Archive | March, 2017

Village Drama at Chateau Dinkum

31 Mar

Thursday evening was a friendly, get together , Cellar Bar event for my local mates. We had a late night and then I got woken this morning with a phone call from the Police. Within the hour, two Officers from the Tactical Support Unit arrived on our doorstep. They were dressed ,pretty much as above but with the addition of  the new higher powered stun gun (Taser to you.)

After a tour of my shotguns, security checks and serial number confirmation, they left to twitching curtains from my neighbours. My shotgun licence will be re-newed as per my application. Wow ! Not sure if this is the new method of checking on firearm users but they certainly looked the part. Although I only ever shoot at clay discs, I would love to own some of their equipment. “Boys Toys ! Oh yeah !”

Nothing to do with campervans, I know, but nice to know that there are these intelligent, sharp and fit men and women out there to protect our way of life.

I now have to convince everyone in the Village that I am not a drug dealer………………….

“Shurely not !” It’s that time again.

30 Mar

When I got back from London, the Oil Filter maintenance light came on. I was a little surprised but with the total mileage approaching 48,000 miles, I guessed that it was correct. The “other maintenance” light also appeared. I checked the maintenance record and realised that a short service and oil change was within a couple of thousand miles but also the MOT test was imminent. It was my own reminder, set on the dash system when the garage failed to reset the system themselves. It has come around very quickly.

It’s now booked in for a short service and an MOT. Very timely as it falls between two trips to London. I have been quite pleased with my service provider although a bit (naively?) disappointed last time the oil was changed when it was only topped up within the range indicators on the dip stick. Technically safe. In my mind though, the less oil in your sump, then the greater the “stress” put on your lubricant. I always top up to just the full indicator line. OCD creeping in????? Modern synthetics are well up to the job and I know that the safety margins in the recommended oil change periods are more than generous by a huge factor but even at the high prices charged for a refill, it is cheap insurance when you look at the price of an engine/lube failure.

Just how much this chain of service centres save in oil volume over a year is not known but the increased profit for them must be substantial. I suppose that the “cut price” MOT has to be paid for somehow! Oh, I am an old cynic……

Five day London weekend

27 Mar

Although we spent a lot of time babysitting and enjoying ourselves considerably in the process,  one of the highlights was a family birthday get together , then a trip to Blackheath Royal Park above Greenwich and the Maritime Museum. This place is huge, covering a massive area. There is lots of parking available, including a few areas where larger motorhomes could be found. We did overstay our maximum payment period (£3.80p) by a small period and got fined £40.00 but that was our fault. Even the standard car parking spaces can cope with campervans and smaller panel van motorcaravans. If you are in London, this is a good place to go with your pride and joy.

  There are several excellent cafes, spread out around the park and coffee/burger vans which do extremely good coffees including decaff.

The whole place was heaving with people. Some with dogs, some on bikes. Family groups and tourists in droves. There was even a couple of youngsters on electric skateboards , which caught me out as I could not understand how they could “roll” so far uphill. Doh ! Talking of hills, it’s a steep walk down into Greenwich, which is well served by pubs, places to eat and of course the Maritime museum. Before our extended Sunday lunch we had time to visit the museum which is free. Some of party paid about £14 each to see the Emma Hamilton exhibition there but we bought the book to catch up on this Lady’s spicy life experiences.

When we returned to the park after lunch, the park was even busier. The crowds of people looked like a Lowry painting when looking towards the sun, which was shining brightly all day. Click on and expand these pics for a better effect and to see some detail.

  Although, we did see a police helicopter doing the rounds and a couple of young policewomen on horseback, it was all normal for London. Business as usual despite the horrid events in Westminster the previous week. An elderly neighbour said following the 2005 bombings, ” if the Germans had little effect on stopping London life in the second world war, dropping thousands of tons of high explosives on the place, then we have little to worry about the odd loan wolf.”

In memory of those killed and injured on Westminster Bridge , Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster  March 22nd 2017.


A Local visit to Venetian Marina, Nantwich

21 Mar

With the sun shining brightly, despite the chill wind, we set off for Peckforton Castle this morning. As we passed through Nantwich , heading up the A51 towards Tarporley, we spotted signs for Venetian Marina. As we were intending just to go for a walk, we diverted the 3 miles off the A51 and went there instead.

It was a good move. We parked our clean and freshly waxed Kampa on the marina car park and left it gleaming in the sunshine as we made for the marina cafe. I looked for my phone to take some photos but it had been left at home. Ditto my wife’s phone ! So only web photos to show for our day out.

The cafe was warm, clean and welcoming. The enticing smell of all day Cheshire breakfast was just too much and we ordered bacon and egg baps. Decaff coffee? No worries, and we took our seats. Complimentary newspapers were available but I was torn between a test yourself for dementia quiz in  The Daily Mail or just gazing at the large wall mounted collages of classic British motorbikes, old cars and vans, vintage canal scenes and other evocative images. With other diners quietly chatting, joking and laughing,a small child peering at his dog tied to a bench outside and concerned at letting the heat out by opening the door (how polite is that?) the atmosphere for an impromtu brunch was perfect. As an aside, is reading The Daily Mail the first sign of deteriorating mental state?

We paid, left a good tip because it was worth it and went for a walk.

Crossing the quiet road, then over the bridge past the lock, we headed into the strong wind and set off along the canal towards the A51. We carried on until we reached a marshy section of canal path, turned around and feeling much warmer , returned to the marina aided by the tail wind which definitely quickened the pace.

A lovely place to stop if you are cruising the A51. Another local place to walk.

The Micro-Sleeper NV200 Pop Top from Seaton Delaval , N.E. England

18 Mar

Here is another find from Martin.Thanks mate ! Advertised via Gumtree as an alternative to low spec ., overpriced VWs (their words not mine but I understand where they are coming from).


There is more information from the maker (?) and Dealers , Caravan Source, but the best photos seem to be on the Gumtree advert above.

Caravan Source

Prices start at just under £27,000   with options adding to this. They have a finance “offer” of £7k deposit and £400 per month to purchase. According to research, most folk can raise about £6k or so , making this an affordable new camper van. Plus it has a roof bed suitable for children, which we don’t have. Please add comments below. Rear hinged pop top gives maximum headroom for the work surfaces, sink and hob. In high winds, I prefer our front hinged pop top and park nose into the wind for least turbulence, but that’s a bit picky.

For comparison, our Nevada from Drivelodge  at a very high spec., with blown air heating, alloys and tyres, swivel cab seats, air bag safety package and so on, was about £2,500 less than this, but that was over 3 years ago and involved a lot of self sourcing of refillable gas tank etc . Nissan were doing a discount on base vehicles at the time. It’s well documented if you scroll down through the archives.

Overall, it looks like a very competively priced bit of kit.Got to be worth a close look !

A Magical Castle just South of Craven Arms.

17 Mar

It was a cooler, overcast day today, so we left the gardening for another day and headed off South West once again. The A49 is now a very familiar track. We continued beyond Church Stretton and through Craven Arms. Stokesay Castle is just beyond , just off the A49.

It is really more of a fortified mansion than a Castle, although the big stone tower does seem very Castle-like. When put to the test during the Civil War, though, not much of a fight was put up and Parliamentarians marched in without much violence. Despite being ordered by Parliament to be “slighted” (destroyed!) very little damage was made and thankfully the place survived to be restored much later for everyone to enjoy.

   We enjoyed a sandwich in the campervan on the car park and got voyeured  by a new age traveller who peered in the rear window after eyeballing the rear “dash” cam. It was actually quite funny to experience as it is difficult to see us inside through the tinted privacy glass. It was very cold and breezy but dry when we went to pay the entry fee of this English Heritage property. Costing around £14 or so for a couple, we decided to go the whole hog and joined for 12 months, getting a free extra 3 months as part of the deal. So, for £67 we have 15 months to see some of the 400 plus locations. Pretty good value, if , like us, you have the time to achieve the visits.


Normally, I don’t bother with audio tours but with no detailed chamber by chamber signage, we each took the little phone sized devices and started at the gatehouse main door. The audio guide was first rate and addictive. It was not a busy day and we went about unhindered and without pressure from other visitors.

One of the first places to see was the great hall and as we passed through the huge, nailed , timber defensive door, I felt a huge feeling of deja vu. Size-wise and style-wise, to me, it was a dead ringer to the massive , 3 storey barn, attached to my brother’s farmhouse, which is somewhere between Limoges and Clermont Ferrand in the centre of France. There was a tremendous draught blowing through the windows , across the hall and into the courtyard. It would have had an open fire on the octagonal and surprisingly small fire “circle”. It would have been smokey and chilly methinks.

  Up the stairway from the great hall and you are in the tower shown here. A large fireplace reminded us of just how chilled we were. The opening in the wall probably held a large lamp. Here there were views of the Church. This “suite” of rooms reminded me of Little Moreton Hall, close to our home in Cheshire.

The church yard had a handful of trees carrying pink blossom but we did not walk around the church as a funeral was taking place and we did not want to intrude.

The final part of the tour went via the “solar” suite which is between the great stone tower and the great hall. We braved the icy wind and viewed the surroundings from the battlements.

The “solar” room was probably the most modern in appearance. Wood panelling and a fireplace added at a later date gave the room a warmth. No wonder it was supposedly the most popular room of most of the later inhabitants. It would have had leather floor coverings.

This has to be one of my favourite destinations, despite the very cold conditions. The little tea room does excellent hot chocolate and cakes. It is a must visit recommendation.

English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw (see post below) and the National Trust have reciprocal discounts. We have pretty much exhausted “local” visits to National Trust properties, even allowing for the extended overnight visits easily possible with a campervan.    see   and

then there’s  and last but not least



New Horizons for us to reach

14 Mar

About a decade ago, when we owned our Fiat Ducato Trigano Tribute , we joined CADW ( pron Kadoo) or Welsh Heritage. It is a lot like the National Trust and currently costs about £61 p.a  or so for a couple at the same address.

Cadw means to keep/protect in Welsh. Very shortly after we joined, we were hit with family bereavements and we hardly used our membership. I have been searching around for places to visit in the campervan from around May onwards. We are close to the Welsh borders and could easily use the campervan for the odd overnighter or two.

This fantastic aerial photo is from the experts themselves! Click on it and expand to see who they are.

This is just one of the properties in the care of Cadw. Castell Coch near Cardiff. There are more than 100 locations to visit all over the wonderful land of Wales. From simple stone crosses, through burial chambers, religeous wells , industrial buildings to great Castles.

penrhyn castle “North” Wales is really easy for us ,either via the A55 coast road or through Llangollen and then the A5. Mid-Wales is a little less accessible but still fine for a couple of easy days away. South Wales and “little England” of West Wales and St.Davids would be a couple of night’s camping but who can resist Tenby. There does appear to be “clusters” of locations having 3 or more places of interest within a 10 miles radius, which makes things easier. I still have a beautifully designed and illustrated ring binder book of  Welsh Castles from Cadw which they sent me from obsolete stocks which used to be left in Welsh Hotels and  B&Bs  to create interest and publicity. You are spoiled for choice. Can we fit all this in with the desired run on the Scottish NC500 and the annual pilgrimage to the West Country? Anglesey has plenty of Cadw sites of it’s own and could be done alongside Caenarfon Castle plus other places of interest.

see       and

Moreton Corbet Castle ruins, Shawbury.

12 Mar

MORETON CORBET CASTLE Aerial view of the medieval castle and Tudor manor house.

Yesterday I kept up a slowly growing tradition whereby my attendance at Port Vale football ground means a rare win for this Potteries based team. This time against Swindon. Every time that I have enjoyed a free ticket to the Presidential Suite, Port Vale have won ! I enjoyed a couple of beers and needed a walk to pay for the indulgence today. So the campervan headed for Moreton Corbet in deepest Shropshire.

    The quiet little hamlet is close to RAF Shawbury and the ruins sit adjacent to a very pretty Church, nestling in the flat agricultural landscape. This photo shows a glimpse forward in time, from the medieval fortress to the Elizabethan mansion built many years later by the Corbet family. The atmosphere is tangibly hair raising. The first glimpse on our drive in from the South was extremely dramatic. A verbal WOW moment when you spot the facade. It is managed by English Heritage but still Corbet owned.

A timber building from around 1100 BC  was replaced by stone in 1200 and gradually developed into an Elizabethan , Italian-styled, mansion. Time has taken it’s toll and some awesome cracks and sheared masonry can be seen if you click on the pics below and zoom in. Huge windows and fireplaces to match are in evidence. Log consumption must have been massive to keep even the mild Shropshire weather at bay.

The family were Royalists and the Castle helped defend Shrewsbury during the Civil War but was taken by Parlimentarian troops at least twice. Robert Corbet lost his life through the Black Death and the place is steeped in history. One legend says that the family took pity on a puritan who was suffering from popular discrimination. They took him and fed and watered him, putting him under their roof and defence. They did tire of him though eventually. (” I don’t think you wanted to do that did you?” “Waste not want not” ” Don’t do as I do, do as I say…..”) so they threw him out. He scraped by in a local woods but returned to cast a curse on the house and family. Threatening infestation by serpents, beasties and nastiness, he said that the family would not live to enjoy the wonderous stately home. They did  move out and it became a ruin. One hell of a downshift………….

read more here

If you visit, take a look at the beautiful Church adjacent.

     We did not stop at that and moved on to Attingham Park for a National Trust lunch and a decent walk before the drizzle set in.

     We did go into the house and I listened to a volunteer guide talking about some “diaries” of a certain Madame Wilson who was mistress to a large number of high ranking gentry in the 1800s. There were so many, I do not know how she found time or the energy for what she got up to. The guide then had an interesting verbal ramble about politics in the Potteries from 1940s onwards. Then Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion, Rhosesia and the commonwealth and British Empire. An interesting Gentleman of 78 , action packed years. He had been involved in agricultural feeds but came from a family of politicians. I got dragged away by my wife as we had caused a huge backlog of visitors on the house tour.

A weird sheep salt lick. (What?) and a decent walk for Spring.

9 Mar

With the weather so dry and warm today, we headed for the National Trust owned, Carding Mill Valley near to Church Stretton. It is a series of footpaths, byeways and tracks through the hills around including the Long Mynd. As soon as we got there, we wished that we had visited before. As we parked just inside th entrance to the first car park we were surprised to see sheep gathered around a road weary Toyota car. They were all licking the front bumper and I assume it was for the salt from the recent frost prevention spreading?

I first read about “Salt Licks” for animals in a school book called “Old Yeller”. Wild animals gathering around exposed outcrops of mineral bearing rocks to get the vital bits and bobs needed for their diet. Sheep definitely get issued with mineral (salt) licks.

     It’s the first time that I have seen sheep licking cars but then I don’t spend much time around sheep. Partially for fear of getting a nasty nickname but that’s a joke too far for this family Blog!

Carding Mill Valley is well worth visiting if you like walking and/or you enjoy a picnic in the open air. The upper car park can be reached if you just keep on going up the cul de sac. Through the ford and you can reach dizzy heights without breaking sweat. It’s like a cross between Bourdon on The Water and Dovedale.

You can choose from “Easy” through ” Moderate” to ” K2 Mountaineering Standard”  difficulty rating. (I made the last bit up………. it’s rated “Challenging” in my book)

We chose a 3 mile round trip up to the Lightspout Waterfall. Walk 2, a moderate rated walk. The higher you climb the more challenging it becomes.

  This is the waterfall. It’s a decent walk and you need good shoes with lots of grip. There is some scrambling over bedrock but it’s not muddy compared to many other locations. It can be tricky to cross the stream, which we did 3 times but we did not get soaked. Waterproof rambling shoes would be better.

recommended !  see

A shopping trip, a bit of history and disappointment.

8 Mar

Having arranged for three different craftsmen to take some hassle from my lazy back, today we had a shopping trip in the campervan to Market Drayton. I am pretty sure that it would be able to find it’s own way there if we could program “Wednesday” into it’s electronic centre.

After a big discussion about our health restoring lifestyle changing diet, we decided that we could cope with a carvery, so long as we focussed on the vegetable and ignored the best bits, including roast spuds and yorkshire pudding. Not to mention the gravy…………. We poked our heads around the ancient door of the Clive and Coffyn to be met with a huge crowd queuing for hot food and all the tables already taken. I regret promoting this lunchtime destination as we seem to have done ourselves out of our easy, walk in lunching. (Not really, as the landlord has done a great job drawing people in from the street market which is actually a couple of streets away.)

I don’t cope well with crowds, so we did a bit more shopping. I went for a look at St Mary’s Church ( seen at night above) where Robert Clive (Clive of India) is said to have caused mayhem by climbing the tower and perching, bird-like on a gargoyle.

audlem view towards whitchurch

His view would have been something like this, although this is from the roof of the Church at Audlem. It would have taken a lot of bottle to perch on that Gargoyle!

He is said to have suffered from manic depression , now called Bi-polar syndrome. But he was also a protection racketeer as a youth. Ultimately sent to India at 17 or 18, he found his true vocation as a soldier. Just a thought, is not coping well with crowds a symptom of manic depression?  It’s not a joke. Clive tried to shoot himself twice but the pistol failed to go off both times. he decided that this was a sign to keep calm and live. So he did!

        He even had a movie made about him. I stood for ages looking around the Church yard whilst my other half perused , what else?, textiles, threads and all things crafty………. I was still dreaming of the black hole of Calcutta when she eventually found me and awoke me from my trance. You can read more about Clive here:

Next job is a quick spring clean of our camping combo ( caravan and campervan) and shoot off for a couple of days whilst we have a gap in our schedule. Everyone keeps saying that they thought that I was retired……..