Long weekend in and around London

24 Aug

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Spent almost a complete day at Ightham Mote, near Sevenoaks in Kent. A huge, mostly medieval Manor House with massive character and atmosphere. Hot weather and sun added to the fun.A National Trust property, well worth visiting. Great food and lovely folk acting as guides
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The journey down took us through central London to avoid traffic holdups and we got within a sat nav estimated 15 minutes of our journey’s end which eventually took over 1 1/2 hours.
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Eltham Palace is in sight of “The Shard” but it’s large grounds defy being so close to central London. Now run by English Heritage, this was once the home rebult by Steven Courtauld and his Italian wife, “Ginie”. The oldest bits remaining include a medieval hall, a moat and a bridge. Built in the then luxurious Art Deco style, it is not one of my favourites but interesting non the less. The audio visual tour is excellent and gives a superb impression of how good life was at Eltham. With loads of background information about guests, war experiences and much more, it inspires you to research more following the visit. As an example, following the Courtaulds eventual move away from Eltham, one of their friends’ sons was hanged for treason after he tried to recruit British POWs to join Hitler’s forces . John Amery had close links to very influential people in England. His story somewhat smears the happier atmosphere created at Eltham. Another highly recommended place to see.
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Once described as looking like a “pencil factory” , Eltham Palace differs from the much more pleasing properties that we have seen so far.The interior is well lit, decorated and interesting, though which makes up for the first impression from the exterior.
Once again, we witnessed some appalling driving on the M1 North of Milton Keynes. We saw at least 5 near misses between HGVs and cars, mostly due to tailgating. Driving at the legal limit, we kept out of most of the fairground behaviour and got home in a more reasonable 4 hours including stops, averaging 55 mpg.

An average of 4 nights “camping”

18 Aug

night campervan
Found the lovely image above on YouTube. It is the essence of overnighting by campervan.
Apparently the popularity of motor caravans has increased massively recently with some sources quoting all sales up by 22% or more. Camping (and caravanning) generally is also on the increase across the board. Lots of statistics can be found here https://www.pitchup.com/about/media/

The average duration of a “camping” break is just over 4 nights. For us, that appears just about correct. We are lucky with our location, being just a couple of hours drive to North Wales for example. We can be on the South Coast of England in about 5 hours. We can make the borders of Scotland in similar time and Cornwall just about falls within that timescale. So, it’s feasible to enjoy a 4 night’s break, just about anywhere in the core of the UK.
Carrying equipment and food etc for 4 nights is possible in a compact camper van such as ours. Dried milk is useful. A bag of organic jumbo porridge oats goes a long way for breakfasts. Tea bags are extremely light. In warm weather, four changes of clothing is easily managed for two people if you use a decent bag for storage but even in cold and wet weather, a jumper and “cagoule” can be crammed in. We positively focus on buying local food wherever we are. It helps village shops near the campsites. One great space saver is a bottle of whisky rather than bottled beer. That’s my excuse anyway! Really ready for a relaxing break right now.Let’s see…..
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Off piste posting again!

17 Aug

ready for tiles
Even with the recent hot weather, we have been either unable to get away or lacked the energy to do so. So, I thought that I would divert from the campervan theme to show what we have been up to.
Some years ago, my brother uncovered a stone Inglenook fireplace in a bijou cottage he had bought in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Under some rather ordinary plasterboards , someoe had hidden away a locally quarried rustic stone feature. It was dated 1803.

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(Now ! This man does know what he is doing!)

I fell in love with the design and Hollington Stone, made a replica from pink sandstone. The intention , back then, was to continue making these fireplaces and sell them as kits and/or fit them as a business. Events overtook both myself and my brother. I sold my house where the first replica was to be fitted and he became very busy with bigger building projects. Anyway, I recently decided to take the plunge and install the Inglenook in our current home. It had been in storage long enough!!!!
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Massively heavy, I needed an engine hoist to lift the lintol into place. It is shown being propped up for safety above, whilst the slings were removed prior to being secured with interlocking, hidden , timber supports. (We do get little earthquakes around the potteries from time to time…..). The vertical sidecheek stones were a one man job to heave, red faced, into the space carved from the existing brickwork with a small, very sharp chisel and a new masonry drill. Similarly, the corbels were a one man job to lift up and slide carefully into place. The lintol had to be prodded into place with a long timber by my long suffering wife whilst I carefully controlled the “sticky” hydraulic controls on the lifting gear. Below it is shown tiled awaiting the restored Larbert “Portable” (LOL) solid fuel cast iron range.

tiled hearth
The tiles came from Congleton, dug up by someone from Stoke-on-Trent from a “Minton” hallway, common in the older parts of the potteries. Below is the stove , which will burn small logs. There are two hot plates and a two tier oven. It is an estimated 4 kw max but will stay hot for long periods. My wife has plans for home baked bread, pizza and tagine slow cooked meat dishes next winter. (when we are not travelling, The stove is not THAT portable!) Stoves of this type could be moved , house to house as families moved around. they were also fitted in Riverboats and narrow boats when the canals were working.
larbert portable range
The stove is about 2 feet wide, 18 inches deep and 2 feet high. I collected it ages ago from East Anglia and carried it home in a Ford Fiesta. I cannot, for the life of me, remember how I did that !!!!     It is very heavy.

Hope that you have found this interesting. Another diversion from the real, original intention for the Blog, but it is mostly behind the recent lack of posts.

A short trip to Liverpool

10 Aug

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On Sunday we drove the short distance to Liverpool. The weather was bright, sunny and warm.Cruising at 70mph soon got us over the Runcorn bridge and we cruised past the car factories and John Lennon Airport. Greeted by family, we exchanged news over a beer while the barbeque hotted up. A truly wonderful day in a Victorian garden with chidren running up and down chased by a large friendly dog. Sun, laughter and excellent company. What more can you ask for? Belated birthday gifts were well received by youngsters full of energy. We came home , energised ourselves. Ready to complete domestic projects and then head for the hills yet again in the campervan. Life does not get much better. We count our blessings every day

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Runcorn Bridge. Close to the old Golden Wonder factory and all the other character packed places where I used to earn a crust. Pet Foods, Hauliers and Chemical Works and much more. Is this the “Northern Powerhouse” the jokers in Westminster blab about? You betcha !!!!!

Reasons to be cheerful…….. 1,2… 3

9 Aug

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Got a mate who is a builder. He works a lot with my brother. They are two of the hardest working people that I have ever met and, trust me , I have met some. My mate spent a lot of dosh buying a new builder’s van. I think it is (was !) a Custom Transit like the one above. He was sitting outside a school, having a sandwich when a Nissan was driven into the back at high speed. The Nissan bounced up over the towbar on the back of the Transit and demolished the doors, fitting snugly inside the rear of said mate’s van perfectly. My mate was shunted forward into the rear of a small, car type van containing a man and his dog. Pretty sure , he too was a builder with his dog for company. He was in the back of his van, perhaps feeding the dog?
The end result was a lot of damaged tin. Tin can be replaced. The Nissan driver is recovering from his heart attack which caused the crash. The man and his dog are both OK , mainly due to my mate swapping parking spots on the road and thus taking the brunt of the crash. My mate (and he’s a good mate !) has a bit of whiplash Real whiplash, not “benefits Britain” let’s invent whiplash ! But he is OK. That’s reasons to be cheerful! All the more reason to enjoy your campervan.

Sussex Campervans Toyota Florida

6 Aug

toyota florida
Do you fancy a campervan based on one of these? I can certainly see the appeal, especially if it came freshly converted for less than £20,000
The lovely people from Sussex Campervans have been in touch with news of their latest luxury but lower budget creation, “the Toyota Florida.”

In Japan, Toyota have been making high end, people carriers with 2.4, 2.7 and 3.0 litre petrol engines. Automatic gearbox , air-conditioning, airbags and some with 4 wheel drive. Parking sensors and interiors fit for
“Lexus” standards of driving experience.

Now, Sussex Campervans are not the first to import, good condition, pre-used vehicles from Japan and convert them. (Wellhouse Leisure springs to mind) BUT, Daniel’s version is rather special and worth a close look. With 5 belted seats and a rear kitchen, pop top roof and “upstairs bedroom” above a 2 berth bed, it will certainly appeal to those looking for a more “upmarket” conversion. The 2.4 engines are 4 cylinder but a 3.0 litre V6 was certainly made in Japan. They weigh in at around 2.4 tonnes and you can get a towbar if you want to pull your caravan or trailer. Not sure of the towing capacity but will update if I find it!

see http://sussexcampervans.com/our-work/florida/

or https://youtu.be/1Ammj5e9LyE

Having  owned many automatic vehicles, the relaxed, stress free driving really does appeal. Coupled with a luxury wood finish dash panel it does offer a rather comfy cab and some new creativity from this accomplished converter.

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The Luxury cab, seen here on the Wellhouse Alphard, which is a much more conventional layout.

Memories of Group B Rallying and a Tribute

2 Aug

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Just watched the World Rally Championship round from Finland on Ch5 and it brought back some wonderful memories of years gone by. During the 1980s , usually majoring on the RAC Rally, along with a select group of friends and my brother, we would head off to Forest Stages around the UK to see the Group B cars in particular.
One of these was the Lancia Delta S4, shown above. With both Turbo AND Supercharging, this monster was reported as being capable of 0-60 mph on gravel forest roads in just 2.3 seconds. Awesome.

I had been lucky enough to drive a road going Lancia Thema Turbo belonging to a Sicilian “Gangster” chum. Are you still alive Lanza ??? It was so damned quick. Vicious to drive with huge torque steer under acceleration and I mean acceleration. Back then they were a dangerous , tyre shredding adrenalin injection device. Gawd only knows what a Delta S4 must have felt like.
This Man, Henri Pauli Toivonen, knew how to tame the S4
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We all watched him win the 1985 RAC Rally on his first outing with the new model S4. The following year, seven of us  covered several hundred miles in a beer fumed Minnie Winnie and burned a lot of petrol and LPG keeping it going through incredible headwinds in Cumbria.
Thirty years on, it is sadly the Anniversary year for Henri’s premature death. Just a short time after his RAC win, he and his American co-driver Sergio Cresto were killed in their Lancia Delta S4 on the Tour de Corse. I keep a couple of S4 models in my trophy cabinet to keep Toivonen’s memory alive. Within hours of his death, it was announced that the Group B cars were to be banned, bringing to an end, one of the most exciting periods, ever, in motor racing and Rallying especially. Henri was an incredible driver.
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To end on a brighter note. My younger brother once had to stand on the front bumper of our motorhome of choice, at that time, a 2 ltr petrol Talbot Excalibur coachbuilt,to get enough traction to reverse out of a muddy cul de sac hollow in Dalby? forest, entered in error in November snowy mush.It took some cleaning, I can tell you! Were we relieved to get up that slippery slope with nobody in sight. Nobody for miles.

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