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A lovely drive out in the sun to Gwersyllt, Wrexham

24 Sep

My wife recently returned from a week in London on family business, leaving me finishing decorating a loft conversion. So today, when we woke up to a rare, sunny day, I insisted that we take a break and enjoy a trip in the campervan to Acorn Antiques at Gwersyllt , Wrexham.

It was a very pleasant drive out. A few cyclists and tractors delayed us a little but in the scheme of things it only adds seconds, not even minutes to the journey time. We did see a lot of corner cutting, some of it on the stretches of A525 having double white centre lines. A lady motor cyclist almost clipped us with her offside mirror . She had her wheels inbetween the double white lines and was leaning a good foot and a half into our (narrow) road space. She stood her bike up, mid corner. Not always a good idea…………………

Anyhow, we added a few more miles onto the campervan and I need to book a full 12,000 mile service ready for the real Autumn onset. Following the replacement intercooler pipe, it’s running like a train as usual. There is plenty of torque and the six speed box makes light work of fast cross country roads. The handling helps immensely in this whether dry or wet. I would definitely buy Avon (Cooper owned) tyres again.

We followed an older Talbot based coachbuilt motorhome at one point and they pulled over to allow the small queue following them to pass. We discussed how one of our previous 2 litre petrol “Talbots” only used to manage 24mpg at best and at much lower speeds than we can drive at. We consistantly  get 53mpg driving briskly on “A” roads. We now await news of the arrival of our first grandson before we dare to grab a 3 or 4 day break at the seaside. Always something to look forward too !

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A fresh look at Whitchurch.

16 Sep

We travel around Whitchurch frequently. On our way to other destinations we use the bypass and miss out this lovely little town which is local to us. On Friday we literally went to town and parked (eventually) just outside the High Street and had a really good look around. It’s a canal town, situated on the Llangollen to Whitchurch route. There is a campsite near Grindley Brook where we have stayed on at least one occasion. There is an excellent canal side cafe on the opposite side of Grinley Brook to the town too.

The two or three antiques shops were vastly outnumbered by at least ten public houses. No wonder that early in the year the town held a charity pub crawl. Could you stand the pace?

There was the usual cluster of charity shops but lots of traditional butchers, bakers and gift shops. The town still has a traditional “feel”. With a choice of restaurants and pubs, it must be good for a night out. Just off the High Street is a tree shaded pavement cafe area where you can people watch over a coffee or something stronger. A great place to visit.

Defy the weather, it will soon be Autumn.

10 Sep

Having just read a book of myths and legends about North East Wales, including so many about our well known day tripping towns, we defied the rain today and went to Llangollen. Many of the tales mention Castell Dinas Bran which sits surprisngly high above the town close to the spectacular “world’s end” that is Eglwyseg Escarpment.This picture must be seen zoomed, so click on it and have a closer look.

My late father trained in Surveying here for his Degree in Mining Engineering when I was a very small boy. He later took me here in his little Ford Prefect to show me where he had been for so long.

On the journey, the new wipers on the Kampa did an excellent job and at one point we had lovely blue sky and full sun but it did not last and we arrived at Llangollen to cloud and showers.

We set off with the intention of making the very steep and challenging climb to Castell Dinas but it was so wet and windy we stayed in town, having a snack at Llangollen Railway Station which has been saved by future minded volunteers following Dr Beeching’s closures in 1964.

The surprisingly steep and long climb to Dinas Bran on a sunnier day.

The smell of real coal fires at the station took me right back to my childhood. I think I got an Ovaltine and not a hot chocolate in the station cafe by mistake. This reinforced the nostalgia. We braved a break in the showers to take some photos of the River Dee.

Repeating what we did in Abergavenny , Monmouthshire, recently, I bought several bottles of craft dark beers from Wales. We  now have a very decent range of stouts from the very North to the very South of this intriguing and proud land. We shall test them out when we celebrate the arrival of our first grandson in the near future. I wonder if he will get a Welsh first name. His dad is from North Wales.

Dinas Bran has so many myths and legends surrounding it. It is a marvellous place and well worth the climb to the top if you are fit for it. Wales has many stories including magical Bulls, Cows, giant Pig’s heads (which usually destroy new building foundations to prevent completion) , fairies, ghosts and witches. the Welsh Ellyllon are more like our Goblins rather than fairies which although sometimes benevolent can cause you to dance yourself to death.

The reason why we don’t hear much about them now? If they leave you gold coin periodically, this stops with penalties the moment you tell anyone………………..shhh!

A lazy visit to Halfords. Minor electrical failures.

7 Sep

Whilst in heavy traffic in the rainy gloom I noticed that the left hand headlight did not seem to be working. I checked last night and the bulb had gone. The right hand sidelight bulb was also out. This morning I had a quick go at removing the headlight bulb but with fingers like bananas and a definite lazy streak developing, I headed for Halfords instead.

After nearly 53,000 miles and four years the bulb was the first that I have to replace. Not bad in my experience. Halfords were onto it right away. A young lady very quickly got the bulbs and despite very tight fittings and poor access completed the lighting work pretty quickly. I was so impressed that I had new Bosch wiper blades fitted too.

It was only on Tuesday evening whilst driving from the pub dinner back to the campsite that I had moaned about the two oncoming vehicles we came across on just a 2 mile trip that had only one headlight showing. Me and my big mouth. Within 24 hours or less, I was committing the same sin…………………

Today, I also tried to open the memory card from one dash cam which should have held the video of the peloton passing at Humber Bridge on the Tour of Britain. Zilch to be found ! It turns out that both dash cams have packed in at the same time after 18 month’s service and gone to the great silicon chip heaven in the sky. At less than £13 each at the time, it’s pretty cheap insurance but I am now going to upgrade (I hope) and purchase replacements asap.   I really don’t like driving around without some back up evidence especially with all these idiots driving around with just one headlight……………  

Two Stages of the Tour of Britain and an overnighter in the Kampa

6 Sep

We trekked up the M1 and M180 to South Ferriby on the A1077 to the West of the Humber Bridge. The weather was blowy and grey. We got to the pre-Googled layby in good time and did not need to investigate the other options to spectate. We were soon joined by a young professional from the press seeking pictures of the Tour of Britain with a backdrop of the Bridge.

There were a couple of riders in the breakaway. They seem oblivious to that huge UFO of a giant Dinkum Pinkie which has not appeared for a while. The peloton was not far behind. Although I have again managed to photograph my own finger, I am quite pleased with the two photos showing the Humber Bridge in the background Click on them and you can zoom in for a better look.

There seemed to be a much larger number of motorcycles leading the Tour this year for some reason and on the A1077 they were nearly all hovering above the tarmac at high speed. The peloton and follow up service barges were past us in a flash and we were soon free to head for the campsite. It was difficult before we left trying to explain why we make the effort for just a few minutes of spectating. We get to see new locations. We enjoy the atmosphere of the event , the fresh air and the shear spectacle of young men in their prime pushing hard.

The pre-booked campsite was a Caravan Club Affiliated site , just off the A1 at Cromwell North of Newark. We stayed there once before and it’s reported somewhere on this Blog below. A clean site with fishing pools and good atmosphere. Our last night solo in the Kampa at Pandy in South Wales  proved cool but we over compensated with a duvet over the summer weight sleeping bags. Otherwise a very pleasant night with the pop top left up despite the showers.

We had decided to have our evening meal at The Plough Inn at Norwell, less than 2 miles through the lanes on the opposite side of the nearby main East Coast rail line. Homemade steak and kidney pie made up for the dreich evening and we were soon pitched for the night, reading our books over a brandy.

Today we had another really enjoyable time.

We drove the short distance North up the A1 to the American Diner. We listened to 1950s US pop music over coffee and all day breakfast. Pushed for time, we shot off to Brownhills Motorhomes near Newark.

Just out of interest we viewed a Trigano 669, an Adria van conversion and a couple of short wheelbase coachbuilts. The Trigano had the same front dinette, rear fixed bed (possible) and mid kitchen and shower as the Autocruise Accent we looked at recently. All absolutely delish ! On the car park we found a nice couple viewing the Kampa through the privacy glass. We chatted with them before heading for the very pretty town of Southwell, about 20 minutes away. We grabbed another coffee there before popping out to catch the Tour for the second time.

The crowds were enormous and the pavement just a mass of people. A police motorcyclist stalled on the very sharp right hander “Centre Ville” and boy did he get some wolf whistles and witty jibes ! ( My old Cagiva Raptor thou  used to confuse it’s fuel injection at low revs and when it stalled it almost threw you over the handlebars…… It tried to kill me in many ways on many occasions !)

A very enjoyable couple of days out ! I hope to show the video of the Humber bridge section once it’s edited.

We fail to help out a fellow Campervan user.

4 Sep

Got back to our Kampa in Market Drayton today after a shopping trip to find a rather nice , dark blue VW campervan alongside. The bonnet was up so I queried what was wrong. Flat battery. No worries, says I and dug out my jump leads.

All coupled up and with a few extra revs dialled in from my faithful Renault K9K engine, I thought that our “neighbour” would soon be on his way. But , despite several attempts and checking for good jump lead connection, the VW would just not spin over quick enough and we had to abandon the rescue attempt. With the RAC on it’s way, all was not lost but I felt a bit of a failure, especially as the VW owner appeared to be from the Armed Forces and just back from a 4 month tour ? A new battery had been fitted on his departure to goodness knows where but it had been left in a flat condition, which may have been it’s ” Waterloo”. Instructions left with his wife to get it charged and keep running the VW had fell on deaf ears apparently. Hope he got it fixed.

The e-NV200 and 4 cubic metres extra volume!

3 Sep

My brother, just back from a month in France ( jammy devil !) reported seeing a two tone coloured e-NV200 on the back of a transporter in Paris. A deep cream lower half , including the bumpers and a sexy grey upper colour. I searched for news of this but instead came up with this Hi-Volume, all electric delivery Nissan. Now, what a superb campervan that would make.

It was my brother’s Metallic Grey works van that inspired the Drivelodge Nevada, which has become a lovely motor caravan. As soon as I sat in his van, I knew that it would work as a campervan. He loves them too.

see https://cleantechnica.com/2016/11/01/voltia-maxi-electric-urban-delivery-van-based-nissan-env200/

I always find it hard to swallow when I see the claim that electric cars are “zero emission.” This is nonsense !

If the electricity use to charge the vehicle battery is not from solar or wind or wave, then it’s either from fossil fuel being burned at a power station or from nuclear sources which use huge amounts of energy to produce the concrete mountains of the reactor and of course the very long lived half life of the radioactive waste.

“Zero emission “????  Stop lying !

Having said all that, I may be convinced to go for an e-NV200 campervan at some point. With electric uphooks readily available at most campsites and a leisurely travel regime, it could just work. Worried about battery life though and the need to renew that expensive powerpack. How green is it to recycle a vehicle battery??

I like Toyota’s duel fuel , Hybrid electric vehicles. Will this be the gap filler prior to the huge ban planned for 2040?