Cheddar & The Gorge

We have to take Jean-Luc back to Highbridge to have a few outstanding warranty repairs completed, rather than just drop him off we decided to make a long weekend off it.

We set off on Thursday night for our favourite bolthole, Setthorns in the new forest, this was an easy choice as it is about half way to Cheddar, not by mileage but in terms of driving time. We also had two alteria motives for visiting Setthorns, one was to pick up my trail camera I managed to leave attached to a tree on our last visit, and the second to visit the butchers in Sway to buy our larder for the next three days, the meat from this butcher is just superb, a small family run establishment that will cut a piece to suit your own requirement oh! and the home made kebabs are to die for!

A fine selection of chicken, pork and of course lamb kebabs set us up with a feast everyday of our Cheddar stay.

The campsite we chose was a bit of an unknown as it is a small private site for adults only, it is actually next to the Caravan & motorhome Club Site (formerly the Caravan Club) of which we are members, but chose the Cheddar Bridge site for the lack of little ones and the hope of some much needed quiet R&R.

Looking over the camping field with Jean-Luc’s nose just sticking out.

The site is on the road to Wells just outside of Cheddar and was nearly missed as it is just around a bend over the bridge it is named after, a simple adjustment and a quick shunt had us looking at a very narrow entrance over another bridge, I should not have worried as Jean-Luc fitted with mm to spare, well maybe cm, but it felt like mm, don’t be put off with this as once you have traversed the narrow bridge an absolutely lovely site awaits, oh! and they sell Cream teas!

We were given free reign to chose a pitch of our choice, there were sizes to suit all kinds of vehicle from caravans to larger motorhomes, although the bridge at the entrance does have a 7.5 ton weight limit.

Peterborough Motorhome Show

We set off on the Friday morning to the Peterborough show ground for the annual motorhome show, we had been here on a number of occasions and it was Jean-Luc’s first real trip last year, we managed to get him well and truly stuck, so this year we hoped we would be able to drive on and of the site without tractor aid!

We like this show, it was here we found our second Autotrail, a Delaware, and it holds fond memories of browsing vans and spending far too much on the trade stands so it is always a fond favourite.

We arrived early on the Friday hoping to bag a good spot, were thought we had been given the perfect pitch until we saw the wind direction and the dirt being carried by it from the road right in front of the van, I had hoped to have him professionally washed and polished but the dirt carried from the road would have made this a pointless expense.

Jean-Luc at the Peterborough Motorhome show 2017

Luckily the rain overnight on the Friday reduced the volume of airborne dirt carried on the wind by the now almost constant stream of vans and caravans passing us on their way to pitches further on, the rain had also made Jean-Luc look like a mud streaked refugee!

We had arranged to meet some friends who were looking to buy a motorhome, their first, so we were looking forward to looking round a lot of vans with them. Although they did not buy on the day I am sure they went away with a broad idea of what they wanted and what was available, and we certainly enjoyed the excitement of looking for that perfect vehicle, even if it was not to be ours.

Dashboard woes!

Jean-Luc had developed a slight problem with the instrument cluster illuminating random warning lights when driving but especially when using the cruise control.

More warning lights than expected!

I sent a couple of images of the problem to Adams Morey in Portsmouth, they agreed this was a problem that could be resolved with the replacement of the instrument cluster, all under the warranty, they ordered one for me and a date for the work to be done was agreed. We decided rather than loose a weekend away we would find a site near Portsmouth and stay there and take Jean-Luc in on the Saturday morning to have the new parts fitted, so Concierge Camping at Bosham was the chosen location for our weekend away.

Adams Morey were just fantastic, nothing seemed too much trouble and having arrived at 09:00 we went for a walk to the nearby retail park while the work was done, by 11:00 we are on our way back to Concierge with a new instrument cluster minus random warning lights, well done Adams Morey, outstanding service.

Bosham is a lovely little village near to Concierge Camping and we spent the afternoon there walking around the harbour watching the tide march in relentlessly, nearly all of the houses have flood defences installed for when the really high tides visit!

Bosham Harbour

 

Bosham

 

Be warned, take care where you park!

The weekend was a quiet affair the weather playing it’s part and being quite wet and windy, not to worry we were warm and snug reading and watching the odd film.

 

A Quiet February

We had known the start of the year was going to be quiet as the van, Jean-Luc, was going back to Highbridge for the habitation service and some warranty work.

What I did not count on was being quite ill through most of February, in fact we only managed to get away for a brief trip to Kent and that was cut short with possibly the worst cough I have ever had taking man flu to a whole new level, still being a loving husband I shared my malady with my wife who took it upon herself to develop the full symptoms at the start of March, keeping it going into another month.

So to Kent in February, we had booked into the Tanners Farm Park campsite about 2.5 miles from Marden, the site is quiet but has all of the facilities you would expect including a proper motorhome service point. The only drawback with the site is the need to have your own transport, we managed on the Monday to arrange a taxi to get to the rail station in Marden as we planned to go to Canterbury for the day, we should have arranged one for the return journey at the same time because the trip back was to prove troublesome!

Marden Kent

The trip to Canterbury should have been a simple direct train from Marden and about 30 minutes in duration, well we did not take into account the signal problems East Coast Trains were experiencing so a change at Ashford was needed and again we did not expect the 90 minute wait for the next train. Tracey did manage to strike up a friendship with a chap who was only too pleased to explain the benefits of the new Italian built Eurostar Trains over the previous Japanese built version, 36 years together and I never knew she was a train spotter!

Canterbury

 

Canterbury is a lovely City however on this visit a trip to the cathedral was not going to happen as it was cloaked in scaffolding, I just did not feel like paying for a trip in when you could not see the great outside as well, another day maybe as we do plan to go back. We walked around the shops found somewhere to eat and then set off back to Marden and the campsite.

The trip back was a simple direct train and did only take about 30 minutes, the problems of the morning had obviously been resolved. We arrived at Marden and tried to arrange a taxi back to the campsite, the distance is not too far at a little over 2.5 miles but the are no paths and the road is quite busy so not the best for walking. A taxi turned out to be a rare thing indeed, nothing at the stations and nothing available via the telephone numbers we had used to book our outbound trip, so we set off walking.

We stopped and asked a lady getting out of her car if there were any bus services that may be going in our direction, the answer was unexpected, No! but jump in and I will take you she said, not to look a gift horse in the mouth we did, so if you are in Marden pay a call into the West End Tavern as the landlady is a very nice person indeed.

A Quiet January

Jean Luc has gone back to Highbridge for his habitation service and some warranty work, we are not sure at this point how long he will be away but it is fair to say not much is going to happen this month.

All is not lost as we are having an external BBQ gas point fitted so we are looking forward to trying this out when we get him back. When we collect him we are planning to go to the Cotswolds for a few days as it is on the way home, as we are passing it seemed like a good idea.

The planned trip to the Cotswolds did not happen, instead we opted for a run back across the A303 and into Wiltshire, we have not been through Salisbury since we left some 9 years ago, it was nice to see familiar places and the stunning scenery, you easily forget what was on your doorstep, we must go back a stay somewhere where we can revisit our old haunts.

Christmas 2016

Well here I am sat in Jean-Luc looking out at a miserable day with the rain and wind blowing across the site at Sumners Ponds in Barnes Green, we have put Christmas on hold for the day as Tracey is working so for us Christmas will be tomorrow, Boxing Day, with all of the trimmings.

Jean-Luc Xmas 2016

It is a little under a year since we first went to see Jean-Luc and we have had a marvellous year and covered some 5000 miles, we have been to the highlands of Scotland to the Rhine and Moselle valleys in Germany, and many places in between, and look forward to what 2017 will bring. We are planning to travel to Norway at some point next year but am not sure when, we still have research to do so we see the things we want to.

A merry Christmas to everyone.

Dawlish

Dawlish is just two miles from where we are staying and a quick bus ride took us to the town centre where there was a seasonal flavour to the street market that lined the main road through the town.

Dawlish Beech

Dawlish Beech

We took a walk to the beach and had a quick look at the very cold and windswept vista, we turned around and walked back into the town to look at what was on offer.

Dawlish Beech

Dawlish Beech

To be fair it was a cold miserable day and I was not surprised to see most of Dawlish closed, well it looked that way slightly worn and unloved, I am sure in the summer this will be as pleasant a resort as any.

The river that the town is built along obviously floods as most of the buildings had flood prevention in place, not sure if that is for events to come or for what had been. The river is home to lots of wildlife and it was quite nice to see the black swans defending their territory from the intruding larger white swans. Geese and ducks were everywhere you just need to watch where you step!

Duck or Goose?

Duck or Goose?

Black Swan

Black Swan

We didn’t stay too long and back on the bus home to the campsite and a warm van, the rugby will be on soon, bliss!

Exeter

We decided to have a long weekend away and as Exeter has three Christmas markets over this first weekend of December it seemed to be the natural choice.

We set off on the Thursday afternoon and made good progress until we passed Poole in Dorset and then we hit the fog, I am always amazed at how people forget to drive with lights of any kind when in bad weather, we at least kept moving along at a steady pace and as soon as we were into Devon the fog lifted.

Jean-Luc at Cofton

Jean-Luc at Cofton

We are staying at the Cofton campsite 2 miles from Dawlish and 10 from Exeter, there is a bus stop outside the site entrance so it should be a nice journey into Exeter with a chance to see some of the area as I won’t have to concentrate on the driving.

The forecast is that the weather will be warmer than earlier in the week, it still feels and looks cold with the thermometer showing a frosty 3 degrees outside.

Exeter Christmas Market

Exeter Christmas Market

The bus ride into Exeter was about half an hour and cost £11.00 for two adult return tickets, we arrived in time to see the stalls before the crowd made viewing tricky, I expect over the weekend this will be heaving with people shuffling around trying to see what is on offer.

 

Very Red Nose!

Very Red Nose!

There were a group of these little festive chaps on offer, I was tempted but refrained from buying him as  felt he may cramp my street cred! Ha! He was one of many festive items on sale at the entrance to the market at a lovely stall selling Christmas trees amongst other things.

Christmas Trees and much more.

Christmas Trees and much more.

 

We have arrived back at the campsite safe and well thanks again to public transport, we are fed and watered so just need to sit down with a beer and read a book or two, or should that be a beer or two and a book!

 

 

Germany 2016

Germany 2016 was to be our first trip abroad in Jean-Luc, we had been to the Isle of Wight in the Delaware but that doesn’t really count, so we set off to Portsmouth for the Thursday overnight ferry to Le Havre.

I have to say I was nervous going abroad with Jean-Luc after all he is 8.5 meters and 5 ton fully loaded, I have worked and driven in Europe quite extensively but that was 30 years ago, would it be so different now?

I used to prepare for my work trips with crib cards showing destinations and way points with expected travel time and distances, nowadays we have sat nav so what could go wrong? Well it is safe to say that the sat nav found the required destination of the Brittany Ferries terminal in Portsmouth with ease so things were going to plan, weren’t they?

We awoke with the excitement of the unexpected and that was just breakfast, well after all it was a French boat would they know what a full English was or would I have to endure a pain au chocolat? Well I was worried for no good reason as full English was definitely on the menu, I did try to blend in and had coffee instead of tea, and it was all very nice, and perfect to set us up for the trip ahead.

I knew things were not going to plan when the sat nav refused to accept the German post code for our first stop at friends in Shleiden not to far from the Belgian border in the Eiffel National Park. Well we managed to enter a destination for a town near the French Belgian border and we made do with this but things would take a turn for the worse as we were guided by the trusted infallible sat nav all the way to Calais the one place we had tried to avoid and the reason why we had taken the ferry and not the tunnel!

Things did not improve and once in Belgium the sat nav just gave general compass direction rather than driving directions, it was basically useless. Out came the maps and after a couple of phone calls we arrived at out friends some three hours later than expected.

The area around Shleiden is stunning, there is an abundance of walking routes, cycle routes and just places to go, we took a trip to the Ordensburg Vogelsang this was Socialist training camp set up for the future leaders of the party, it is an impressive site and is open to the public and the surrounding area is just a walker’s paradise.

We said farewell to our friends and set off towards Koblenz on the Rhine and the end of the Moselle river, the start of our trip up the Moselle valley, all without sat nav. I had watched a YouTube video of a chap who had been to the campsite we are heading for, this proved invaluable as I remembered parts of the trip and it did help. We had planned to stay two nights at the Camping Knaus site right on the Rhine and we were not disappointed if a little more cramped than we are used to compared to UK sites.

Koblenz and the Rhine.

Koblenz and the Rhine.

We may have been novice sardines but the view was just stunning, the Rhine out front and the Moselle to our right we could not wait to explore.

Just a quick note that the hook up was the standard 3 pin socket we see in the UK, adapters were available on site at the check in office for those like me that went with the older European 2 pin plug.

The campsite has everything you could want, there is a bar on site there is a restaurant on site and at the end of the road there is a Netto that has everything you need for your stay and onward journey.

The Rhine with the Moselle to the right.

The Rhine with the Moselle to the right.

We took the ferry from the eastern edge of the campsite over to the main area of the city, I can’t remember the cost but it was loose change and took about five minutes dodging the cruise ships that frequently turn up and down the two rivers, impressive vessels. Once over the Moselle we took the cable car up to the fortifications that stand guard over the junction of these two great rivers, the views from here are just stunning looking out over the entire city below.

Once back in the city we looked for food, the choice is amazing and just what you would expect from a large city centre, not the cheapest but plenty of variety and high quality. The second order of the day was to buy a sat nav that bloody well worked in Europe, so 99 euro later I was satisfied we would be able to find our way home following the route we had wanted to in the beginning, the seven “P’s” spring to mind again.

We stocked up in Netto and set off out of the Koblenz heading for Cocham as our intended destination, nowhere confirmed or planned we just wanted to wing it.

Raw Wine or grapes to you and me!

Raw Wine or grapes to you and me!

Well we drove through Cocham and found it very busy, we chose to carry on and find somewhere to stay, in the end we carried on all the way to Trier. We located a Stelplatz attached to a car park but there was a round of the World Rally Championship taking place and the place was full of petrol heads and anoraks not what we wanted to experience so we turned to the sat nav and headed for the nearest campsite as it happens on the Saar river.

Camping next to the River Saar

Camping next to the River Saar

This little site was just what we wanted, quiet, next to the river, good facilities and easy cycling along the river side path.

We cycled into Saarburg some 10 kilometres  away and had a walk around this very pleasant town, there was a lovely area full of cafes and people eating coffee and cake, I can’t pronounce the German version but it almost sounds the same, very relaxed and informal.

Saarburg

Saarburg

We bought BBQ supplies from the local butcher and bread and cake from the the bakery across the road, well you need a bit of cake with your afternoon coffee! We stayed here for three nights and decided we wanted to see Cochem so we took trip back along the motorway and dropped down to Cochem and set about finding somewhere to stay. In the end we were again some way outside of the centre but this was due to our wanting to stay by the river again rather than not being able to find anywhere else, there are Stelplatz in and around Cochem.

By the river Moselle

By the river Moselle

Graffham and the Chilli Festival

Friday night was a quick dash up to Graffham only an hour away from home but a world away in terms of surroundings. Graffham is a woodland site that we love because of the variety it offers, walks through heathland or woodland abound and the South Downs are within easy reach.

Jean-Luc and his travelling pal.

Jean-Luc and his travelling pal.

On the way to Graffham we noticed the signs for the West Dean Chilli Festival, we have been to this a event a few times and have even camped there once, however this was to be a one day visit only. We set off early on the Saturday morning and arrived at an already busy Chilli Festival, your senses are immediately under attack from the aroma of multiple vendors cooking up the delights that would be served throughout the day. Doing the first walk around at ten o’clock it was hard to resist and it felt only right to start sampling the many food concoctions on offer at every turn.

I love to see the testosterone driven challenges of the groups of people young and old vying to eat the hottest creations and not turn into a convulsing wimp wrything on the floor gasping for milk or anything else to relieve them of the heat of a Dorset Naga based ketchup!

The range of ages attending this event goes to show the popularity of chilli in it’s various forms. I remember as a child, curry was something of an unknown, but by the time I was into my teens it was everywhere but the popularity seems to grow with each new generation.

There is live music all day and into the night, various styles and without a doubt something for everyone, it all just adds to the atmosphere. There is something to be said for sitting on a hay bale armchair eating a spicy taco with a bottle of chilli lager in hand listening to a Mexican band bash out some Mariachi based number.

As expected Chilli based artefacts are in abundance from earrings to wall clocks,” T” shirts to bean bags it can all be bought and of course it would be disrespectful to not buy at least one chilli plant of some type or another.

We were sad to hear that camping with a motorhome or caravan is no longer permitted, in my opinion that is a poor decision and one I would like to see changed, to stay there for the day restricts your ability to sample the true delight of the venue, there is only so much you can eat and taste in one day, please rethink the decision Mr Organiser.