Devizes

On our way home from Ironbridge this is our first visit to a pukka Caravan & Camping Club site. Located by the Three Magpies just off the A365 near Devizes. It backs on to the Kennet and Avon Canal and is about 4 miles along the towpath into the town centre of Devizes. The spectacular bit of this tow path is Caen Hill Locks, a flight of 16 locks themselves part of the 29 Devizes flight.  At the topmost lock is a cafe that has spectacular views over locks out across a large part of Wiltshire.

There are pleasant walks up the lane to Seend village and the other direction along the towpath. The owner of the smart house on the other side of the canal from the campsite likes his cars as you can see from the very nice mustang that rumbled down the lane toward us.

If this site is anything to go by then we are sold on C&CC site facilities. They were ample and very well maintained. If we have a criticism it is of the campers themselves who all disappear into their vans and tents in time to watch Eastenders and that is the last seen of them.

Ironbridge

We had never been to Ironbridge, I think that is because it is hiding behind the other side of Birmingham from us, but it being on the return trip from the Bustypes show was an ideal opportunity.

The area is not flush with good campsites but we found a very acceptable site just off Much Wenlock Road in the shadow of Ironbridge power station. The coal fired power station is nearing its end and is running down. Beside the lane to the camp site is an old open cast mine that has probably also been used to stockpile coal as well. All around the site is woodland from which the deer and owls are regular visitors to the camp site. It is a mile or so into Ironbridge itself and we had brought our bikes to get around on.

As you can imagine there is so much history of the industrial revolution in and around Ironbridge so to get our bearings we started on Monday with a visit to the visitor centre. We decided first to go along the river gorge to the far end of town to the Coalport museum which although interesting was a little underwhelming. There is a good exhibition of of old china, some workshop type displays and you can walk around the kilns. To be honest we would have liked to see more real work going on.

After stopping for a pub lunch we crossed the river to the Jackfield Tile Museum. I am not sure why but this place fired our imagination more so than Coleport. The factory was formerly the Craven Dunhill works and still produces earthenware tiles today. There was the obligatory display of tiles through ages some of which are quite spectacular and then the opportunity to buy. A floor full of tiles here would cost a small fortune and we contemplated the idea for the porch at Hailsham but in the end couldn’t find enough in the bargain box. On the way back through Ironbridge we stopped to view the iconic bridge itself which is a graceful work of art.

The following morning we cycled to Much Wenlock to visit Ryan’s, often called the best butchers in Great Britain, to buy sausages for diner and an early pasty lunch. On the face of these I can say it is a very good butchers. That afternoon, fortified by our pasties, we went back into Ironbridge and up to the Coalbrookdale Museum of iron which is a truly fascinating place being the history of smelting throughout the industrial revolution. On the same site are the original blast furnaces in some state of preservation so you can follow the growth of the site at the time. Above the Upper Furnace Pool we had a look around Dale House, the home of Abraham Darby who perfected the coke fired blast furnace.

So in all it was an educational visit that we both enjoyed and I think we will visit again but give ourselves a little more time to see more.

Bustypes

This was our first taste of VW Van events, a trip to Bustypes near Oswestry. Not sure what to expect and early in the year for it to be warm and sunny. When we  arrived on Friday there was plenty of space and no organisation about where to pitch. We chose a spot in the middle of the field and over the course of the afternoon and following morning we were surrounded by others.

Saturday was by far the best for cruising the few trade stalls and the show and shine. Of course we had to spend so we came away with a VW awning mat. We were able to wander around the camp areas and see what others had done. There were vans of all ages with a  large contingent of classic split window and bay window vans several of which graced the show and shine.

We are thinking of getting a pup when we move to Hailsham next year and had several conversations with dog owners. We are rather taken with the idea of a Schnauzer and had a long chat with a couple of owners.

We tried the bar and band on Friday night but it wasn’t for us. Too loud to think, not particularly wonderful beer and not a band I would pay money to listen to.

On the whole it wasn’t bad for a first experience. The weather could have been kinder, it rained a bit and it was cold. The toilet facilities were dreadful, the plastic cabins are fine but they weren’t serviced and even by Saturday they were suffering. I don’t think we will be going back to that one.

Freezing York

I had to be in York on business so we decided to make a trip of it. We set out on a sunny Wednesday in March aiming for 3 nights at a C&CC Certified Site right next to a York Park and Ride. At that time of year we had the place to ourselves and it was a 5 minute walk to the P&R bus.

So March the weather can be a bit unpredictable but I suppose one could have predicted the cold and wet, down to -2C at night so ice on the canopy in the morning. Thankfully we had hook up so could run the heater on electric which we did for all the evening and some of the night. There were some brilliant Johnny Walker stuff on R2 late into the evening so we snuggled down and enjoyed each evening.

Business concluded on Thursday we had the day to ourselves on Friday and as well as shops and market we spent a fair time at the Railway Museum and enjoyed lunch in they restaurant.

alistairandduncanSaturday dawned bright but there was a problem – the van wouldn’t start. It appeared that three nights of sound system that runs of the starter battery rather than the leisure battery (note to oneself to look at changing that) had done for it. A call to the RAC soon had us on our way heading for lunch with my brother at the Marlpool Brewery in Heanor. The day couldn’t have been more different from the preceding and as you can see we sat out in the pub yard in shirt sleeves enjoying a couple of excellent lights and a “byo” lunch.

Straights of Dover

Glorious day for a picnic so we headed east towards Dover and went down on to Samphire Hoe. This is the reclaimed piece of land that juts out into the English Channel that is formed from the spoil out of the Channel Tunnel. As well as a tunnel facility it has a huge wildlife area with good car parks and walks along the waters edge. On a clear day you can easily see Calais and all of the shipping in the channel.

After a picnic lunch and a walk around the reserve we headed home via Dungeness just to see the Channel from another angle.