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.

Monday, 23 July 2018

The Triple Eight Tour | Part 4 - Wiltshire

To those on social media who already know that we’ve been staying at Longleat Caravan & Motorhome Club, The Lion Sleeps Tonight is an appallingly corny musical reference to the fact that we’ve been adjacent the famous safari park for the last week. However it is the most recent performers of the song - in the early eighties - that gave me another tenuous link - as the groups’ name - Tight Fit - is an increasingly accurate description of the waistband of many of my clothes, not least my trusty leather trews that got a rare summer outing at the launch of the Bailey Phoenix in Swindon this week. Yes, like last year we abandoned Patsy for the night leaving her in the care of the lovely wardens on site for a night away prior to the launch so I could get all my photos and get a blog ready for when the embargo was lifted. Caravanning may be good for many things - but my waistline isn't one of them!

Fellow caravanning vlogger Martin joined us in staying over and  having had a nightmare of a journey down from the north-west was keen to get stuck in to some research. It was well past the witching hour when we finally retired.

The day itself saw the coming together of many bloggers & vloggers quite a few of which we had never met in person so it was a great opportunity to catch up. Having clicked away the day before we were able to enjoy the morning but did get the opportunity to record several ‘Natters’ for our weekly Sunday night video series on YouTube. After lunch, with the departure of the guests and the caravans we adjourned to Cirencester club site to continue the chat with caravanning pals Karla, Stephen, Juliet & Phil. There is a photo special which you can find HERE.

So apart from the launch - and many congratulations if you somehow avoided the social media blitz - what have we been up to?

Well, let me tell you something - it’s not compulsory to visit the Safari Park if you stay here. Because we didn’t. Yes, I’m sure it’s terrific - enough people have said how much they’ve enjoyed it - but the thing is we wanted to see what else Wiltshire had to offer. And after having done the Cotswold Wildlife Park earlier in the trip and was not top of the list and what with the Bailey Phoenix launch we ran out of time. This time.

The little town of Warminster, about a ten minute drive from the site was a pleasant place to walk around and I was grateful to find a shop selling cheap compatible cartridges for my awkward old inkjet printer. An interesting selection of pubs too that have sadly all remained un-researched.

Dents - leather glove manufacturers - had their factory shop on the outskirts, so yes a visit was paid and yes a pair (ok, another pair as Trev said more than once!) was procured.

The infamous White Horse can be seen from Westbury, just a few miles further away and whilst it is stunning, it was also worth a drive up to Bratton Camp - you could walk from there to said horse but we stayed by the road and the views over Wiltshire were superb. This is a county I’m liking more and more.

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My heart sank as we spotted the retail park on the way into Trowbridge and sure enough here was a town centre that didn’t appear in the best of health. I’ve seen this so many times on our travels around Britain. Retail parks with easy access and parking sucking the life out of town centres and then local councils wondering what to do about it.

The park though was a pleasant place for a stroll though and the sensory garden looked lovely too.

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A little further north was Bradford-on-Avon and if you’re looking for picture postcard towns then you’ve come to the right place. The scene - as we arrived from the south was wonderful. Another great place to explore but a bit hilly:

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You may have recalled me talking about Treasure Trails in previous blogs - we did one in Moreton-in-Marsh and in the Swansea Maritime Quarter. Next on the list was Frome - hence the need for ink cartridges to print it off. This was certainly the toughest so far - not least because of the hills and my blimmin’ knee but some of the clues were pretty tough too. Good fun though and a great way to explore.

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We were told about Heavens Gate by a number of people - both on line and on site and - what a good suggestion it was. From the (free) car park a fifteen minute walk rewarded us with cracking views over Longleat House and estate.

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Another recommendation was Shearwater lake  - about fifteen minutes drive from the site. A great spot to fish - if that’s your thing, stroll, run (yeah, right) or just sit and enjoy (that’s better). Again, local knowledge and that of experienced travellers beats a guide book any day. Which is just as well as we didn’t have one!

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A good half an hour drive from the site was Lacock Abbey & Village under the stewardship of the National Trust. The village is a delight to walk around particularly if you can imagine it without the cars and the Abbey with it’s medieval cloisters provided some welcome respite from the heat. Lacock is where, in August 1835 a chap by the name of William Henry Fox Talbot captured the world’s first photographic negative - of a window at his home - the abbey. More recently has been used for a number of films including Harry Potter.

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There was no pub within walking distance of the site - not the sort of distance we would walk anyway, but the Royal Oak served up a great Hunters Chicken (for me) and Gammon (for Trev). Two other pubs we visited - the Horse & Groom and Cross Keys - purely in the interests of research obviously - were both community run and very well patronised. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

And that was our week in Wiltshire - and a little bit in Somerset. A real mixed bag of a week but an enjoyable one and a big thank you must go to wardens Gail & Mark and Lorraine & Neil for looking after us - and Patsy. As I type this we are a day into our fifth stop having had a trouble free tow across the country and around the M25 where dear old Rosie belied her advancing years - and increasing mileage - with an excellent 31mpg.

Look out for Site Tours, Site Arrivals and more coming on our YouTube channel this week.

Thanks, as always and until next time,

Cheers & Beers

Rich & Trev

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Friday, 20 July 2018

The Bailey Phoenix Photo Special

Once again we were delighted to be invited - along with other bloggers and vloggers - to the launch of a new caravan. Last year it was the latest incarnation of the Unicorn, Bailey’s top of the range model. This year it’s an entry level ‘van - christened ‘The First Choice’ - The seven layout range entitled Phoenix.

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Taking over from the Pursuit there are a number of features that Bailey hope will make it stand out from similarly priced models from manufacturers.

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We’ve seen to a return to the stable door - a clear wish for the majority on one of our recent polls, although at this price point there is no window in the door, however the large front vertical skylight brings it into line with stablemates Unicorn & Pegasus and does a great job of making the ‘van light and airy but with integrated fly and sun screens to keep the rays and bugs away when necessary.

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Something we didn’t expect to see on a budget ‘van is a flyscreen but it’s included here - apt considering the summer we’re having.

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An internal grab handle has been added to the right of the door as you enter - a welcome addition for the less mobile, young kids and those who have perhaps being overdoing the erm, research.

In the kitchen area a four burner hob remains with a drop down worktop cover and opposite the microwave is at last at a height you don’t need a pair of steps to reach.

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Whilst the bathrooms may be slightly smaller - due in part to the caravan being narrower than it’s stablemates,the decent sized shower cubicle remains and there is a rooflight directly above the cubicle to help prevent condensation build up when showering.

In the lounge areas neutral fabric colour schemes make it easier to accessorise and we’ve seen the spot lights with integrated USB sockets make their way from the Unicorn although not throughout the entire ‘van.

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Moving to the outside, there is no front locker but on three of the range there is extra space around the toilet cassette - handy for chemicals, bucket, watering can and so on. The toilet is thankfully on the offside - but oddly the mains inlet socket isn’t.DSC_0045

So, lets get to the price. The range starts at £16,699 for the two berth 420 and even the 6 berth twin axle comes in at under £20,000. So on the face of it you get a lot of ‘van for your money - and from what we’ve seen you do.

DSC_0027There are a few things missing though to help keep the costs down - ATC (trailer control) although that is available as an extra for £425. Heating is Truma’s blown air and you wont find external mains sockets or gas points. Unlike the Unicorn & Pegasus there is no solar panel and Truma’s iNet system is an optional extra.

We’ve mentioned before that our next ‘van is likely to be with fixed single rear beds and end bathroom and being current owners of an old Coachman we’ve always kept an eye on their offering in that layout.

The Phoenix incarnation impressed us though - light and airy and what you lose in front locker space you gain in the length of lounge seating. There is hardly any compromise in length for having fixed beds. The other thing is the price - The Phoenix 642 comes in at nearly two thousand pounds cheaper than Coachman’s entry level model in the same layout. Food for thought, but irrelevant to us we have no desire to get rid of Patsy.

So there it is, the Bailey Phoenix. For more details go to www.baileyofbristol.co.uk. I hope you’ve enjoyed our little photos special. More from the Triple Eight tour soon.

Cheers as always

Rich & Trev

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