is only a short walk away from Doncaster Lakeside and the Lakeside shopping outlet. A slightly longer walk in the opposite direction (past Asda) finds bus stops for going into Doncaster itself but on site there is the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum, entry to which was included in the rally fee.
We had only ever had a couple of brief excursions into East Anglia so decided we would like to explore the area during this year. It was also a long time since we had been on the Lincolnshire coast. We looked into the prospects for meets and THSs in the C&CC and MCC magazines and found that the former had a number of events arranged during the latter half of May and into June. We started off with a THS run by the North Staffordshire DA at Oaklands caravan site in Chapel St Leonards. Whilst there we were able to visit Skegness, Ingoldmells and Mablethorpe. The THS at our first Norfolk destination did not start until 5pm on 22nd May so we decided to break our journey by staying for a single night at a THS run by Bedfordshire DA at The Lawns Rally Site near Fleet Hargate. This is an unusal site with a CS surrounded by a number of very well kept, separate lawned areas on which various rallies can be held at the same time. Our first stop in Norfolk was a THS run by Nottingham DA at Wells Next The Sea from where we were able to take a bus trip to Hunstanton. We moved a litte further round the coast on 27th May to a THS run by South Lincolnshire DA at Sheringham. Once again we were able to take bus trips, this time to Cromer and Holt. One thing to watch out for along the Norfolk coast in a motorhome is narrow roads. They may be bus routes but, especially on busy days when cars are parked on the road side, they have to be negotiated with care. On 30th May we moved from Norfolk into Suffolk and our final THS, run by Norfolk & Suffolk DA at Kirkley & Pakefield football ground in Lowestoft. A quirk of the area is the rabbits. Apparently a local resident was unable to keep a litter some years ago so released them in the adjacent woods. They survived and bred with the wild population so now rabbits of various colours can be seen. Being in the area for almost a week we were able to get about by bus, visiting Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Southwold and Beccles. On 5th June our visit to East Anglia had come to an end and we had to start for home but didn't want to do the long journey in one go. Happily, Trent Valley DA had a weekend meet on at Holme Pierrepont from where we were able to have a day out in Nottingham. We couldn't speak highly enough of the places we stayed. All the volunteer stewards met us with a warm and helpful greeting. All the sites were only a few minutes walk from bus stops and local amenities which made getting around very easy.
Some three weeks later we were off on our travels again. We started with a return to Misterton for a Motorhome Fun rally. This year we enjoyed a walk along the local section of the Chesterfield Canal. We had hoped to enjoy lunch at the White Hart pub at the end of the walk but were thwarted by a minority who think it is OK to consume despite having neither booked nor paid for the meal. Despite that setback the rest of the weekend was enjoyable. Rather than return directly home we decided to have a few days at a THS Run by Yorkshire Region of the C&CC at Otley RUFC where, as usual, we received a warm welcome. From Otley we were able to visit both Leeds and Skipton.
For some years we had harboured a desire to see the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, having been told what a spectacular sight it is from the MCC rally site. As Bristol is a fair distance from Tees-side I looked in the MCC and C&CC magazines and web sites to identify rallies and THSs which we could combine to make a longer trip of it. To break the journey on the way down we started off on 17th July at a rally run by the MCS Midland Area at Shardlow Marina where, on the Saturday, we were able to visit Derby. The following day we moved to a THS run by the MCS North London & Eastern Area at Stow on the Wold Rugby Club. Stow itself is a small place so we also popped over to Bourton on the Water for an hour on the bus. The mile or so walk into Stow from the rugby club is mainly along a road without a footpath but the club premises are open for public camping so could be a convenient stopover. Our next two venues were rallies run by the South & West wales Area of the MCC. The first, starting on Tuesday 21st July, was at Ross on Wye Rowing Club and on the following Friday we moved to Vauxhall Field at Monmouth. Sunday 26th July saw us back with the C&CC at a THS run by Somerset DA at Brassknocker Basin, Limpley Stoke, alongside the junction of the Shropshire Coal Canal and the Kennet & Avon Canal at Dundas Aqueduct. Whilst there we were able to take bus trips into Bath and Trowbridge. Next on the menu were two rallies with the MCC Avon Group. The first was the Pre Balloon Rally at Gatcombe Farm from where we were able to visit Weston super Mare and Bristol. On 5th August we moved a couple of miles up the road to Parsonage Farm which is just across the road from Ashton Court, the site of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, where we enjoyed the fantastic site of over 100 balloons flying over us. On 10th August we moved to Newland Meadow, near Great Malvern, where we had two nights courtesy of the MCC Severn Valley Group and a day out in Worcester. Our final destination was Hereford Rowing Club from 12th to 16th August at a rally organised by the MCS Wales Area. The journey from Newland to Hereford was not without incident. Driving through Great Malvern the gear knob suddenly flew past our ears when an internal collar broke. The AA sourced and fitted a new one for us at Hereford so all was well that ended well.
After returning from Hereford we decided to book for the Motorhome Show Season Finale at Lincoln from 24th to 28th September. We originally intended going to Blackpool the weekend before to see the illuminations and then have a few days at Market Rasen in between (using C&CC meets) but a family bereavement meant that, at short notice, we were unable to make those two venues. The fact that one doesn't have to book C&CC meets meant that changing our plans didn't involve cancelling any bookings. We were, however, able to get to Lincoln Show as planned. We took the wind turbine to try it "on site" for the first time. It was fairly windy when we arrived so it spun round pretty well. Unfortunately as the sun went down the wind died as well so we were unable to check the input in the absence of a charge from the solar panel. As the rest of the weekend was more or less calm that was it.
Happily the C&CC had another THS at Blackpool (courtesy of Rossendale Group of the BCC) starting on the 23rd October so we were able to go to see the illuminations after all. We took the wind turbine again and, this time, the wind was kind to us, spinning the VAWT merrily for good periods. Unfortunately it didn't contribute all that much to keeping the battery charged so, after thinking about it, I decided to remove the fittings and not bother with it in future.
2016, A Year to Get a Round Tuit.
We all have jobs which we intend to see to when we have time to get round to doing so. This year we found a couple of items in that category.
Once again the first job of the year, on Monday 4th January, was the mechanical service and MoT test. The van passed the test with no problem but we were advised that the tread was getting low on the front tyres. When we bought the van in 2012 the front tyres were replaced (only with budget ones) but the rear tyres (Michelin Camping) were fine. As the front tyres were starting to wear and I was not sure of the age of the rear ones (I had been meaning to get round to checking if they needed replacement on age grounds) I decided to have all four tyres replaced. It turned out that the rear tyres were manufactured towards the end of 2002 so must have been the original ones fitted to the van and well due for replacement. We had previously had tyres replaced on the Autoquest by Kwik Fit Mobile at home so checked, found that they gave competitive prices for Michelin Agilis Camping tyres and booked the fitting for 6th January. The fitter advised that we should have the tracking adjusted because the wear on the front tyres had been a bit uneven. We booked that job for 11th January at Truck Tech N E, another local firm where we had had work done in the past. We were able to wait in the company's reception whilst the job was done without any fuss and at a reasonable price.
The habitation service came a couple of days later. Once again there was the start of some damp through the seals but nowhere near as much as in 2014. That was another check I had been meaning to do but had been put off by bad weather at the end of 2015. In addition we were advised (and shown) that the fridge was starting to show a soot build up. Extra knowledge over the last two years meant that I was able to do the resealing myself, taking the old sealant round the seams and windows off and replacing it with Puraflex 40 as recommended by a friend. The fridge was a different matter, messing about with gas fittings not being a job for an amateur who had no knowledge of what to do. We had to wait a while because Leisure Tech North East were so busy but had the burner replaced on 11th February meaning that the van was ready in plenty of time for our first intended trip of the year.
That trip was to the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show at the NEC as we had never been in February before. We had been to the October 2015 show in the car, staying a couple of nights at a B&B and spending a single day at the show. We decided that was not long enough, and much prefer to stay in the van anyway, so booked 3 nights at the temporary site run by the Caravan Club so that we could spend 2 days at the show (which was actually cheaper than staying at the B&B). We travelled down on Wednesday 24th February, intending to visit the show on the Thursday and Friday before coming home on the Saturday. As it happened we were given some extra tickets so decided to have a couple of hours at the show on the Wednesday afternoon as well - and bumped into some friends we hadn't seen for several years who were only there for the day. On both Thursday and Friday we finally managed to meet people we had only previously "known" through forums. The weather was pretty cold but by leaving the heating on at minimum setting whilst we were out of the van and overnight we managed to stop the automatic dump valve from emptying the water tanks - with the bonus of not having to wait for the water to heat up for a shower in the mornings. The show was interesting but nowhere as near as large as the October show.
Easter was early in 2016, falling on the last weekend in March. On 24th March we went to the C&CC THS run by Northumbria DA at the Tynedale Rugby Club at Corbridge. It was amazing to think that, only 3 months or so earlier, the whole of the area we were camped in had been flooded by Storm Desmond. The flood water topped the embankment from which the photos of the field were taken and debris could still be seen in the trees, against the bridge supports and as deposits of sand high on the banks. Nearby houses were still being repaired. The weather was variable but we were treated, each evening, to a display by a murmuration of starlings. From Corbridge we were able to take buses into Newcastle and Hexham.
Three weeks later and it was back to Peterborough for the National Motorhome Show. We were pitched in what has become the traditional Motorhome Fun field but this year, as a result of soft ground, the marshals sensibly had us pointing down the field rather than up to facilitate leaving. The soft conditions illustrated the value of preparation. The secret (to some extent at least) seems to be having something adequate under the wheels in the first place. We were pitched with our front wheels on ramps and rear wheels on bread trays. I had another pair of bread trays behind the ramps to roll down onto. Once in that position (and having checked the firmest route to the road) I put the trays that had been under the rear wheels in front of the front ones. Jill then drove off steadily in first gear without a problem. A nearby (heavier) van was pitched with nothing under the wheels (and in a slightly softer place) and just dug a trough with the front wheels when attempting to move. Luckily, shoving a couple of trays behind the front wheels enabled reversing onto them and then it was possible to drive off over a series of three more trays placed in front of each wheel. We had a good time as usual but the show itself was somewhat disappointing. Nobody can do anything about the weather but there were so many of the usual traders absent. Talking to one or two of the other traders it appears to be a financial matter in the pitch costs have risen to the extent that it isn't worth some attending. I've no idea whether that is due to the organisers simply passing on high venue costs or some other reason but if the trend continues it won't be worth going in future.
Our first 2016 trip of more than a weekend was to North Wales, staying at a THS run by South Lancs DA of the C&CC at Dinerth Hall, Rhos on Sea from 28th April to 6th May. It was rather wet most of the day we arrived but, as the photos show, we did have a bright spell in the evening. Friday 29th started out dull and damp so we just caught the bus into Llandudno to see the setting up of the fairground rides for the Victorian Extravaganza and to do some shopping. As the final two photos from the day show, though, we had pleasant evening weather. A few days before travelling we found that some friends were spending the weekend at a hotel in Llandudno so we arranged to meet them on Saturday 30th for a ride up the Great Orme on the tram, where we had a look around before a tram ride back down for lunch and a wander round the festivities making up the Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza. The 1st of May dawned damp but brightened up enough for us to venture to the Llandudno Transport Festival where it was a bit muddy underfoot but the improving weather meant we had a chilly but enjoyable morning. After lunch we walked into the town centre again and managed to catch part of the parade of Steam Traction Engines, which we had seen parked up the previous day. As so often happens on a public holiday, Monday 2nd May was Wet with a capital "W". It didn't stop us getting the bus to Conwy though, where we had a look round, including visiting the Smallest House in Great Britain (which seemed a lot smaller than on my previous visit about 50 years earlier). The next day the weather was much better (though still rather windy). We caught the bus to Colwyn Bay, had a look round and then walked along the sea front to Rhos on Sea (on the way we were passed by some of the vehicles that had taken part in the Transport Festival). After lunch we caught the bus into Llandudno and had a walk on the pier. Our Wednesday trip was a bus ride to Caernarfon (via Bangor) where we had a look round and then returned to Bangor for a wander round and some lunch. We decided that Thursday was a day for seeing parts of Llandudno that we hadn't previously seen (more or less). We started off by taking the bus to the West Shore and then walked along Gloddaeth Avenue back into the town. From there we were able to catch the Great Orme Bus (for a change from the tram) to have another look round and eat our lunch. It had been many years since either of us had been on a cable car so we decided to treat ourselves and had a ride on the Great Orme Cable Car to Happy Valley and back. During our visit to Abergele in 2012 we had spent a short time in Rhyl and been disappointed. However, it had been a wet and dreary day so we decided to give it another chance. We found that Rhyl has a few nice areas but unfortunately they are surrounded by a largely run down town, not a patch on what it was 50 years previously. Never mind though, a thoroughly enjoyable holiday thanks in no small part to the volunteers who stewarded the THS.
Our next trip came just under a fortnight later. This time it was just two nights away (20th & 21st May) at Old Brodleians Rugby Club at Hipperholme, courtesy of the MCS Northern Area. The weather was mixed, with some heavy rain, but we were able to catch the bus into Bradford on the Saturday for a look round and a visit to the National Media Museum, somewhere we had been meaning to visit for many years, before enjoying a fish & chip lunch.
We then had another month to wait until the longest trip of the year so far. We had intended visiting Bournemouth, and other parts of the south coast, earlier in June but were then invited to a niece's wedding at Ede's House, Chichester on 6th July so put the trip back in order to incorporate the happy event. We set off for Bournemouth on Monday 20th June but to break the long journey decided to spend the first three nights at a THS run by the North Warwickshire DA of the C&CC at Brailes village hall and sports ground. Public transport is infrequent from Brailes but we were able to catch a bus to Banbury on the Tuesday. Wednesday 22nd was rather wet so we just caught a bus for a short visit to Shipstone on Stour.
On Thursday 23rd June we moved on to Salisbury for a rally at the rugby club organised by West Wessex Group of the MCC. There were some heavy showers on the Saturday but despite that we were able to enjoy a brief trip to Amesbury during the afternoon.
On Sunday 26th June we finally made it to Bournemouth - well, strictly speaking to the very well maintained rally field at Parley Glade just north of Bournemouth, where a THS was being run by the C&CC's Dorset DA. There is a convenient walk along a path between fields to access the main road and bus services (one has to tread carefully on the footpath along the main road, though, to avoid piles of manure left by horse riders who ignore the fact that they should not ride on footpaths). We took advantage of the bus service the next day to travel into Bournemouth, alighting at the square and enjoying a walk through the Lower Gardens to the pier and back. We also had a wander round the central shopping area which we weren't all that impressed with, especially as we couldn't find a cafe serving sandwiches for lunch. We ended up buying lunch at Tesco and sitting on a bench - it was either that, Wetherespoons increasingly limited selection or burgers (which we don't eat). On the Tuesday we caught the bus to the transport interchange where we transferred to a bus to Poole, emjoying a stroll around the town and harbour and a browse round Poole Pottery. Wednesday was rather wet but that didn't prevetnt us from enjoying a walk around Christchurch, including viewing the Ducking Stool and Place Mill. Our Thursday excursion was facilitated by the number 50 Breezer bus service, caught once again from the Interchange. We were lucky to obtain upper deck front seats which gave us a good view of Bournemouth Pier as we passed and then took us through the town to Sandbanks where the bus was taken across on the ferry to Shell Bay and then went on to Swanage. We thoroughly enjoyed a fish & chip lunch and a wander round in Swanage before catching the bus back over the ferry again. On 1st July we went inland for a change, to Wimborne Minster where we enjoyed looking round the Model Town (including its model railway) as well as the town itself. The one thing we hadn't done on our seaside visit was to actually see much of the sea. We rectified that on our last full day at Parley Glade by catching the bus to Bournemouth Pier then walking along the Promenade down past the chines to Sandbanks, where we were able to watch the windsurfers and kite surfers. We broke our bus journey back by stopping off for a short visit to Westbourne, where we had noticed an interesting looking arcade when going past on the bus.
July 3rd meant it was time to move on again. Just for a change this was to a "real" site, the Chichester C&CC Site. This was the first time we had stayed at a C&CC site. The layout is much more informal than a Caravan Club site with hard standings made from plastic parking bases through which grass can grow, rather than compacted gravel. The very well maintained site was planted with apple trees and other shrubs, giving the feeling of camping in an orchard. We were in Chichester, of course, for the aforementioned wedding so on the Monday we went into the City to familiarise ourselves with the layout and find Ede's House. Whilst in Chichester we were able to watch Peregrine Falcons on the Cathedral (as we had at Derby in 2015). Catching a bus in the other dierection outside the site took us to Portsmouth on Tuesday 5th July. The bus took us all the way to The Hard where we had a look round the Historic Dockyard but didn't go into any of the ships or museums as we didn't have time (and it is expensive). One thing we found strange was that, rather than just be allowed in through the open gate, we still had to take a ticket from an attendant at the gate and join a queue, only to be waved through by staff inside (it wasn't as if there were any security checks). We then walked into the city to have lunch but, once again, were disappointed at the dearth of cafes for a sandwich and ended up at Wetherspoons as the best of a bad lot. Wednesday 6th July was taken up with enjoying our niece's wedding and we decided that our final day in the area, on Thursday, would be a quiet one. We just caught a bus to Havant for a bit of shopping.
We started our journey home on Friday 8th July. We had intended breaking the long trip by staying at an MCC rally at Bakewell but it was cancelled because of ground conditions. Happily, Sheffield DA of the C&CC had a THS at Darley Dale on at the same time and ideally placed between Bakewell and Matlock. We decided that our Saturday would be split between those two places, the order determined by which bus came first. As so often happens, the weather decided otherwise. Saturday 9th started off OK and we followed out plan by catching a bus to Matlock. Whilst we were there it started to rain heavily so we decided to curtail our walk round the town and caught the bus to Bakewell. Unfortunately the rain persisted so we decided to cut our losses, buy a Bakewell Pudding (and some pies for lunch) and go back to the van. Happily, the rain ceased around noon so we decided that we would have a ride on the Peak Rail Heritage Railway. The station was only a few minutes walk from the THS field so we rode the line up to Rowsley South, back to Matlock and then back again to Darley Dale. Next to the station is the Whitworth Park so we had a wander round there to round off our day.
A most enjoyable three weeks away and, as always, a warm welcome everywhere we stayed.
Just under 2 weeks at home and then we were off again on 22nd July. This time our destination was Sunderland for the International Airshow rally with the MCC Northern Counties Group at Monkwearmouth Acadamy. In the evening we were able to watch the action from the rally site, including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The following afternoon we spent a few hours at the seafront where we were able to see most of the action and photograph the RAF Falcons, the Red Bull Matadors, the Beach Assault, the Military Village, the Gyrocopter and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight minus the Lancaster. Later I was able to take some shots of the Red Arrows from the rally site.
Another week at home and then we were off to a THS at Dalkeith run by the Scottish Region of the C&CC to coincide with the Edinburgh festivals, the camp site being in Dalkeith Country Park. As usual the volunteer stewards were friendly and welcoming but we felt that the THS was let down by the Park managers who had decided to site the camp in a different field from normal. That meant that the walk to the bus was far longer than anticipated with some steep slopes. The bus ride into Edinburgh, itself, was only about half an hour and the £4 each for Adult Day Tickets reasonable as it meant that we could use Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams as we liked. We spent most of the next 3 days seeing many of the sites of Edinburgh but also went into the city via Musselburgh on the Tuesday. We had intended staying about a week but after three days the extra trek through the park at each end of the day became irritating so we decided we would travel south to a THS at Alnwick run by the Derbyshire BCC Group of the C&CC. The relatively short distance meant that we were able to have a wander round the town on the afternoon. We decided we would have a bus ride up the A1 to Berwick upon Tweed on the Friday, for a short visit before catching the alternative bus down the coast via Bamburgh, Seahouses and Craster. All in all a shorter trip than originally intended but enjoyable on the whole.
Our destination for the August bank holiday weekend was supposed to be a MCC rally for the Tall Ships event at Blyth. Unfortunately, when I entered the van to start packing the last few things on Thursday 25th August I discovered that we had water dripping from the roof light. The sealant had dried out, allowing rain which had ponded on the roof to seep in. That meant we had to cancel the trip and wait for the rain to finish. The following day, though, was sunny and warm so I was able to remove the failed sealant and re-seal round the outer frame (rather than risk damaging the roof by removing the whole roof light). The new seal seemed to be OK so we decided to go to a THS run by Central Yorkshire DA at Lockside Caravan Park at Ripon from where we were able to enjoy a walk along the canal and across the River Skell footbridge to the city, returning via the River Skell road bridge. We had heavy rain overnight Saturday into Sunday but were heartened by the fact that there was no water ingress when we got up. Because the day was dull we decided we would visit the three Ripon museums - Prison & Police, Workhouse and Courthouse. We had intended to stay until 1st September but had a rude awakening at 1am by the sound of dripping water from more ponding on the roof. It turned out that, somehow, the new seal had cracked (probably applied too thinly) in a couple of places. We decided we had better cut short our trip and returned home to make further repairs.
The second repair appeared to have been successful so we were able to take our planned (and booked) trip to the Lincoln Motorhome Show with Motorhome Fun on 22nd September. The rally field was a little quiet that afternoon but filled up by the end of the day. It was nice to meet both old and new acquaintances but the show itself was disappointing. There seemed to be less accessory stalls than at previous shows and some relevant ones had been replaced by ones which were more like market stalls. For instance, there has always been one stall selling bags, purses, wallets &c but there must have been at least four this time. After having been round the show five times during Friday and Saturday we decided to leave on Sunday rather than Monday as originally planned.
We were also able to take our planned (and booked) trip to the NEC for the Motorhome & Caravan Show on 12th October. We had booked three nights on the temporary camp site again having confirmed, in February, that it was preferable (and cheaper if anything) to the alternatives. One attraction was that the Camping & Caravanning Club was offering free taster sessions of caravan towing (about 15 minutes drive out of the NEC grounds onto ordinary roads and back onto the NEC grounds again). One reason we had bought a motorhome, in 2006, was that neither of us had ever towed anything and we were wary of doing so. We were conscious, though, that there might come a day when we would need a car to get around whilst away rather than using public transport. The taster sessions showed us that we had nothing to be concerned about. It was actually more strange driving an automatic car for the first time than towing a caravan for the first time. There were plenty of nice motorhomes at the show but only one which came close to being a replacement for our Burstner (indeed, the only one at any of the seven shows we had been to starting with Peterborough in 2015). That being the case we had a closer look at caravans and came to the conclusion that when circumstances (whatever they may be) mean selling the Burstner then we will probably buy a caravan and tow car instead.
Whilst my oversealing around the rooflight had been successful we decided that it needed to be done properly so our next trip was a short one, to Leisure Tech Northeast's new premises to have it removed and replaced with new sealant. We took it over on 26th November and picked it up the next day. We also had the habitation service done, even though it was not due, to save having to go back in a couple of months. That gave us a check on the damp situation and showed that it is successfully drying out with only a couple of minor areas to check up on - basically ongoing preventative maintenance.
2017, More Change Ahead?
The uncertainty over whether we wanted to change to a caravan, coupled with a number of other factors, meant that we didn't manage to get away again until March. In the meantime, though, the van successfully passed its MoT once more. We saw that the Central Yorkshire DA of the C&CC had a rally organised at Pontefract Racecourse on the weekend of 17th to 19th March. Having never been there we decided it was worth a look. On the Friday afternoon we walked alongside the Racecourse to visit the Junction 32 outlet village. An enjoyable round trip walk of around 3 miles or so. On Saturday morning we walked down to the main road and took the bus into Pontefract town centre. The town centre is fairly compact and the weather was a bit wet for exploring on foot so, after a look round and a bit of shopping, we decided to take another bus to Castleford, another town we hadn't visited. We had a pleasant walk round and lunch and then went to look at the River Aire. Unfortunately the rain started again so after a few minutes it was back on the bus and back to the van. Nice to get away again though, after so long.
We had intended to go to Barnard Castle the following week with MCC Northern Counties but a heavy cold changed our plans. We were then in the throes of having the bathroom replaced so it was 12th May before we were able to get away again - to Whitley Bay with MCC Northern Counties for a couple of nights. The venue was the Rugby Club, which is right next to the nature reserve at the old Marden Quarry, where we had a pleasant stroll around on the Friday afternoon. On the Saturday we caught the Metro to Tynemouth where we stopped off for a look at the famous market before carrying on into Newcastle for a short wander round and some lunch. After eventually catching the correct train (didn't realise Monument Station had 4 platforms, not just 2) we got back to North Shields where we had a pleasant walk along to Tynemouth before catching a bus back to Whitley Bay, taking the opportunity to take a few photos at each place.
A couple of weeks later we were off again, to spend the Spring Bank Holiday weekend at a THS run by South Yorkshire DA at Broadings Farm, Whitby. We went over on Friday 26th May and had a wander round the Old Town during the afternoon. The following day we walked down the hill into Ruswarp and a short way along the road towards Sleights, before retracing our steps and walking alongside the railway line and river into Whitby. On Sunday we walked in the other direction, towards the coast, and along the west cliff, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch before going down the Khyber Pass and along the west pier. We had intended going up to the Abbey on Bank Holiday Monday but it was misty and dreary so we decided to take the bus to Scarborough instead. We did get a bonus when we returned to Whitby, though, as we were just in time to see a NYMR train arrive at the station and watch the engine move from the rear of the train to the front in preparation for its next run. We did get up to the Abbey the next day, taking a taxi from the town then walking down the steps and looking round the area above the east pier. We then packed up and returned home after an enjoyable break.
Just under 2 weeks later (Monday 12th June) we went to another THS, organised by the C&CC MCS North West Section at Manorafan Farm, Abergele. The rally field had changed since our previous visit, smaller but tidier with alpaca, sheep and pigs in fields alongside. It was a bit overcast in the evening but we enjoyed a pleasant walk to the seafront and back - the last time we needed coats during the whole visit. The next day we called in at Colwyn Bay market then went into Llandudno, where we decided to treat ourselves to a trip on the land train round Marine Drive, something I hadn't done for over 50 years and Jill had never done. One reason for going back to North Wales was that, having bought a new camcorder, Jill wanted to repeat the ride on the cable cars on the Great Orme. We caught the bus up to the top, had a look around and then took the return cable care ride before taking the bus back down. After lunch we had a walk along the pier where I managed to snap a couple of jellyfish. Another thing I hadn't done for over 50 years and Jill had never done was to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. We cought a bus to Llandudno and then to Bangor where we could get a bus over to Anglesey. We looked round the railway station area and the village then caught a bus back to Menai Bridge, intending to have a pub lunch and then walk back over the bridge to pick up another bus on the mainland. Unfortunately the Menai Bridge idea of Traditional Pub Food is burgers or something smothered in chilli or melted cheese so we caught a bus back to Bangor instead, where we had a decent meal in 2016. That idea also failed because the pub we had eaten in had changed its menu and beers and the alternative (which we had found afterwards in 2016 and looked better) was closed for building work - meaning a quick sandwich and the bus back. We had had a couple of hours in Prestatyn in 2012 but hadn't managed to see much of it so decided to visit again on the Friday. One bus took us there direct from Abergele and we stopped off in Rhyl to eat our packed lunch on the way back (but didn't stay longer as it didn't seem to have improved since 2016). It had been wet when we visited Conway during our 2016 holiday but Saturday 17th was hot and sunny and made the town much more attractive. We were able to walk around a large part of the town walls as well as the harbour and the town itself. On our final day we caught the bus to Tir Prince to have a look round the well publicised Sunday market. Afterwards we caught the bus to Rhos on Sea for a short look around before going on to Llandudno for lunch for the final time. As we found in 2016, the All Area Weekly Saver bus tickets were a bargain if staying more than 3 days (£17.50 each as opposed to £5.50 for day tickets).
Once again we had about a month to wait before our longest trip of the year. Apart from our visit in 2014 (and a couple of occasions when we had been to re-enactment events at Detling showground) we had never been to Kent. There were also a couple of other places in the south we had been told about and wished to visit. We started our trip on 21 July with a visit to Abingdon Vale Cricket Club, a THS run by the BCC London, Thames Valley & Wiltshire Group. On a pleasant afternoon we were able to have a walk around Abingdon and even visit the roof of the County Hall for panoramic views. The next day we visited Oxford. We had been there a few years previously whilst staying at the Caravan Club site but weren't all that impressed. We seem to have missed some parts as there were places we didn't recognise and the city seemed much more vibrant (a Hare Krishna festival was on as well). Unfortunately it rained during the afternoon but it didn't spoil the visit. It also rained on the Sunday before lunch but the afternoon was sunny and we were able to enjoy a walk along the river and into Abingdon town again. On Monday 24 July we moved on to the Royal Victoria Country Park at Netley near Southampton (THS run by Solent DA). We nearly didn't get there as, just as we were joining the M3 from the A34, the gear knob decided to fly off just as had happened almost two years previously. We could get forward gears OK, though not reverse, so we decided to carry on to the THS and see about fixing it there. When Gerry Mullen (who was stewarding the THS) heard our tale his immediate reaction was "Don't worry, I'll fix that". He went home, brought back a tube of strong adhesive and helped me replace the gear knob which worked faultlessly afterwards. During the afternoon we enjoyed a walk through the park to watch the ships on Southampton Water. The following day we caught the bus into Southampton, another place we had never visited, catching some more views of Southampton Water on the way back. Wednesday 26 July was rather wet in the morning but it had cleared up enough for us to enjoy a walk into Hamble-le-Rice in the afternoon to look at the village and its marina. We moved on again on 27 July, to a THS at Lancing College courtesy of West Sussex DA. The afternoon was taken up with a walk into Shoreham-by-Sea. On the Friday we visited Worthing, another first for us. We had visited Brighton in 2014 but didn't have a lot of time there and the weather wasn't good. Saturday 29 July dawned hot and sunny so we were able to explore The Lanes and other narrow streets of the city that we hadn't been able to see beforehand. Unfortunately the afternoon was wet but the following day was sunny and breezy, just as well as we needed to do our washing. On the last day of July we moved to a THS run by East Kent DA at Haguelands Farm on the outskirts of Dymchurch and were able to enjoy a walk round the village that afternoon. The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway runs past the site and afforded some photo opportunities. On the first day of August we caught the bus to Dover, stopping off at Folkestone on the way back. Two more places we had not visited previously. We had intended staying there for several more days, as a base to visit other places but, whilst the rally field itself was nice, the site overall was a disappointment, to put it mildly. The landowner's idea of appropriate water supply and toilet disposal facilities involved a quarter mile walk each way, the latter being a just a manhole (with no handle to lift the dirty cover) which was reached by pushing through shrubbery. The landowner even refused to provide a skip for rubbish. Not the fault of the DA (and the stewards were as friendly as we have always found) but not satisfactory at all. The forecast was for rain and pushing through wet shrubs to reach the dirty manhole did not appeal at all. We decided, therefore, that enough was enough and moved on to a THS at Quex Park (with its impressive bell tower) in Birchington-on-Sea run by the MCS Kent Group where, amongst other things, we enjoyed trying to spot the noisy parakeets and listen to the hoots of owls, neither of which we get at home. As expected, the afternoon of 2 August was wet but that didn't put us off. We made the first of several visits to Quex Barn, a farm shop within the park. The produce on sale was top quality and the prices very reasonable. On 3 August we caught the bus to Broadstairs, and the next day to Ramsgate, enjoying walks around the town and seafront on both days. We had visited Canterbury in 2014 but wanted to see a few places we had missed so went there on the Saturday. On our final morning we went to Margate to enjoy the seafront and look at the old town. We returned home on Monday 7th August (having seen the forecast of bad weather). Overall we had a thoroughly enjoyable holiday, not least because of the friendliness of the C&CC stewards.
For various reasons, the trip to the south east proved to be our last of 2017. We ended up not changing to a caravan, deciding to change the car instead and keep the Burstner - which passed its habitation service with only a requirement to change the gas pigtails and its MoT with no problems at all. Further delays meant that we didn't get away until the May Day bank holiday weekend - a THS at Victoria Park, Southport, organised by the BCC Ribblesdale Group of the C&CC. The venue is first class and, as usual, the stewards were very welcoming. Having had a 3 hour drive down on 3rd May we had a quiet afternoon with just a stroll around Lord Street. We had decided that we would take advantage of being in Southport to have a couple of bus trips out to places we hadn't been to before. The first of these was Preston, which was our destination on the Friday. We only had time to look round the central area but that included being able to partake of excellent pies. The next day we went in the opposite direction - to Liverpool, a city that neither of us had visited since we were children. The city centre is fairly typical of redeveloped cities, the same old shops, but the Albert Dock area and waterfront have been nicely refurbished. On Sunday we decided to have a walk around the Gardens and Lake and to have a look at the Model Railway Village. That latter is well worth a visit. One of the best model villages we have seen and with the added bonus of the model railways. Very good value for all ages. On our final day we had a wander along the sea front and up and down the pier before a fish & chip lunch and a walk back for a quiet afternoon in the sun.
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Last updated: 9 May 2018
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