Tuesday, 29 September 2015

More Overlanding at Stratford Race Course!

Thought we would nip down and see what the Adventure Overland Show had to offer this year. Held at the Stratford - On - Avon Race Track this weekend. We only just got our April back, so we decided on the spur of the moment to go for the day and stay over night if we could.

Arriving at the show, we were a bit stunned that one night camping and entry to the show for two days would be £73.00 and that's without an electric hook up!! I guess for two full days and nights not so bad, but a bit pricey we thought. Never mind, lovely weather and as there was a Camping & Caravan Site at the gate, just by the show entrance we got a pitch with electric for £17 and decided one day at the show would be enough. The camp site reception also gave us two free tickets to the evening bash at the show. I know event holders need to make money, but £12 for a day ticket per person, a bit steep if you intend to go to the show for two days. I guess if we had booked with the Funsters Rally, we would have got a much better deal, still always next year.

We pitched up on a nicely mowed area on the edge of another motor home rally, popular spot obviously. There were two other rallies going on, one for motor homers and one for VW Campers. Facilities on site included, a good set of hot showers 50 p, a laundry washing up room and toilet emptying. It was around a mile and a half to Stratford and there was a bus stop near the entrance. We spotted a bike track in the distance but didn't have time to explore it. Just outside the gates was also an Indian take away/restaurant, so a very handy spot methinks. Perhaps another time we'll come and do the Shakespeare thing.

Here we are pitched up in the sunshine. We were so lucky this weekend with the weather.
Once we had settled in we headed the 100 yards to the show, paid our £24 and had a good look around.

Lots of clubs were there and is was obviously a very social occasion at night the camp fires burned brightly.

Loads of Landys abounded, with browns, beige and safari hats well in evidence. Even the Russians were there. Well, not quite but their vans were. Hopefully the listening gear was turned off, although on reflection they wouldn't have really heard that much of interest only the roar of the crowd when England lost to Wales at Rugby.

We investigated roof top tents and toilet facilities!

Can't wait to find out what's in store for us on our Boswana trip. Those tents seemed pretty high up to me.

We chatted with people about over landing in Peru and Iceland, both were very interesting and not as expensive as we thought they might be. Some of the tenting was quirky to say the least. 

Bijou residence complete with log burner.

We spent quite a while looking around and Den splashed the cash on a pair of dodgy binoculars. Later that evening, we returned to the beer tent to sample the local produce. Real ale and Severn Cider, we even stayed a while and listened to the band, heavy metalish I think, but they were quite good for oldsters! The beer tent was well laid out complete with portable stage.

I think the loss of England at the Rugby slightly dulled proceedings, although as we left the pall of smoke curling around the show and the sounds of  the middle aged at play, wafted through the air. We were soon tucked up in our cosy April, oblivious to the world.

Would we go again.....probably although costs could be significantly reduced by camping as part of a rally. It would also have been really interesting to listen to some of the seminars on offer. You never know we may need to know how to survive in the wild!

We heard the camp site is open until the end of October. A good place to stay if you want to explore Stratford on a budget. Nice and flat, friendly with good facilities, we would stay there again.

On the Roof!

The title sounds like a 60's pop song. "On the Roof" but this blog is actually about our latest ramble around the roof at Dyrham Park a National Trust property. Dyrham Park for anyone who may be vaguely interested is a 17th century house near Bath. Built in 1692 it is done in a Dutch style. Rather dark and not really elegant, it's charm is really in it's story! Mr Blathwayt the original owner who built the house and laid the gardens was a perfectionist! He personally designed and had the house built in the valley transforming the original Tudor building into a baroque style mansion. He filled it with Dutch furniture and pottery. There is loads to see and we will go back when the roof is completed and the bits back in their proper places.

The actual house lies down in a valley and makes for a nice stroll mainly down hill on the way there! For the faint hearted or those with a disability or small children, there is a bus that runs from the car park and back. For walkers there is a good path or you can ramble through the park land.

The lift going up! You get a safety chat and a high viz jacket. Not for those who don't like heights. It's a long way up!

Miles of scaffolding. It did say somewhere how long it took to put up.

 Currently the roof is undergoing a major conservation project to replace slates and stop the leaks, which threaten the fabric of the house. Visitors are transported up to the roof via a lift or stairs, we opted for the stairs! During the restoration the roof is completed covered and the house wrapped up.All the paintings and furniture is stored and visitors can amble around peeking and strange bundles.  However, the National Trust in it's usual way, have made it into a visitor attraction. Huge amounts of scaffolding were used in this project and it was a very interesting way to see bits of the old house from a totally different angle. The chimney pots and ornaments on the roof are also under going a face lift. We even subscribed to writing our names on one of the roof slates to be preserved for future generations!

The pictures do not really do justice to the amount of work being done! Amazing to see how the roof was initially constructed and the vast amount of lead they used.

On the roof you get to look up close at the beautiful stone eagle made from Bath stone.

From below he looks tiny. We wondered how much work it took to get him up there in the first place? The Blathwayt eagle was finally placed on the roof in 1705. The other statue on the roof is Mercury. Not one of my best pictures but it was pretty low down.

Going up on the roof gave fabulous views of the grounds and countryside unlikely to be seen by us again.

We wandered down from the roof and then around the grounds, loads of deer were munching away oblivious to the crowds. 

OK, the deer are camouflaged, but they are there hiding in the long grass.

A couple of young males, they do have antlers but I missed the best pictures.

Walking around the park is challenging as there are loads of very sleep hills. 

If you need a work out Dyrham Park is certainly the place to go.  We climbed a few hills and bumped into Neptune on our travels. 

The views were beautiful being able to see right across to the Welsh hills. We were going for coffee but decided not to bother, as they were only doing paper cups and coffee always tastes foul in cardboard! Next time we go we'll take April our van and have a proper brew up in a proper cup! 

Expecting April back any day now following her little visit for a few jobs to be done. Hopefully we will be able to get away for a bit of 4 wheel camping very soon.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Bank Holiday Bonanza at Bude

Before we went off to France we booked a Bank Holiday weekend in Cornwall expecting everywhere to be booked up pretty early. We had not been to Cornwall for some time and picked Bude because it was a bit more off the beaten track than the usual Cornish hotspots. The site we chose was the one nearest to Bude an affiliated Caravan Club site with all facilities, Wooda Farm Holiday Park.

Not too bad a journey and we were not too held up on the motorway heading South from Bristol. Pleasantly surprised by the site which included a sea view. We had booked a hard standing pitch, which was on gravel with a piece of grass on the side. First impressions were good. The toilets were clean , showers hot and family bathrooms available. Washing up facilities were under cover and more than adequate. There was also a motor home service area. WI-fi could be bought at a price, £1 an hour, £4 for 24 hours or £15 a week. Expensive we thought, we managed without!

We decided to try out the facilities and have a meal in the camp restaurant. Just as well we went early as it was pretty full. We both had a lovely locally sourced steak washed down with a bottle of red, at £44 we were expecting a little more panache than a plastic pack of tomato ketchup and mustard thrown onto the plate with the steak. On mentioning this to the staff we were told it was a camp site eatery not a restaurant, they were busy and with 200 covers what more could we expect! We left a tad disappointed, although the food had been good! Shame really, someone needed a lesson in customer service!

The following morning we were up bright and early and decided to go for a ramble. It was around a mile and a half to Bude but we decided to take a slight detour on the recommendation of the staff in reception. Following relatively narrow country lanes we walked out of the site towards Northcott Mouth. We passed a few places where camper vans were parked up, passing St Olaf's Church and through Poughill. It was a lovely morning and the road was relatively quiet. We decided that we probably could have made the drive in April even though the road was very narrow in places and cars just managed to squeeze passed us. It was very hilly and we were pleased we had not brought bikes!

Northcott Mouth is a National Trust site with a car park at the entrance with honest box. There were a number of vans parked up which looked like they had been there all night, though no facilities and no toilets we could see. The beach was not that busy but there were a few surfers in the water, hardy souls and loads of dog walkers.

We decided to walk along the coast path to Bude which turned out to be a lovely walk!

In the distance we spotted what looked like satellite dishes on the cliffs. Perhaps they were listening out for aliens!

We later discovered that these dishes are part of the array at GCHQ Bude. There are 21 satellite antennas  which span the full range of communication frequencies. It is staffed by GCHQ ( Government Communications Headquarters) , the British signals intelligence service and the United States NSA ( National Security Agency) What they actually do is classified, so perhaps they are listening for aliens!! The site was formerly RAF Cleave, a World War 2 airfield used by Fighter Command.

Northcott Mouth is an interesting spot. At low tide a shipwreck of the SS Belem can be seen. The ship ran aground in 1917 and 33 men were rescued. The SS Belem was a steam powered cargo ship originally built in Germany in 1890. the visible remains include the propeller shaft and boilers.

We followed the coast path along the top of the cliffs to Crooklets Beach.

Bude was buzzing but not as busy as we thought. There was room in the car parks and motor homes were in evidence. We walked into town taking in the view of Summerleaze beach and the salt water swimming pool en route.

The salt water swimming pool at Bude was interesting. In the 1930's a number of people were killed bathing off the coast at Bude, so the Sea Pool was created. The local newspaper stated it was now possible to " proclaim worldwide that there was absolutely safe bathing at Bude....In all probability precious lives will be saved." In 2010 Cornwall Council ceased to fund the pool , it is now maintained by a local charity "Friends of Bude Sea Pool"

We wandered passed the bathing huts which appeared to be well used by the locals! The poshest and newer ones were by the swimming pool.

Following a well deserved lunch at The Urchin in Bude, we trudged back up hill through Ploughill, collapsing into the bar at The Preston Gate Inn before wending our way back to Wooda. The last bit of the walk was uphill!!

Sunday dawned with a fine drizzle and as we were both shattered by the previous days exertions and the 7 mile walk we spent the day doing as little as possible. Apart, from the merry barking of two little dogs ( which went on for around 4 hours ),  who had been locked up for the day in the next but one motor home, it was uneventful. The camp site staff were not that interested in the racket the poor doggies were making. We felt sorry for the dogs!!  I think the staff needed to read there own rules about animals being left in caravans on site for the day and apply them!!

We tried the take away, for pizzas that evening. Very nice! There was a good menu here and not expensive.

Would we go back? Well, we enjoyed the area and there are loads more places to explore in a lovely part of the country. The beaches are beautiful and not too busy. The camp site is well appointed and well kept but pricey, although it is the nearest site to Bude, unless you are wilding! Maybe, we'll try it one more time!