This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.

Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which documents all our trips and includes product reviews and pubs! It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Christmas in Cambridge

So, as I said in the last blog, we’re up in Cambridge now - once again at the Cherry Hinton club site and we’re here now until new year. There have been arrangements to be made, appointments and so on, but all that is progressing well - and we have already had a fair bit of free time on our hands.

I mentioned too in the last blog that we’d been having a go at vlogging - daily in fact - and we’ve been delighted with the response - and had some great feedback, so we’ve decided to continue now things are getting sorted. It’s also proving to be a welcome distraction from current events.

It’s also given us the opportunity to have a trip or two down memory lane. On Saturday we had an amble around Cherry Hinton while Trev recalled his childhood - from where he was brought up, his first school, where he played and where he got his first job. It was a lovely morning and I even learnt some stuff about him too. Check out our video HERE

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In the evening we were delighted to welcome fellow caravanners and now very dear friends Amanda & Allison for an evening of reminiscing, gossip - and yes an ale or two. We had a cracking time and wish them the very best as they’re follow their dream and prepare to start a new life in Scotland.

Sunday saw us on a day trip - to, er Brighton - and I must say it felt very odd going home for the day. We needed to pick up some paperwork regarding Trev’s Mum and it gave us the chance too to sling some stuff in the washing machine and pick some clean clothes up. It was foggy and icy on the way down - at least for the first half of the trip, but the majority were behaving sensibly behind the wheel. Coming back it was extremely wet and good sense seemed have deserted many in the quest to get where they wanted to be.

On Monday we spent the day in Cambridge getting the bus in from just around the corner from the site. The roads surrounding were as usual heaving but the city centre itself - away from the shopping centre, was quieter - helped considerably by the fact that the colleges are largely empty - most of the students having gone home for Christmas. The Market Square was our first pause followed by a climb up the tower of Great St Mary’s Church. An amble along Kings Parade and Trumpington Street was next before heading for the back and taking in that most iconic view of Cambridge; Kings College Chapel across the meadow. Just beautiful.

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The was of course a brief pause at a pub for a spot of lunch at what is reputed to be Cambridge’s oldest pub, the Pickerell Inn in Bridge Street.

Legs were starting to tire as we made our way across Jesus Green and Christ’s Pieces before jumping on the bus back to the site. The day was a great reminder of what a beautiful city Cambridge is. There are two videos to accompany - HERE and HERE

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Much of Tuesday was taken up with those necessary appointments following a death - first the Registrar then the young lady who will be conducting the service on Friday. We did however make it to a pub. Obviously.

The Cambridge American Cemetery at Madingley received the attentions of the Blogger in Black and Portly Partner on Wednesday morning. We’ve been here a few times over the years and it may seem an odd thing to do but it is very beautiful, very calming and a great place for a few moments of reflection too.

Newnham was next and gave us the opportunity for a bit of reminiscing - we both came here as kids to play in the pool - although some years apart! Yes, there’s a video which you can find HERE

I think I went to Anglesey Abbey as a kid - and was probably bored shi, er witless. However it was a different story this time around. The Winter Garden was particularly stunning with the range of colours on show just astonishing accompanied by all the different aromas.

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The water mill was open but sadly not in action - not that much of a disappointment as we’d seen the one in action near Welwyn.

We loved the house too. Laid out as it would have been in 1964 when owner Lord Fairhaven would be getting ready for Christmas and for one of his regular shooting parties. The video is HERE

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I must apologise for the photo’s - some numpty who shall remain nameless - okay then, me - failed to retrieve the memory card for the camera from the laptop before we left, so everything from today is with cheap and cheerful Galaxy cut downs. Talking of phones, I’m now back up and running with a replacement. I got one delivered to site and picked up a SIM when in town. I’m now back with ‘3’ since BT Mobile found it beyond them to put one in the post to me.

Another first on Friday was the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, sandwiched between Hills Road & Trumpington Road. Astonishingly in all the years we lived in Cambridgeshire, neither of us had been.

We spent a couple of hours here easily but keener horticulturalists would have no trouble in making a day of it. Well worth a visit but understandably lacking a little colour given the time of year. Video to follow.

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Friday night was in a pub - quelle surprise - with our old pals from Histon & Impington - where I grew up and where Trev & I met. It was a great, slightly drunken night but I’m glad to report that the phone made it back to the ‘van intact.

And lastly - Saturday saw a rather sluggish meander around Ely before catching up with more friends for a restorative cuppa and mince pies.

Okay, you’re up to date. More or less. Today - Christmas Eve, we have three things planned - a couple of bits and bobs from the shop and a visit to Teversham to lay a wreath and say hello to Mum. A pub lunch will follow then that will be us until Boxing Day when we’ve been invited out for lunch.

So, as always, thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great Christmas.

Cheers & Beers from Rich & Trev.




Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Festive Foursome

Right, I need to start with the sad news that many of you will have already heard - that Trev’s Mum passed away peacefully on Thursday morning at the grand age of 92. She had been admitted to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge the evening before after her heart really started to struggle and it was clear that her time really was coming to and end. Very sad of course but she has lived a full life and the world will be a much duller - if somewhat quieter - place without her!

So, I’m afraid the title is a bit misleading on this one, as we would have ended up staying at five sites, although now that has dropped to three. Anyway, lets bring you up to date with events prior to Wednesdays sad news.

Patsy spent her first night of the trip on site minus her occupants at our local site - the Caravan & Motorhome Club’s Brighton site at Sheepcote Valley. We’d picked her up from Roundstone Caravans at Southwater in West Sussex where she’d been in for a well overdue service and we’d sited her there to air her out and load up ready for our upcoming trip. I’m delighted - and somewhat relieved - to say that she passed her service with flying colours.

Saturday, once all the caravanning essentials had been loaded in - wine, scoff and long leather coats - we moved in. And so did the weather. The forecasted high winds and heavy rain arrived soon after midnight and it became clear on Sunday morning that we’d have to delay our departure - a decision which was to turn out to be very wise indeed.

So, we had a quick visit to the flat to pick up a few more bits and bobs, Trev thwarting my attempts to sneak in another leather coat. I argued that with the high winds remaining it’s weight would be good ballast for the car but he was having none of it. The remaining time was spent putting up the Christmas lights in Patsy and a quick incursion to Kemp Town for a couple of pints before a forgettable Co-Op ready meal for dinner.

The winds were no less vicious on Monday and the rain was still lashing down but a thorough studying of the weather reports suggested that the winds were confined to the coast, so after a VERY wet pack up we headed off, taking Patsy through Brighton to avoid the high winds likely to be found on the usual route through Woodingdean and through to Falmer.

The rest of the journey was ok - rain and sleet for most of the way but the dangerous winds had gone and most people were driving sensibly. We arrived at Commons Wood Caravan & Motorhome Club site on the edge of Welwyn Garden City to find five inches of snow - and the warden reckoned we wouldn't be able to get to the site entrance the day before, such were the state of the roads.

After a chilly set up and a warming cuppa we had a quick drive around the city, noting locations of various pubs - sorry, research venues - for the coming days.

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Tuesday brought with it a frost but some bright sunshine and our first proper look at Welwyn Garden City, and we were both impressed. The central shopping area is nothing outstanding but it’s the wide open spaces surrounding that make it so special. Even with the snow on it looked beautiful and I can only imagine what it’s like in spring, and autumn too with all the changing colours. Welwyn was the second garden city in the UK after Letchworth, being founded in 1920 by one Sir Ebenezer Howard with the aim of combining the benefits of the city and countryside while avoiding the disadvantages of both. Laudable ideals and only those who live there can truly say if it works but it looked and felt a very pleasant place to be. However, no more were built in the UK but there are a few examples of garden cities worldwide, quite a few of which are in Canada.

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The afternoon saw us heading a little south to Hatfield - not the town but for a mooch around the Galleria shopping centre. How exciting you might think. Well, yeah but it does have a bit of history worth noting - it was built over the A1(M) to save space - another seemingly good idea that didn’t take off - and it was the first such  centre where rents were based on the turnover. This was in the early days of computerised tills so was quite revolutionary. Shops takings were fed back via the tills to the management company. Again, I don’t think it caught on.

The rain came during the night and washed most of the remaining snow away, providing quite a different outlook when we eventually opened the blinds Wednesday morning. It was a little milder too as we headed out for our first destination of the day - the Welwyn Roman Baths - located about a 10 minute drive from the site. We didn’t stay long - not because they weren’t of interest but because they were shut! I’d made that most elementary tourist mistake of not checking opening times which in the winter where - understandably - considerably curtailed.

We had more luck at our next port of call though - the Mill Green Museum - which is much closer to the campsite and easily walkable by the more energetic. It’s a water mill that is still used to mill flour supplied to local bakeries and we were lucky enough to see it in action, demonstrated by a great character that had us thinking of old Windy Miller from Camberwick Green. Enthusiastic, entertaining and clearly knowledgeable about his subject he was great to listen to and really made the visit.

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We’d pondered heading on out to Hatfield House but the rain had returned so we decided to head back to the warmth of Patsy for a lazy afternoon, before a quick excursion for grog and grub to the Attimore Hall pub.

The news came early Thursday morning that Trev’s Mum, Hilda had passed away so we re-arranged our plans and headed straight up to Cambridge, and that’s where I’ll call a halt to this blog. Trev would like to say a big bag thank you to all the lovely messages of condolence and support received over the last few days. It’s at time like this that  social media is truly that and at it’s very best.

We’ve been trying something new to us on this trip - vlogging. For those that haven’t yet seen our videos why not head over to our YouTube channel and have a look. We’ve been delighted at the positive responses we’ve been getting, but do please let us know what you think.

Ok, until next time, thanks as always for reading.

Cheers

Rich & Trev

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Hilda May Webdale (‘HRH’). 14th October 1925 to 14th December 2017

Monday, 27 November 2017

Solwise Home Plugs Review – and a Competition!

Ok, it’s taken a while – 2 months give or take – to get around to this, but I wanted time to fully evaluate these products. That’s my excuse anyway!

In case the title leaves you none the wiser – basically these devices transmit internet data along mains electric wires – allowing you to get the internet to far flung corners of a building without installing any existing wiring. I’ll explain our situation in a moment so you get more of an idea.

So what’s this got to do with caravanning? Well, admittedly not a lot. I doubt there is a caravan big enough that would necessitate the use of these – however I would think the majority of those of you reading this have a larger more permanent dwelling – and probably use the internet too. So this may just be of interest.

Our router – a BT Home Hub 4 sits in the lounge and is connected directly via the usual network cables to the YouView digibox and our networked hard drive which we use for backing up all our stuff – my collection of music – ‘archived’ versions of vinyl, cassette and CD recordings along with all our photos from our travels, films, TV series and now increasingly, video footage for our YouTube channel.

Thanks to the wonders of BT Infinity 2 we can get download speeds of anything up to 65Mbps while uploads top out at around 20Mbps. Speeds I’m perfectly happy with.

However in the ‘office’ also known as the spare room, dining room and caravan paraphernalia dumping ground it’s a different story. Downloads top out at around 7Mbps while uploads fare a little better at 11Mbps. Now I realise this wont garner much sympathy from those in more rural areas who are perhaps lucky to get half that and I do understand. Travelling around as we do we often come across areas where a 3G mobile signal is still a luxury and the lofty speeds of 4G are just a pipe dream. And it’s frustrating.

Fortunately, the good folk at Solwise – who’ve provided us with some great WiFi kit for the caravan – came to my rescue and sent me these:pl-1200av2-piggy-4

First up is the bit that connects to your router – I think of this as the transmitter – it simply plugs into a mains socket and is connected to one of the network ports on the router with the supplied cable. It doesn't take up a mains socket – just as well considering the jumble behind our AV stand - as it has a socket at the front. The socket is ‘filtered’ which helps prevent anything connected through it from creating interference on your mains wiring and affecting the signal.

Set up was easy – you plug it in, then plug in the cable to the router – and that's it. The CD shown contains a copy of the easy start guide, a user manual and utility software – but for basic set ups you won’t need it – I’m no techie but I’ve not looked at it yet!

pl-1200av2-pew-4This is the other part – the receiver if you like – this was plugged in to a socket under the desk. You can connect directly to your computer with the supplied network cable – and that’s it – good to go. That’s generally how I connect my laptop. However the device does transmit a WiFi signal too. Setting this up is only the same as connecting wirelessly to a router – the network ID and password is printed on the device. Indicator lights on the front show the status of the device and we were up and running within minutes.

So, how did it perform? Over WiFi download speeds shot up to over 29Mbps – four times what I was getting before. A remarkable performance in my view. Upload speeds were a little less impressive with only a marginal increase to 12Mbps.  Wired download speeds were a little better at 30Mbps but uploads were much more impressive at around 18Mbps – and this was perhaps the most important to us – it’s from the laptop that I back up our files and upload videos so this really made a difference.

In addition my pad – an old Hudl 2 - can pick up the WiFi signal from the Solwise device in that most important of locations, the smallest room in the flat. Something it couldn’t do with the router. So I can browse whilst erm, well you get the idea!

There was a time in the early days of these devices that in order to work they had to be on the same Ring Main circuit but that no longer applies. As long as they’re on the same phase – not an issue for the vast majority of households - they should work just fine. The wiring in our flat is all over the place – and probably due a re-wire too. There is a ring main but a number of other sockets are on radial circuits once used for storage heaters. I would suspect that with newer more standardised wiring results would be even better.

For more information and full specifications head over to the Solwise website where you can also purchase if you decide they suit your requirements. The first device  - the ‘transmitter’ - is HERE and the second – the ‘receiver’ HERE. It’s worth pointing out that these are the faster of the two types available and that's worth bearing in mind when comparing pricing. I think they are great – and whilst hardly life changing – they have made negotiating the perilous path that is the 21st century just a little easier!

Competition Time!

Like the sound of them? Like the idea of getting them for nothing? Well, stay put because the lovely people at Solwise have a pair to give away! Entry is simple – all you need to do is answer this question correctly: what female name do we give to our caravan? Pop the answer along with your name on an email and send it to: legsdown@outlook.com by 9th December. The winner will be drawn at random and will be announced on the evening of Sunday 10th December. Good Luck!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

There’s something I have to tell you…..

It was eight and a half years ago when I started writing a blog – although back then it was really just an email with a few pictures attached, typed on my little netbook and sent out to a dozen people.

I then created a blog called “A Load of Nonsense” and continued to document all our trips away, be they cruises to far flung places or weekends in Margate.

Then five and and half years ago we started caravanning and with our jobs at the school giving us plenty of time off, the caravan trips came thick and fast – and the blog really flourished.

A few years ago we decided to change the name to something more caravan focused – and (Get Your) Legs Down was born. Every caravan trip we’ve taken is on here.

Whilst the blog has brought with it some freebies – mainly in the form of products for review – it has always been a hobby. And I’ve always thought A Load Of Nonsense was still the perfect name for it! Some will doubtless agree….

However, Legs Down is entering a new phase -  I am delighted – and really proud - to announce that we will be providing exclusive content for the website of Caravan insurance specialist Cover4Caravans in the form of written Site Reviews. They will be impartial and comprehensive reviews of not only the site but the surrounding area too based on our experiences, from access to the site to local attractions and yes, pubs too. Obviously!

Director Richard Burgess is a passionate supporter of caravanning and you may remember already sponsors our Twittercamp meets and we’re delighted to be working with him on this.

I’ve always been somewhat envious of those who make money doing something that they enjoy – ok I enjoy driving and earn a living from it, but writing about our travels has always been a hobby, so this means a lot - it really does. The blog will continue in the same format and I’ll be providing links to the Site Reviews that will be on the Cover4Caravans website. You can check the first one out HERE

So, that was our little announcement – and we are looking forward to announcing another collaboration in the coming weeks too. Exciting times ahead!

Cheers for now

Rich & Trev

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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Beers, Trains, Boats & Planes – Part 2

Thursday brought with it a lunch appointment in ‘the smoke’ and the journey was easy thanks to Denham station being only twenty-five minutes walk – or in our case a five minute drive – away. The trundle into London’s Marylebone station took around twenty-five minutes passing Wembley Stadium on the way. Worth noting if you’re attending an event. Our destination was Finsbury Avenue, just behind Liverpool Street station and easily reached on the 205 bus. The underground would certainly have been quicker, in fact riding on the back of a snail would have been quicker, but we weren't in a rush and took in  a few of the sights along the way. I am continually amazed at the amount of building and redevelopment work going on.

Our lunch  was with Cover4Caravans director Richard and his internet expert Jason. Over some of the best steak I’ve ever tasted we had a good chat and catch up. Richard also very generously agreed to sponsor Twittercamp again for another year and we discussed some mutually beneficial projects too.

Friday gave us the chance to explore more of the local area and first up was Northmoor Hill Wood – a nature reserve right next door to the site. A 1.5km walk is indicated on the information board – not far but there are some inclines and at the time of our visit it was a bit slippery under foot in places. Not recommended for those with reduced mobility or wearing entirely unsuitable winkle pickers. Ahem. Nevertheless it’s a great place to wander and to give your four legged friends a run out particularly as there’s no dog walking area on site.

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A little further from the site  back on the A412 is the village of Harefield and we’d spotted a sign for a pub called the The Old Orchard the other evening and decided further investigation – in the interests of research obviously – was called for.

Wow, what a find – and for once I’m not talking about the beer. It’s appeal, as soon as you enter the car park is apparent - what a view! The lake you see is Broadwater Lake and along the bottom of it, hidden from view runs the Grand Union Canal. To the other side is the A412 and roughly in the middle on the far side too is the caravan site and Northmoor Hill wood. This area is full of very pleasant surprises.

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Now, this is where you might need to sit down. They had eight – yes eight – hand pumps on the bar, seven of which had real ale. And we had tea. Yes tea. As sorely tempted as I was – and what better views to sup a nice real ale to – we abstained. It is most definitely on the list for a return visit though.

Walkers will be interested in a leaflet you can pick up at the pub which details a circular 4.5 mile walk traversing part of the Hillingdon Trail – a 20 mile path that begins in Cranford and ends here in Harefield.

We had the car but we were able to stop at a couple of places on the way, one being Black Jack’s Lock just a few hundred meters from the pub car park:

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Back on the road out of Harefield we soon crossed the canal again and it was an equally agreeable place to stop with the Coy Carp on one side of the bridge and the tow path and Copper Mill Lock a short walk on the other. Those little cottages look so idyllic, but I’m not sure having a pub that close would be a good idea!

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Next up – and our last stop of the day – apart from the evening’s excursion - was to the 41 hectares that makes up the Rickmansworth Aquadrome Local Nature Reserve on the outskirts of the town. It was not surprisingly busy given it was half-term and the large – and free – car park was approaching capacity. Two lakes are the main features of the park and was being enjoyed by both kids and model yacht enthusiasts alike.

There was plenty enjoying the café too and we paused for a forgettable cuppa and an only slightly more memorable scone – or scon if you prefer. The café had a designated ‘Quiet Room’ occupied mostly by the grey (and white) army – those that weren't on duty with the grand kids in the main area anyway. And yes, I’m mostly grey now and would have much preferred the quieter room had there been any space!

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The evening saw us in Denham village a short drive from the site and blessed with three pubs – and VERY limited parking. We gambled – along with many others, correctly – that there would be no parking wardens about and enjoyed a nice meal in The Green Man. It’s worth noting that there is a footpath to Denham railway station some 650m away where parking is plentiful and we may not push our luck next time!

There is a bus service – right from the site to Uxbridge that runs 2-3 times a day, six days a week and it was this that we decided to utilise on the Saturday morning.

Whilst Uxbridge might not be top of the list for sightseeing it’s just a twenty minute bus ride and handy for shopping with many of the usual high street names represented. Yours truly even parted with some cash for a new pair of gloves – I’ll leave you to guess the material and colour…

It’s also worth noting that Uxbridge is on both the London Underground network and several London bus routes so it’s easy to travel further afield, although do be mindful of the return times of the local bus or you may have rather a long walk. There’s also a Saturday service from the site to Windsor but again, times are limited.

On the way to the caravan site you would have passed Denham Aerodrome – and most probably heard some of the coming and goings from the site. There’s a little café there too called the Crew Room which a fellow camper on site made us aware of. The usual fayre is supplemented by great views from the terrace of the comings and going on the airfield whether it be little Cessnas being flown solo or helicopters taking punters up on pleasure flights. We paused for some sustenance and I have to report that the fish finger sandwich was yum – proper fish fingers like I remember as a kid in plain white bread – not some  pretentious interpretation of one. The tea was also served properly - in a teapot.

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And that was our time up at Wyatts Covert. A lovely little site in area that has so much more to offer than is first apparent. Another one on the ‘must do again’ list. Check out our Site Arrival Video to see how easy the site is to get to.

Right. Christmas next and four site booked for the school holidays. It all starts again in just over five weeks – and I can’t wait!

Until then, thanks – as always – for reading. It’s really appreciated.

Cheers

Rich & Trev.