Archive | August, 2017

Denbigh Castle and a scenic drive down the A525

31 Aug

The weather was lovely and sunny when we set off. I was moaning (one of my main hobbies don’t forget !) that the weather report was incorrect yet again.

Then near St Asaph in North Wales, the dark cloud which had appeared from the West suddenly burst and we were inundated.

As we arrived in the lovely town of Denbigh however, the day dried up and we were free to make the sharp climb up through the narrow side streets to the Castle perched on top of the rock on which the whole place stands.

The Castle was very substantial and must have been the proud possession of all that “owned ” it. There were many that did. Welsh and English. The town had many shops proudly sign written in Welsh. I love this. The English attempted to eradicate the Welsh language completely for a while. I find thia particularly nasty. In the local supermarket, the public announcement that tills were opening and closing came first in Welsh and then in English. If we stayed long enough I could have learned how to count to at least six. For there were six checkouts ! The Castle well may have claimed the life of Edmund, son of de Lacy. A 50ft vertical fall is always deadly.

We almost had the place to ourselves. At one point there were just four people wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere.

One of the most interesting features was a “back door” in the perimeter wall. A spiral stone staircase , square in plan view, built for horses, two abreast or more. There would have been a drawbridge and full protection using murder holes and arrow slots for defence. It’s purpose? Probably a quick access to hunting grounds, woodlands and beyond, negating the need to negotiate the busy town side of the Castle on the way out. Quite a place!

For the return trip, we just stayed on the A525 via Ruthin and Wrexham, all the way home . It almost challenges the A5 as an interesting, scenic route through North Wales to the border with England, Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire.

“Back in the swim”

30 Aug

We kept a low profile over the bank holiday weekend. On Friday we did set off for Conwy but the traffic was so heavy around Nantwich that we quickly diverted to a local place of interest and stayed much closer to home. We know from friends heading to Holyhead and Manchester that they too had big delays.

Yesterday, with the holiday traffic diminished, we went to Heanor in Derbyshire. The Kampa is again running faultlessly, smoothly and economically. The concrete road surface on the A50 was the only intrusion. Is this the noisiest road in Britain? or perhaps the M25 concrete sections? Nasty !

Despite the widespread publicity surrounding the horror HGV crash on the M1 recently when 8 people died in a minibus, we again saw several incidents of tailgating and dodgy driving. Not surprising when you see that road traffic police have been slashed by 37% over recent years. Policing by road side cameras? Not convinced.

Talking about bad driving, in March this year, a car crashed into the Heanor Antiques Centre above causing a great deal of damage


All the above, in a town centre, 30 mph speed limit.On the way home, we stopped off at Leisure Kingdom , the former Don Amott Caravan centre at Hilton.

We really liked an Autocruise Accent 3 berth van conversion. It was marked up at  a significant £35K. The one above is the more common Peugeot base version but “ours” was a Fiat 2.3 130bhp Automatic model. Out of interest, we had the Kampa valued as a part exchange. Despite currently advertising a Lunar Vacanza of 2014 vintage and low mileage at £19k, we were offered a derisory amount.

The offer was around half of the asking prices for similar ( and it has to be said, much LOWER spec)   NV200 campervans currenlty for sale via EBay. They are almost all the lower powered (85bhp., 5 speed versions) In discussions, their offer for our caravan was even more insulting.

Definitely NOT thinking of swapping the Kampa but if you want to sell yours, best to sell privately. A niche market, yes, but  the NV200 has many benefits. Much cheaper than a comparable VW based model, 53 mpg easily achieved, easy to park and convenient day to day.  On the final drive home,we discussed the reasons why we had ours converted and they still stand very firmly today. As an aside, the Vacanza did not sell well when introduced. Perhaps the novel, air bed was too out of the ordinary? Some of the home built ones featured on the Blog are far better in my opinion.

Planning another overnighter very soon.



Epilogue regarding the air duct failure

24 Aug

I was not quite as surprised as the person that found these squirrels nesting under their bonnet, but I was somewhat impressed by the busy complexity in the engine compartment of the NV200 when I finally fitted the new air duct today.   ( see the previous two posts below to be chronological)

The Loctite , Gorilla tape and cable tie repair lasted the 17 miles return trip to pick up the new duct from Nissan, Crewe. The glued joint had seperated by the time I got home but the Gorilla tape seal and cable ties had held it all in place and would probably have remained that way for some considerable time. A get you home tip if ever there was one.

There was a viper’s nest of air hoses around the front of the engine. Combined with air conditioning pipework, wiring and other components this made access to fixing bolts and jubilee clips very poor indeed. I dug deep into my toolbox for suitable, slender, short, bendy and flexible sockets, screwdrivers and torches to make the job possible.

Including time searching in the shed for suitable tools it took me two hours to complete the job. A test run for shopping in Market Drayton showed a return to full power and tractability. Thank goodness ! A permanent repair completed.

We pay a price for all the energy saving technology fitted around a modern engine. I should not be surprised that the small, 1.5 litre turbo diesel needs a lot of bolt on goodies to generate that impressive 110 bhp and beautiful torque curve. A few decades back you would have needed double that engine size and half as many cylinders again !

With most of our business activities sorted and the Kampa back to life, we must get off for some leisure as soon as possible. Sore knees, skinned fingers and sore back from bending over the front grille permitting !

Misdiagnosis then Success with a repair

23 Aug

Following our recent breakdown close to home. I finally received and fitted the new mass air flow sensor. All the symptoms pointed towards an air flow/ fuel mix problem. This actually turned out correct but it was a different component which failed. The new MAF sensor did nothing to rectify the poor running, hunting and loss of power.

My Trusty “Pro Scan” OBD reader showed no errors and only an issue with the exhaust emissions.

I had superb advice as always from my longstanding good friend  Miffy. Now ex pat from the UAE and living in Spain for a while, he is busy shipping all sorts of automobile exotica around the world to pare down his fleet. Your Maserati or one of the Jags for me , Jon , please. Or the Stag , or the Maestro Turbo or……….. You get the picture!

After my diagnosis failed, I searched around for the MAP sensor ( it measures the vacuum pre-inlet). This was my second choice of cause. On the photo above it is easy to find. Look centrally just to the right and above the yellow oil filler. In full view, all the time, “Mr Magoo” strikes again. It is inserted into an intercooler to engine pipe/duct.

When I handled the sensor, the duct moved and it became obvious that it had sheared at the mounting to the throttle body ! Big, uncontrolled air flow and putting the MAP out of action !

The Nissan part number was clearly moulded to the duct, so ordered one ready for fitting tomorrow.

I Superglued the duct back together and the adhesive set almost instantly. I sealed the joint with Gorilla tape. Usually cynical about highly advertised products ability, this stuff adhered very well indeed. Cable ties each side of the joint added belt to braces. More cable ties pulled the joint together to add support to the very long duct.

Tested it out and my darling Kampa is “back in the room”. Bloody awful without my super reliable friend. The Kampa, not Miffy. But I miss him and his adorable wife too !!!!

This problem is one to watch for if you have an NV200. The duct/pipe part number 14460 1 FEOC

It is about £120 or so inc VAT from Nissan and appears to have a fatigue life?? (50,000 miles on mine) The duct is quite long and all the weight is carried at the engine end. Rubber mounted at the bottom (intercooler) end.

Although I misdiagnosed the MAF sensor, overall I have probably broke even on a tow it away and dealer repair including the hire car for 6 days. Not too bad…… he said, trying to convince himself……..

After 4 reliable year’s motoring: A breakdown !

19 Aug

Having returned home from South Wales, we made a short trip to organise the business arrangments for the coming few days but on our return and not far from home we felt a “bump” and the engine lost power. Hazard lights on to warn faster traffic coming from behind, we limped home with the engine hunting and hesitating.

After much searching on the Internet and checking with my OBD tester, I diagnosed a faulty MAF (mass air flow) sensor. I whipped it off and cleaned it, but no change. I then disconnected the MAF and again no change in the symptoms. So, under pressure of having things to do and pre-arranged works to complete, I ordered a new , genuine Nissan sensor from Holdcrofts, Crewe. Three working days delivery plus the weekend to wait. Not brilliant but at least it’s on it’s way now. The only cheaper alternative was secondhand but similar age or older MAFs from EBay. Could not see much point in that. How long does a “hot wire” sensor last?

According to some on the Web, the most common failure on 1.5 dci Renault engines is the MAF. Most top brand MAFs similar to the NV200 sell for around £92. With only Nissan able to supply a new NV200 MAF., they charge a massive £201 inclusive. They change the electrical connector so the only apparent difference to that on a Clio is just that, a plastic connection. Then boost your margin somewhat !!!!!!!

So to get around and transport all sorts of materials for those planned jobs, I have  rented one of these 1.2 litre petrol Clios:

I tried  “Go Green” rentals, then got referred mid process to “Keddy” rentals, “Car Trawler” AND a third party insurance indemnity company. Turns out that this is all really “Eurocar” under their “Keddy” brand.That’s five, yes five companies involved??????????

In fairness, not a bad price for a 6 day hire and the Clio is a pleasant, quiet, but gutless little car ( 75 bhp ????) to drive with terrible 3/4 rear vision. I got all my material in it and was careful not to overload it as the excess on the insurance really focussed the mind! I have used Europcar a lot in previous lives and they are quite good to deal with from experience.

Let’s hope that the diagnosis on the NV200 is correct……………………

The Skirrid Inn. Clickhowell, Raglan and Monmouth. (Abergavenny day two)

17 Aug

This post covers day two of our trip. See below for day one.

We pitched up and rolled out the awning, putting our chairs out for some map reading. We wined and dined at the Rising Sun ( very good it was too) then fitted the insulation and settled down for the night. The temperature dropped dramatically in the late evening and the faithful Propex blown air heater came in handy once more.

Breakfast was the Angel bakery croisant , baguette , butter and jam. Then the free showers behind the pub and we were ready for another day’s adventure.

Tipped off by our friendly neighbour (in his 28ft long motorhome) we called in to photograph the Skirrid Inn, about a mile or so towards Abergavenny. Supposedly the oldest Inn in Wales and having used to house a courtroom where hangings too place, this atmospheric wonder had been the subject of many paranormal investigations and TV programs including “Most Haunted” i believe. Better than Jamaica Inn in the South West dare  I claim ?

We detoured along the A40 to Crickhowell. Another very pleasant town with floral pub fronts, historic relics and good old fashioned shops. The sign above tha arch at the Bear Inn says “Post Horses”, a reference to Mail Coach times?

Sadly I have no information about the stone tower above which is part of a garden wall now ! The other castellated building is part of a very old perimeter stone wall too. If you go down the hill just before this “white castle” you will find a caravan site at the base of the valley. More than the 400 yards on the sign but still a nice walking distant to the town, it’s pubs, cafes and shops. We bought some lamb pasties and a few bottles of my favourite Porters made in Wales. Different brewers and strengths. One was a hefty 10 % BV ! A winter’s night treat methinks…

Raglan castle was built to a very high finish. There is just so much to see, I cannot do it justice here. The inner moat and main tower outside the inner defences is unusual and follows the French fashion at the time. Incredible history to the place. Massive wealth and wheeling and dealing at Royal level. I just loved the place! Soaking up the atmosphere.

Tales  of intrigue and that’s my tolerant good Lady above ,standing at the watergate where many Ladies have previously stood after alighting from boating on the moat. It was a short drive to Monmouth next.

We lunched at Monmouth then walked through the long main street to the Nelson museum. Spotted a rare large “Gruffalo” soft toy for our grandaughter and could not resist it.

Saw this shop sign and just had to photograph it. NV200s  rule OK ! Eventually we headed back to the A49, Hereford and home but still managed a quick walk around Berrington Hall , a National Trust property enroute. A long chat to a volunteer about the “War and Peaces” art display in the dining room plus the family history of loss in WW I.  Then tea and shared cake before we made the run home.

berrington hallwar and peaces

The artwork,made from ceramics and sugar ,portrays war over the years. The centre piece is obviously a Nuclear bomb mushroom cloud. Not my favourite topic and not my favourite artwork but interesting nonetheless.



Abergavenny. Castles, Inns and lovely town visits

17 Aug

We decided to take heed of the weather report and drove down to the Abergavenny region of Wales fairly early on Tuesday. We went solo, leaving the caravan at home. We were rewarded with a very sunny all the way. Using mainly the A49 from Shrewsbury, it really is a pleasant way to travel. Much preferable to the M6 and M5 mayhem alternative. We went “oldstyle”, not booking anywhere but armed with a couple of back up contact numbers. At Pandy, on the A49, we stumbled upon The Rising Sun Inn and Campsite. A delightful young Lady booked us in and we headed for Abergavenny Castle and Museum. “If you should see a red dog running free………. and all that”

Abergavenny was so much better than we anticipated. We found it a lovely town, enhanced by the sunshinewith an interesting indoor market and some nice shops. We still forgot to buy tea and coffee resulting in my rescuing a rather elderly cupasoup for my next day breakfast lift. Couldn’t face hot chocolate!

The castle had an interesting history. Click on and zoom the pictures above to read of Christmas murders and more.

After some shopping and a rummage around the market, we eventually returned to the campervan with our local butter, homemade damson jam and bread from the Angel bakery. On our way back to Pandy we stopped at Skenfrith Castle and what a treat it was!

The late afternoon was warm and still. The delightful, quiet village of Skenfrith welcoming and calm. Inside the castles walls we were surprised by several children in wet swimming costumes, drying their towels on the warm stones of the interior. We headed through the beckoning arched doorway and found the River Monnow where the children were swimming. An absolute treasure of a place in warm weather. A walk around the village revealed St Bridget’s Church and cottages still showing their age-old windows , doors and features.

Dragging ourselves away, we hopped back into the kampa and returned down some very narrow and winding Monmouhshire lanes to The Rising Sun where we pitched on our previously given hardstanding next to a huge twin rear axle motorhome which dwarfed our little campervan. I joked with the friendly owner (from Liverpool) that we could park in his “garage”. There is more about this trip in the posting above.

Three very different Castles in North Wales

11 Aug

Alongside the River Dee estuary in North Wales is the town of Flint. It is thought that the name stems from a rocky outcrop on which King Edward I  had built a Castle to quell the Prince of Wales whose lands lay around Ewloe nearby. Castell y Fflint is strategically placed in North East Wales and originally had access to the estuary and the sea for ease of supply to the troops stationed there.

The ruined walls are simply massively thick. An immense amount of work went into building this impressive testament to subjugation of the proud people of Wales. We had a good look around and then ate lunch in the campervan which was parked very close by. Adjacent to us was an allotment style garden. This too was in a state of ruin. So sad to see the greenhouse full of weeds and a bush growing up through the roof. Blackberries had gone wild but a large flock of sparrows were enjoying the protection offered by the myriad of barbed runners . Rather like the town of Flint which grew up around the King’s outpost.

After lunch, we made the short drive to a layby near the little town of Ewloe. We followed the sign and took the fenced path across the fields to the Castle hidden in the woods. Literally submerged in a steep sided valley and now surrounded by huge trees, it was a compact but impressive little motte and bailey above a quiet stream. As usual it was built  in the Welsh fashion, using a natural rock outcrop for at least part of the foundations. One of the last constructions of the sovereign, native Prince of Wales.

There was a lot of double dealing and switching of allegiance over the centuries and each of these castles experienced very violent times. The first hanging, drawing and quartering of a man was said to have been made after an incident at Flint. Flint was also burned to the ground to prevent falling into Welsh hands.

As we walked back, uphill to the campervan, we discussed how many journeys must have been made carrying baskets of rock and materials for making mortar all those years ago. Another impressive, massive structure in very atmospheric setting.

The short drive further South to Caergwrle took us past an easily missed sign pointing out the pedestrian route , up the steep climb to Caergwrle Castle. We looped around the village , noting all the double yellow , no parking lines before spotting a free car park protected by a 7 feet high height barrier. We sneaked under it just fllicking our radio aerial a little in the process. The height barrier at the car park at Flint had no height listed, hence our parking on the adjacent road.  Sadly,no easy motorhome parking is very evident near Caergwrle Castle.

We had the place pretty much to ourselves. We only met with two other climbers, a lady and then a gent walking his dog. I was pleased to find a wreath (shown below) left in honour of the Welsh Prince. Nationalistic in a nice way, in my opinion, I liked the historic pride shown.

The wreath had been left over the post to the right of the picture and after photographing I replaced it.

Some of the rock had been robbed from the walls in the 17th Century to use in buildings in the village, far below. There is also evidence of quarrying right at the top of the hill, so close in later years that the walls of the castle at one end were undermined. Whoever left the wreath would have waged war against such activity no doubt and rightly so. Nobody likes a vandal !

Caergwrle Castle is at quite a height above the village and the views are excellent.

Three very different Castles. The day gave us an incite into the struggle between the Princes of Wales and the Kings of England. We would now like to see some of the more well preserved Castles of Wales  which we have not visited before. So we must next head South towards Brecon Beacons and the Severn Estuary. Watch this space, the Kampa is ready to roll.

Lots of Castles to see in Wales.

9 Aug

I have a personal list of almost thirty Welsh castles to visit. This is Newcastle Emlyn. I have listed the postcodes for my faithful little Garmin Sat Nav. We are making the time to visit a small group of 3 and possibly 5, to see very soon. The rest will be picked off one by one later in August. Then, still planning to do the NC500 too.

This is Ewloe Castle near Chester. Some of these sites are close enough for a day trip but we intend to stay overnight in the campervan for the vast majority on our chosen list.

This is Nevern Castle, near Newport, South Wales. Guardianship for each Castle lays with different organisations. Some cost as little as £4 to visit, others more than double that amount and some with additional parking charges.

Criccieth Castle overlooks a lovely, old seaside village. We camped there when we were just out of our teenage years. A favourite spot and our return visit long overdue !

I am shortly having a simple medical procedure to remove a heart monitoring device which, after three years has found no clinical problems. So pleased that the battery outlasted the horrible , leaky, gel oozing batteries we used to get in our Christmas present Robots and the like from Hong Kong. Anyone remember them ? After the Titanium has been whipped out to ease the NHS funding, we shall be out and about once more. Oh yeah………….

English Heritage. A pleasant couple from Sheffield and a belated Father’s Day dinner

5 Aug

Four of us went to Craven Arms, Shropshire today to visit Stokesay Castle and found the sun. Maintained by English Heritage , we each followed  their very well presented Audio tour. We spent quite a sum at the little gatehouse cafe for coffee and cakes and had a great time !

We had been greeted on the car park by a lovely couple from Sheffield who were interested in the Kampa, so I gave them a swift tour of it. They were looking for a campervan for when they retired shortly. A compact campervan was the order of the day and I hope that our little chat helped! I love it when people approach us.


The visit was just lovely ! We joined English Heritage in March this year but they screwed up the Direct Debit which is still not sorted out yet. Our cards have been accepted at each visit we have made, albeit with some questioning, but we have managed to continue with our visits. Should be sorted out shortly and payment will be made.

On the way back to Staffordshire, we stopped off for an hour’s wander around the shops of Church Stretton before heading for an early dinner at The Lord Cumbermere in Audlem. Very nice it was too ! Recommended !

Altogether a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable Summer day out in the Kampa. The rear seat passengers did not complain about comfort but did say that the view forwards is a little restricted as they sit quite high. I had to drive somewhat less spirited than usual as the rear sofa does not offer as much sideways support as a Recaro bucket seat to which certain persons have become accustomed. LOL. The rear seat belts function just fine though.

After a rather special dinner, we strolled along to the Canal at Audlem but only went as far as the Shroppie Fly pub.

A picturesque end to a super day !