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, 15 February 2018

Back in Bristol

Right here we go again, my first travel blog post of 2018. And although we now nearly two months in I’ll wish you a happy new year anyway. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

The recent half-term holiday saw us back in Bristol at the Caravan & Motorhome Club site at Baltic Wharf. We really loved both the city and the site last year and wanted to go back whilst it is still open. The threat of closure still hangs over it sadly

The journey west was fine, taking just a little over 4 hours although having started in bright sunshine, the rain came as we progressed along the M4. Rosie performed well as per usual although she is now starting to show her age a little and there were signs that the clutch is approaching the end of its life with the merest of  slippage whilst climbing Handcross Hill on A23. It’s a challenging climb with a tonne and a half on the back but she’s been fine since. We’ll be keeping a close eye on her though with our Easter break up north coming up in less than a month.

Our friends Neil & Dave were already on site and we met most evenings for the inevitable research expeditions. The Cottage, just a couple of minutes walk from the site has had a bit of a makeover, reflected in both the menu and bar prices. We ate there only once. The Nova Scotia just a few minutes walk further around the Harbour became a of the venue of choice for grog and grub. Excellent value meals and a great old fashioned boozer too.

The excellent Bristol Ferry service came in handy once again not least for a visit to the theatre to see Wicked, the city centre stop being just  a couple of minutes walk from the Hippodrome.  It's a lovely theatre, the seats were good (thanks Neil & Dave) and at the show was excellent.  Word of advice though, if you fancy a pre or post shown libation, the pub to the right of the theatre is a much better value than of the piano bar to the left. I speak from experience.

The weather tried to play it’s part as it was generally either bitterly cold or wet, however that didn't stop us getting out and about and a return to Portishead’s marina area was first up - and what a difference since we were last there in 2013.

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One of Patsy’s hot water pipes had split at some point, indicated by the rather soggy carpets we were greeted with on our return. Fortunately a local dealer had the necessary parts - and were open late on a Sunday afternoon too. Thanks AJM Leisure for helping us out.

The train took the strain for a trip to Gloucester Docks and whilst we could have jumped on the Bristol Ferry to get to Temple Meads station, we opted instead for the bus which, we’d discovered stopped right outside the site and deposited us across the road from the station in around 10 minutes. It’s a free service runs in a loop and continues on to the Broadmead shopping centre and into the city. Very handy but do make sure you wave it down though as we were subjected to a lecture on bus hailing etiquette on boarding….

It clearly wasn’t our day for buses. Whilst Gloucester Docks was easily walkable from the station, we’d added bus travel to the tickets for a bit of flexibility. We jumped on the  bus and soon we were on our way. To erm, Cheltenham! Note to self - if you ask for directions, it’s best to actually listen to the answer! Anyway, we got there in the end. One of many dockland redevelopments around the country it did have a nice feel to it, though clearly the adjacent Quays outlet shopping area had taken it’s toll on the city centre. We’ve seen this so many times - when will councils ever learn? The Cathedral looked fantastic though and the work they are doing in the surrounding gardens will look great when complete.

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Just a ten minute drive from the site is Bailey of Bristol caravan and motorhome manufacturers and were were treated to a fascinating tour around the factory. No pictures of inside were allowed but you do get to see me in something other than black! Big thanks to Bart for taking the time to show us around.

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A visit to Oakham Treasures came as a recommendation from friends and it didn’t disappoint. A wonderful collection of farming and retail memorabilia from times past with carefully recreated shops from an age where everything was behind the counter. A truly fascinating collection and while we certainly spent longer there than we thought we would you could easily make a day of it. Or More. The spacious and sensibly priced café is a great excuse to refuel before, during or after your visit. Caravanners and Motorhomers may be interested in the all weather pitches with electric hook up.

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Our final excursion of the week was to the Clifton Observatory, located believe it or not, above the Clifton Suspension Bridge. For four quid you get to ascend and get a look at the Camera Obscura and descend into Giants Cave which opens out onto the Avon Gorge. The descent to the cave is steep and quite narrow and for once I was glad to not be wearing my trusty winklepickers.

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If you don’t do either though the area around the Observatory is a great place for a walk and you are still blessed with stunning views of the bridge and gorge below.

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And that was half-term over. Another great stay in a city we both really like. The Bristol Ferry service is so handy and - one bus driver aside - folks are really friendly and helpful. My desire to return again is tempered by the knowledge that there is so much more to see in the country of ours.

Right, until next time - which ain’t that far away - thanks as always for reading.

Cheers & Beers

Rich & Trev


Tuesday, 13 February 2018

LED Lighting Update

I know I shouldn’t go on about a woman’s age, but there’s no getting away from it - Patsy our lovely Coachman Caravan is getting on a bit. And whilst she’s extremely well endowed in the lighting department it is of it’s time - that is, all relatively power hungry filament bulbs.

Within a year of buying her we changed the awning light to a more modern LED based unit - the fan on the charger unit under the bench seat would cut in almost immediately after the light was switched on. And it was yellowing and looking generally tired anyway.

But it wasn’t until we became aware of a lighting company specialising in low voltage LED lighting for the leisure market that we started pondering the interior lights in the ‘van too.

It’s worth pointing out at this juncture that we don’t generally go off-grid. Only once to my knowledge have we had to rely on the caravan’s battery and that was when there was a power cut on site! So what then you might think. I’ve heard the argument that - you’ve paid for the electric just use it - but it’s not an argument I accept. Reducing our power consumption is a good thing for this planet of ours never mind the wallet or purse.

However, making changes that would reduce our power needs would also give us more flexibility in planning future caravanning trips and with this in mind we got in touch with aforementioned company Aten Lighting.

I contacted them through Twitter and not really knowing what I was looking for they suggested emailing in pictures of the current light fittings to ascertain our needs. Within 24 hours of doing this they came back with a list and some options regarding brightness and whiteness. The order was placed and was delivered the very next day.

20180211_191153We elected to keep all but two of the current fittings, changing just the one we’d fitted over the hob and the one in the wardrobe. Two ‘colour temperatures’ were offered - the bright white more commonly associated with LED’s we felt just wouldn’t work with Patsy’s décor so we opted for the warm white which is intended to replicate the light offered by the existing filament lamps.20180211_191457

Fitting was straightforward - the LED units are a little larger than the filament bulbs they replaced but I changed them all inside 15 minutes, being careful not to bend the pins. The replacement fittings for over the hob and the wardrobe will have to wait as some numpty (that will be me then) left the toolbox at home. But I’ll update the blog with some photo’s when I’ve done so.

So, what’s the lighting look like? Exactly the same - which is just what we wanted. The warm white option almost exactly replicates the old filament bulbs and looks great in Patsy’s interior and each light uses roughly one tenth of the power now. A drastic reduction in usage that not only gives us more options for going off-grid but also considerably reduces the demands on the charging unit when hooked up.

Right, costs. We bought 13 lamps and two fittings for just over a hundred quid including delivery. A sizable outlay I know but we’ll certainly never need to replace them, they’ll give us greater flexibility and we’re also doing our bit.

20180211_192351As I mentioned, they offer two colour temperatures - but you can also opt for brighter bulbs too giving you the option of upgrading existing lighting without the expense and hassle of changing the fitting.

Thanks to Aten Lighting for their friendly, helpful and prompt service. Do please check them out as they not only do bulbs but a range of fittings too - not just for caravans or motorhomes but boats and other vehicles too.

Aten Lighting are at the NEC Camping, Caravan & Motorhome show from 20th-25th February 2018 on stand 1032 in Hall 1 and you can find them on Twitter & Facebook too.

We’ve also made a short video to accompany the blog which you can find on our YouTube channel HERE.

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Monday, 5 February 2018

514: McMullen - Hertford Castle

20180204_200119UntitledWhat they say: “A fine brew from McMullen at The Whole Hop Brewery, combining natural whole leaf arome hops, best Suffolk malted barley and McMullen’s own pure spring water. Late hopping adds a subtlety to the traditional recipe, creating a truly distinctive taste for the ale connoisseur.”

I first tried McMullen beers just over a year ago at one of their pubs near Enfield and enjoyed them all so was delighted to find another, this time in bottled form. Strong, but didn’t taste especially so to my palate. Enjoyed. 5.0% A.B.V. February 2018.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

513: Tring – Ridgeway

20180203_210723What they say: “An ever popular stalwart of our range, Ridgeway is defined by the finest UK malts balanced with the fruity characteristics of Styrian Goldings hops. This is a classic English ale at it’s most refined and drinkable……..We particularly like this one with rich hearty meals. A boeuf bourguignon or mushroom stroganoff on a cold winters evening.”

Well, I didn’t get to pair this with anything as exotic but it did make a very nice accompaniment to a packet of cheddars.  This was the first beer I’ve tried from this Hertfordshire brewery, procured during our stay at the Wyatts Covert CAMC site in Denham, Bucks in October 2017. It’s been sitting in the cupboard for far too long. An enjoyable pint,  well 500ml then! 4.0% A.B.V.

February 2018