Archive | February, 2017

A Spring ? walk at Erddig and changes for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

27 Feb

wild-pig-walk-erddig

There is a route at the National Trust property near Wrexham , Erddig , called the Wild Pig Walk. Some time ago some witty person put up this sign there to add spice to your country stroll. Sadly there are no wild boar at Erddig.

I say sadly but to be honest I am somewhat relieved. I once went for a 12 mile trek around a fairly remote National Park in Northern New York State called Mohonk. At the visitor centre and car parks there were signs warning of Black bears. Worryingly large but beautiful creatures they can still tear you limb from limb. I spent the entire trek “watching the shadows” and worried that I may not be able to outrun everyone in our party………….

Today we enjoyed a dry, calm country walk at Erddig. We saw definite signs of hawthorne budding and spring lambs in the surrounding fields. “Ours” had a number 8 sprayed on them in a rather becoming shade of blue. The wildest thing we spotted was a slightly aroused “cup and saucer” water feature , disappearing into it’s man made sink hole.

erddig-cup-n-saucer-one

We did not come across much litter, although I recall a doggy poo bag hanging from the railings below the main building. ( Who are these people that do this stuff????) plus an empty beer can nearby. Apparently, litter has been a bit of an issue elsewhere though.

The good people of Luss, at Loch Lomond have been up in arms for quite some time about litter left behind by wild campers. Obvious traces of campfires and anti-social, drunken behaviour. After several years consultation, new bye laws have been approved restricting camping in relatively small areas around Loch Lomond and other Lochs in the Trossachs. Martin sent this:

http://www.motorhomefulltime.com/news/loch-lomond-welcomes-campers-new-byelaws-come-effect

Here’s some photo “evidence” of some of what has been going on

camping-issuesloch-lomond-camping-rubbish

As a result of this type of behaviour, you may need a camping permit (if you can make sense of the confusing new restrictions) and/or pay a fee at your choice of campsite of between £3 and £6 per night. One report says that is per person.

The proposed signs for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs camping control areas

The proposed signs for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs camping control areas

As is often the case, everyone has to pay the price for  a minority of troublemakers. Why existing Laws could not have been used to stem the problems is a big question gone unanswered and just how the local police and park authorities will “police” the situation in the future remains to be seen. Perhaps squirrel cam could be part of it?

squirrel-cam-1

No , that idea is full of nuts………

Anyone remember the old TV Advert for Topic Chocolate Bar? “What has a hazlenut in every bite?” We used to answer ” Squirrel Poo !!!!”

One thing’s for certain. Even a little extra camping tariff will not spoil my enjoyment of Loch Lomond and Scotland. Don’t be put off. It will not prevent our intended trip , for the NC500.

You cannot go around lighting fires, ripping down trees for fuel and leaving huge piles of litter behind. That’s not camping as I know it.

For more background on the problems this article explored the issues BEFORE the Bye Laws came into being  see

http://canoescotland.org/news/proposed-byelaws-loch-lomond

which I think gives a little more insight into what’s been going on.

Petrol Engined Motorhome or Campervan anyone?

26 Feb

bring-out-your-dead

Recent recommendations  from the current Transport Secretary NOT to buy a diesel engined vehicle could play havoc with the Motorhome and Campervan market.

How much real damage these comments have done is hard to judge presently, but it is bound to have some effect on the value of your current diesel? We have always intended keeping our Campervan for a long time, so the impact should not be immediate. Maybe a “local” effect in London and the other pollution hit cities will only rub off there? I did hear this week of some Londoners already swapping from Diesel to petrol or hybrids but that COSTS. Is it green to disregard existing vehicles and build new ones to replace them?

Will we see “Plague Style” scrap collectors roaming the streets asking us to bring out our “unwanted”, “dead” diesels?

How many would then be shipped to third world countries as bargain long life resurrected transport? Which just moves the problem elsewhere.

Please prove me wrong by commenting below but choice of petrol engined motor homes is particularly limited. There are a large range of older vehicles . including VW., who disgraced themselves recently with their false claims for fuel economy on their diesels, but many are long in the tooth and would not warrant the maintainence and repair costs. Their may be some Gems to search for though, if you are serious about swapping to petrol. Don’t forget the LPG option to reduce your fuel costs for high mileage users. Here’s one senior citizen as an example:

dodge-minnie-winnie-24ft

This old girl from the ’70s has a petrol engine. Dodge 6.2 litres V8. Many had factory fitted, simple LPG conversion through a carburettor. Remember them? A 24 ft Minnie Winnie RV ,you could expect 14 mpg on petrol. Bigger RVs with 7 litre plus petrol engines run at about 10mpg.  No discernible loss of power on LPG. LPG is currently still only about 58 per litre  in the UK  if you shop around.

Realistically much too old. The same goes for the old 2 litre Petrol Talbot motorhomes. They gave 24 mpg religeously.

Is the UK market in Motorhomes big enough for Fiat or perhaps Peugeot to offer petrol versions? After all, the pollution levels action points come from EU directives, so the whole of europe is affected by this move from diesel to petrol?

We should reemember that under the Laws of Physics, the Diesel engine cycle is much much more efficient than petrol? How do we measure “Green”?

Fancy a self converted Bus with a Difference?

24 Feb

1995-cat-6-6-litre-230hp

This is a 6.6 litre , 230 hp  CAT Diesel engine. I believe that this is what was fitted to a 1995 GMC Bluebird American School Bus. It also has a (Detroit Diesel) Allison auto transmission. It’s a lot of kit. I know because in the late 1980s I used to sell and fit specialist filter kits for these engines and transmissions in off-road, quarry and mining vehicles in the UK.

At the time, I was in between “career” jobs and to fill in , I got interviewed at a big dealership near Ashton-in-Makerfield. I had lost my company car, so I arrived for the interview in our Dodge Winniebago. It caused quite a stir but I got the job. A few months contract with a Ford Escort car thrown in. I loved the job. It filled quite a gap.

What the hell has this got to do with self conversions? Well, I recently got notified that Shawn and Dave, in the USA were following this Blog. I had a look at their Blog and they had bought their dream US School Bus and had started work on it! Very pleasant to be reminded of these lovely , muscular bits of heavy engineering. It has a 60 gallon fuel tank for example. OK, I know US gallons are smaller but it will still hurt your wallet to fill that void !!!!!!!!

1995-gmc-buebird-school-bus

It looks something like this. Or it did before they ripped out the ceiling, installed insulation and started rebuilding with tongue and groove timber (or lumber as they say). They also cut out all the seats with a grinder. It’s a big project and should prove very interesting to say the least. It will be their new home ultimately. I cannot wait to see what design they come up with.

To see what they are up to see    https://ataraxybus.wordpress.com/

To view their website, click on, say ,”our Adventure” then scroll down and the text will appear.

( I have posted twice today, so please scroll down for a visit report and a Ghostly image captured on camera?)

Whittington Castle near Oswestry. Welsh or English?

24 Feb

stock-nv200-2

We frequently visit Oswestry, (in Welsh: Croesoswallt ) officially in Shropshire, England. Today was no exception and we again trawled Cambrian Antiques to satisfy our collecting “bug” ( or possibly virus!).

We came away with a bargain “Mandolin” shaped Greek Bottle for our little cellar bar. Rather like this one but ours has a glass stopper shaped like a string tensioner. Think it dates from 1969.

mandolin-bouzouki-liquor-bottle

We also found a French advertisement for some music called “The City Rat and the Field Rat” for the wall of the cellar steps.The cellar bar has a French theme.

city-rat-and-field-rat

It reminded me of a children’s book  that I am writing for my grandaughter about a French Rat, who happens to be a Cheese Thief. Coming soon…….. Keep watching this Blog.  I digress……

On our way home we usually pass through the town of Whittington. Today we stopped at the ruined Castle there. We have taken it for granted for too long a time but it was a delight . We got a nice decaff coffee and cake in the modern, clean cafe.The ladies serving today were very knowlegeable about the castle’s history.

whittington-castle-from-roadwhittington-castle-towards-old-bboote-inn

Click on the picture above. Is that a Ghostly image captured in the upstairs window? Zoom in and view the larger window  circled in red. You can make out a youthful , female,laughing face, tilted back slightly. She appears to be wearing a pale head wrap.If it is a ghost then it must have a huge head………Or reflection of the clouds? Will we ever know? My wife says that she can see a second face on the left. Another female in similar head wrap but wearing a crown . I think that the crown maybe part of the window. Will take a closer look at our next visit.

view-out-of-whittigton-castle-gatehouse

Known chiefly for being the home of several men all known as Fulk Fitzwarin, it is maintained by locals and charitable donation. The location is truly lovely. One of the Fulks ( now now, don’t even go there ! It means “people”or “chieftain”  in old German) took on the King and fell into disgrace. Well you would wouldn’t you………….

The Castle has been attacked by the Welsh Princes. One named Owain. Think that he came from Castel Powys? Must read that book on Welsh history.

whittington-castle-view-across-pool-towards-churchwhittington-castle-view-from-car-parkview-2-from-whittington-castle

It was bright but very cold, so I left the gas heating on in the camper van whilst we had a look around. Click on the pics for zoom in and more detail.

whittington-castle-wall-1whittington-churchview-1-from-whittington-castle

People have lived on the site since pre-historic times. It has been part of Salop (now Shropshire, England) and previously, for a while, Wales. Oswestry, the third largest market town in Shropshire has been bi-lingual and many locals consider themselves to be Welsh, not English. Some farms can legally sell both Welsh and English lamb, having fields in both countries. Our road home crosses from England, through Wales and then back to England.

whittington-castle-plaque-2whittington-castle-plaque-3

whittington-castle-plaque-1whittington-castle-plque-1a

see http://www.whittingtoncastle.co.uk/

and for a period video    http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2015/05/13/watch-43-years-on-should-oswestry-be-in-england-or-wales/

whittington-castle-arrow-slitwhittington-castle-ruined-wall-1whittington-castle-ruined-wall-2

There’s lots more to read about the history and legends of this evocative place. One of the Barons drowned in the River Ouse following a the Battle of Lewes in 1264.

The Castle fell into disrepair in Tudor times. It is said that Thomas Telford stole a lot of stone for the making of the A5 route from London to Holyhead. One of my favourite roads through North Wales.

Tales of ghostly Civil War visitations, wandering ghost of a blacksmith and children seen at upstairs windows. (Did I photograph one today????)

The only kids we saw were riding bikes despite the signs banning this activity. But it was not busy, they were doing no harm and who could resist those tempting timbered ramps and walkways? Recommended.

The “King is Dead”. Long live the King!

22 Feb

caravan-club

Got a letter from the Caravan Club this morning but only just opened it. Quite a surprise. It contained two window stickers stating “Caravan and Motorhome Club.”  For a moment , I was puzzled. Then it dawned on me that they have changed their name. Read all about it here:

https://www.outandaboutlive.co.uk/caravans/news/the-caravan-club-has-a-new-name

Some 40 odd percent of members use motorhomes. We certainly have in the past. Three decades ago we used a Minnie Winnie, US RV., when members of the Caravan Club. Before that, as members we had used a couple of different caravans including a Sprite Musketteer.

We now use our Drivelodge NV200 camper van AND an Elddis 302 SE Explorer caravan.

It will be interesting to see members’ reactions to this closely guarded (?) secret suddenly made public.

leaving battlesprite family caravanleaving carnon downs

motorhome racingA Minnie Winnie “Lookalike”.

newborough forest          Talbot Excalibur coachbuilt.(We were trying to keep “Ma” fit with cycling at Newborough Warren. RIP mom xx)

In October 1975 my wife and I honeymooned at the Caravan Club site adjacent to Tewkesbury. It snowed and we were given a secluded , well hedged pitch by the warden. We used my parents’ ACE caravan which had the door on the continental side. I think that it was bought from what would become Don Amott , from Eggington Junction, Derbys.

see http://www.leisurekingdom.co.uk/company-history

Oh those were the days. Skint but happy as Larry !

Taxa Cricket Camper. An unusual NASA inspired trailer.

19 Feb

taxa-cricket-camper

My son-in-law sent me details of this American creation. It is a most interesting , high tech camping system for 2 adults and 2 children.

barefoot-1 Compare it to the beautiful “Barefoot” , designed  in Britain. My first reaction to the Cricket (top pic) was that it looked like some of the home made, DIY sheds often found on garden Allotments. Made from a jumble of whatever sheets of material can be found and little thought given to the vertical or horizontal. It almost looks like a crashed caravan. Maybe that’s being too cruel? The metal spars used and the layered insulation walls are made for low weight and high strength.

The Taxa Cricket costs a massive $29,950 . The “Barefoot” is not cheap but costs somewhat less than the Taxa.

Barefoot are currently seeking a manufacturer for the U.S. Here’s more on the Taxa Cricket

taxa-2017-cricket-floorplantaxa-cricket-camper-inttaxa-cricket-rear

 

Taxa boast of being able to run for 3 days off grid. My Nevada Camper Van can easily achieve that. My choice, if I was fortunate enough to be able to spend that much on a trailer would be the Barefoot.

barefoot-lounge

 

It makes our Drivelodge made camper van look great value in comparison. All in, brand new for around £26,500. For best value, I would go with a self build NV200. There’s lots of superb examples if you keep on scrolling down through the Blog.

As my old Dad used to say, “You pays your money and makes your choice!”

A Distressing afternoon and a good animal lost, right on our doorstep.

17 Feb

gypsy-cob-and-trap

I have been writing about Gypsy cobs on my newly created Bow Top Caravan Blog.

This afternoon, I decided to clean the Camper Van. I had just sprayed wheel cleaner on the alloys and tyre shine on the tyres. I was thinking about posting one of my political rants about democracy and Tony Blair’s latest call for revoltion but that sadly has come to nothing due to an horrendous road traffic incident.

A Gas Utility van had been parked for quite some time, not far from the sharp left hand band where our house stands on the inside of the curve. The gas man was working next door and I did think of asking him if he wanted to park on our frontage access but dismissed it as I was shuffling the camper van for cleaning. I wish that I had got him to move now.

As on any “A” roads, we see a large number of lorries passing. A big tipper truck came down from the village centre around the bend and stopped behind the illegally parked gas van. No skidding tyres or drama, he was not speeding (which makes a change, I have to say !). Then almost immediately, I spotted a horse and trap behind the lorry. The horse had gone down the offside of the tipper truck and the trap was up on one wheel. It too disappeared behind the truck. There was a loud bang from the opposite side of the truck. I dropped everything and ran around to help.

The horse had ran head on into a small car coming from the opposite direction. The windscreen was smashed and there was blood on the glass. I could not tell if it was from inside or outside of the car. I checked the Lady driver and she was coherent and did not appear to be badly injured. The blood was from outside of the car. I left the Lady in capable hands of a passerby and went to check the horse and driver.

The driver had already freed the horse from it’s trap and had removed the harness tackle. The horse was standing up on the pavement.Anothe passerby, a smartly dressed young man with the appearance of a student was holding a cloth to the horse’s chest. It was pouring with blood, literally pumping out. My wife appeared quickly on the seen with two more towels and between them they tried to stem the blood. At one point whilst we waited for the police and ambulance, she returned upstairs to our house, treading blood throughout to collect 2 cotton sheets. I asked the horse driver if a Vet had been called and he confirmed that help was on it’s way. During this time, I had set up a warning triangle and was watching for speeders coming around the bend. I directed traffic around the Village Pool until at last the emergency services arrived.

Sadly it was all too little to help the horse. Despite all my wife’s and others efforts, including the male student and help from our young female friend who had previously lived in out cottage, the horse was humanely destroyed right in front of us. There was a huge pool of blood and the helpers were all covered too.I have not witnessed so many distressed people before.

I am sorry to say that anger overcame me and I went to find the gas man. He was working just out of sight of the mayhem and I rather aggressively suggested that he come out see the effects of parking on double yellow lines so close to a bad bend. He neither commented nor reacted, so I acccused him of not having the bottle to face up to the consequences ( I stress, as I saw it.) Still no comment or reaction. My feeling was, that if there had been no obstruction to traffic in the first place then the lorry would not have had to stop quickly almost on the apex of the bend and the horse would still be trotting about. One bystander did comment , that it was the duty of the vehicle following to be able to stop if the one in front stops. How quickly can a horse and trap come to a halt?

Glad to say that the Lady driving the car was shocked but uninjured and I saw her return to move the car with a helper.

I regret getting angry and I am trying to make sense of a horrible afternoon. So very sad.

I am very proud of my wife’s efforts . She was amazing !