Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Colchester Holiday Park and Clumber Park, Worksop

Monday, 15th January 2018

We leave Colchester and head toward home, but, we have decided on a "stop-over" at Clumber Park Caravan and Motorhome Club Site.

A not very enjoyable drive of approximately 150 miles, most of which is in torrential rain.

Clumber Park Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, is about 20 miles south of Doncaster, so, would be a reasonable location for a short break from home, (for us) being within 2.5 - 3 hours drive, and Motorhome speeds. This provides an ideal opportunity to see if the site lives up to it's description, in the Campsite Book.

The site is fairly typical of Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, well organised, clean tidy, and, at £16/night, it is reasonably priced (for the UK).

 The only unusual thing is, there appears to be a security problem, there are signs at various points warning not to leave valuable in awnings, and, warning of bicycle theft. They even have a secure bicycle store, for use by members. Have not seen this at any other CAMC site, and, find it rather puzzling, since we are in the middle of nowhere, not even a mobile phone signal!

The grounds are certainly impressive, very extensive with walking and cycling opportunities, and, since we are National Trust Members (courtesy of brother Brian and sister-in-law Linda), we can enjoy the National Trust bits for free.

Clumber Park was once the Country Estate of the Dukes of Newcastle. Not sure what any of them ever did to deserve to own such a large Estate, clearly the "Honours List" is not a new Gravy Train.

The only downside is, it is rather remote, it is a little over a mile from the entrance gate to the site, I shudder to think how far it is to the nearest shop, so, a site to visit with the fridge and freezer stocked up!

On balance, I think we will be back, plenty of walking and cycling opportunities, two of our favourite pastimes.

Tuesday, 16th January 2018

The drive 140 mile home, with a strong wind blowing sleet and snow across the A1.

Home again, time to think where to go next! 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Colchester Holiday Park, 13/01/2018 - 14/01/2018

Saturday, 13th January 2018

Cloudy and cold, but, dry. For January, in the UK, that counts as good weather!

A "take it easy morning" reading and generally lying about.

A 5 mile walk after lunch, ending up in, a very busy, Colchester Town Centre. A little shopping, followed by a bus ride back to the van.

Sunday, 14th January 2018

Weather much the same as yesterday, cloudy, cold, but dry, perhaps, slightly milder than yesterday.

Sunday means Church for Kathleen, so, she is off to walk the mile or so to the nearest Catholic Church. I am instructed to meet her after Mass (12:00). This is described as being so that I do not have to "hang about" waiting for her, in the cold, if I walk to Church with her. But, I am wise enough to know that it is really to prevent me strolling around whilst she is in Church, and getting ahead of her on the Runkeeper miles.

We find yet another route back from the church, slightly longer at 1.8 miles (instead of 1.3 miles), but, more scenic and pleasant, since most of it is a dedicated cycle track / footpath, and more scenic than walking along the main road.

A pleasant Sunday Lunch (courtesy of Marks & Spencer, two dine for £10), and an afternoon of reading and relaxing.


Friday, 12 January 2018

Colchester Holiday Park, 11/01/2018 - 12/01/2018

Thursday, 11th January 2018

The weather forecast is wrong, it is raining, again!

Not to worry, today is "haircare day", so, nothing is going to happen this morning, before about 11:00am.

I busy myself washing last nights dinner dishes (yes, disgraceful, should have done it last night, I know), then, "play" on the internet, until the Kathleen's hair is declared to be satisfactory.

By 11:30, the rain has reduced to a slight drizzle, so, we walk into Colchester. 

Yesterday, when we booked in, the chap on reception told Kathleen that it was about 1.6 miles walk to Colchester City Centre, and that all of his "continental" visitors walked it, whilst most of his UK visitors took a taxi.

We presumably went wrong somewhere because, we arrive with a figure of 3 miles on our Runkeeper App.

Lunch in Colchester, then walk back, slightly shorter this time, giving us a total of 5.3 miles, for which, there is no sensible explanation!

Colchester seems to be a pleasant small town. The town centre has a number of narrow and quaint streets. There are a mix of old and new buildings, but, generally, the new have been built in a style which fits in with the old, giving a generally pleasing result.

There are a range of shops, but sadly(?) after walking three miles to get hear, Kathleen is not keen on walking around the shops, what a shame(?).

Friday 12th January 2018

Weather has brightened a little, not raining, even a brief period of sunshine, around lunch-time.

This site is not badly placed from a Motorhomers point of view, a short walk from the site (just over half a mile), brings you to Lexden Road, where there are several regular bus routes, which will take you to Colchester, Cheltenham, and various other places. There is also a railway station, with trains to London. The site itself is clean and tidy, and the Reception Staff friendly and helpful. The main down side is, it is located near two busy roads, and there is noticeable traffic noise. The site accepts ACSI discount card, making the price £18/night (two people, Motorhome/Caravan, EHU) reasonable by UK standards.

Since weekend is approaching, Kathleen's thoughts turn to how is she going to attend church. Google tells us there is a Catholic Church, about a mile away, with Mass on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. 

This morning we walk to find the church, not problem, it is about one mile away. On our return route, we pass an Aldi, and call in for milk and bread. As always, the "Aldi Special Buys" catch our attention, and we emerge with various extras, including an LED Torch, some "treats" (chocolate) and yet another door-mat. Expensive carton or milk and loaf of bread that was!

The bright weather returns, briefly, after lunch, so we manage to fit a walk exploring the available signposted walking routes, plenty of promise here for a future visit in better weather.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

New Van, first outing

Tuesday, 9th January 2018

We took delivery of our new Chausson Welcome 610, December 18th, but, a combination of winter colds and Christmas has prevented us actually using it.

We plan to have a week away, to Colchester, to familiarise ourselves with the operation of the various bits and pieces, and, to check for any gremlins. There is also a need to become familiar with driving the van, it has a Fiat Comfort-matic gearbox, which is an automatic. It is simple enough really, but, fifty years of reaching for the gear-change is a difficult habit to break!

First problem, when I attempt to fill the fresh water tank with a small amount of water, to use en-route, I find that as fast as I pour water into the tank, it runs out again from a drain under the van.

Although I do not recall any hand-over information, referencing drains under the van (quite the contrary, I am sure we were told the drain mechanism was in the service hatch). After spending a fruitless hour searching for a tap, which may have been left "open'. A telephone call to the dealer is the next step. Eventually, three phone calls later, it would appear there is a part missing, the fresh water tank "drain bung".

A journey to the dealer, fifteen miles away, and, all is fixed. everything is very friendly and amicable, but, it is irritating that they do not seem to understand that these things just should not happen, clearly they need pre-delivery check list, which is actually used!

By the time we are "up and running', it is too late to make the journey to Colchester, so, we reset the sat-nav and head for York (Rowntree Park Caravan and Motorhome Club Site), roughly 80 miles away, and, "on the way" to Colchester, should we decide to go there. We know Rowntree Park is open at this time of year, but, we also know it is a very popular site, which is often full. Kathleen attempts to telephone them as we drive, but, is continually passed to an answer phone.

Eventually, we arrive, and, things are beginning to go right, they have spaces.

Next problem, Kathleen attempts to rustle up some lunch, only to find that the ignitor for the gas hob is not working. Thus far, two gremlins! Because we have Electric Hook Up, Kathleen is able to use the Electric hotplate on the hob, until we obtain some matches to allow us to use the gas hob.

Although Kathleen, efficient as ever, has a meal "planned" for this evening, after the hassle we have had today, we decide to walk into York and eat.

Next problem (not down to the dealer this one), the TV is not yet fully installed, since I am waiting for fixings. We discover the portable arial, which works fine at home, does not work in York, so, Kathleen is reduced to watching a film on DVD.

It is January, in the UK, so, you cannot expect too much of the weather. We are not disappointed, rain none stop all night, and freezing cold. Actually, we have been to York several times in January, and, there was a period when I was working at an Crown Prosecution Service office in York. Come to think of it, for some reason, in winter, it does seem to be a very cold place, makes you wonder why the Saxons, Romans and Vikings settled here? 

I suppose, as new Motorhome experiences go, today has been moderately successful, one fault fixed, and a second which, although annoying, is not a "show stopper".

Certainly, with this van, as compared to the Autotrail Apache 632 (which was also a Fiat Ducato base vehicle), the driving experience is better. This van has the Fiat lowered chassis and wider track, specifically meant for Motorhomes, and, it feels much move "poised" and "steady", at motorway speeds. Still cannot quite get used to the van deciding when it will change gear, rather than me, but, it will come, i am sure, at which point, I will probably forget to change gear when driving the car!.

Wednesday, 10th January 2018

We return to the original plan, ie, Colchester.

It is a dismal drive of 211 miles, pouring rain, for most of the way, but, as we approach Colchester, the rain stops and, there is even a patch or two of blue sky.

The "good" weather does not last, by 16:30 it is raining steadily.

The campsite is from the 2018 ACSI book, Colchester Holiday Park, Cymbeline Way, CO3 4AG, (N51 53' 32" E0 51'42"). At £18/night, it is reasonably priced. Until very recently, there were very few ACSI affiliated sites in the UK, this appears to be changing, with approximately 40 sites listed in the 2018 ACSI Book.

We are still experimenting with the various cupboards and storage spaces in our new van, so, it comes as little surprise when Kathleen cannot find the book she is reading. This causes me great amusement, since Kathleen prides herself on being "tidy", whilst berating me for being "untidy". The book is eventually found, in the same storage slot as my book. I manage to hide my amusement!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

29/09/2017; St Neots C&CC Site

Friday, 29th September 2017

St Neots Camping and Caravan Club Site.

Overnight rain, but, although the weather forecast looks dismal, the day turns out quite pleasant.

We have a day trip to Cambridge, about 20 miles away. on the excellent X5 bus service.

Kathleen was suffering retail withdrawal symptoms, we have been away for two weeks, and, she has not been in a Marks and Spencer or a Next. This was rectified today, plus a visit to a Market in Cambridge. Kathleen has depleted her bank balance.

Saturday, 30th September 2017

Another beautiful autumn day. Cool, but, calm, sunny and blue skies.

Kathleen decides to play with the site washing machine/dryer, because the "washing bag" is full to overflowing.

We are "winding down" to going home, we manage to have, for perhaps the last time this summer, an hour of sitting outside in the sunshine.

Sunday, 1st October 2017

Overnight rain, and still raining steadily in the morning, according to the TV Weather forecast, this is the remnants of two recent hurricanes, which have made their way over the Atlantic to batter the UK. It is probably President Trump to blame, he seems to be responsible for just about everything unpleasant, according to the "Mainstream Media" and "Social Media".

Kathleen does her "Sunday duty" and visits the local Catholic Church, then, Sunday Lunch in the Bridge House, next to the river. The Bridge House is a pleasant place, good riverside location, etc, but, best to choose another place for your Sunday Lunch, in my humble opinion.

Monday, 2nd October 2017

The weather forecast says gale force winds, but, we wake to a sunny and calm day, however, as the day wears on and we head North towards home, the gale force winds make themselves felt.

An uneventful and mostly traffic free journey home, but, there is seldom a "clear run" on UK motorways, and true to form we do have a 15-20 minute hold up, south of Doncaster, do to a small accident.

Home again, everything in order.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

27/09/2017; St Neots C&CC Site

Wednesday, 27th September 2017

St Neots Camping and Caravan Club Site.

Dry buy cloudy start to the day, but, by 10:00, the sun is breaking through the cloud, and, BBC Weather promises 20C for later today.

Today, we have promised ourselves we will cycle to Grafham Water. According to various information I have found on the internet, the distance quoted from St Neots to Grafham Water is anything between 6 miles and 11 miles. I tell Kathleen it is seven miles.

I researched the route very carefully, so we do not get lost, not that Kathleen would complain, or create a fuss, you understand.

Most of the route follows a National Cycle Route (NCN 12). These routes, as I understand it, are supposed to be suitable for any type of bicycles, and all cyclists, including families with children.


I do read some critical comments about NCN 12 on the internet, but, I keep this information to myself, no point provoking grumbling in the ranks.

We leave St Neots on a well signposted, well surfaced cycle track, so far, so good. This continues as we cross over the A1, on a bridge, through the village of Hail Weston, on, through a ford (Kathleen uses the bridge), we have done about five miles, and, all tarmac, so far.

We come to a junction, which, I was expecting, from my route planning, where we join a gravel farm track. It is a little rutted, from heavy farm machinery, slight grumbling is heard.

Soon, we are back on a quiet tarmac lane.

But, it does not last for long, the signposting takes us off the tarmac lane and onto a rutted and overgrown farm track.

I have to admit, it is rather difficult going.

Grumbling level increases significantly.

Kathleen decides it is easier to walk than to attempt to negotiate the narrow gravel strip, avoiding the protruding large stones.

Eventually, we emerge onto a tarmac track again, and, soon we are at Grafham Water.

Approximately 8 miles from St Neots.

I suggest we cycle the 8-10 miles around Grafham Water, nothing doing, instead we cycle to the cafe/visitor centre and have refreshments. Fortunately, they sell Tunnocks Teacakes, a particular favourite of Kathleen's, almost, but, not quite a smile.

We cycle in the opposite direction, to what we assume is another cafe/visitor centre, but, it appears to be a "Water Adventure Centre", for school children, with no facilities for casual visitors, who left school some 55 years ago!

We retrace our route, to St Neots, 19.5 miles in total, not a bad little ride out, in my opinion.

Thursday, 28th September 2017.

Heavy rain, overnight, and a grey start to the day, but, 10:00 and the sun is breaking through the clouds.

After yesterday's cycle ride, today is more restful.

Aldi have their "Cycling Special Buys" today, so, we walk to the Aldi a short distance along the road and buy various items of cycling winter wear.

Next, a trip to Il Girasole, a rather nice Italian Restaurant, near the Market Square, in St Neots, where we have an excellent lunch, with too much food, and, if such a thing is possible, too much wine!

Somehow, despite the wine, we manage to cycle back to Aldi, to exchange one of Kathleen's items of cycling clothing for a bigger size.

Fortunately, the late afternoon is warm and sunny, so, we spend the rest of the afternoon lazing and snoozing in the sunshine. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

25/09/2017; Ashridge Farm Caravan Club Site and St Neots C&CC Site

Ashridge Farm Caravan Club Site

Looks as if we have used up all of the good weather here. Heavy rain overnight, which continues in the morning, I should have packed everything away last night, while it was dry!

The rain does eventually stop, but, it is, never-the-less a dull grey drive of approximately 25 miles to St Neots, Camping and Caravan Club Site, N52° 13.227' W0° 16.458'.

On our way to the campsite, my navigational assistant (Kathleen) failed to heed the warning in the Caravan Club instructions, to avoid driving through the village of Ashwell, because the roads were narrow and clogged with parked cars, and, so, we had a nail-biting trip through the village. The Navigational Assistant was fully alert this morning so, we avoided the village centre and headed for the Baldock Bypass.


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St Neots is a much larger site than Ashridge and is considerably nearer to a sizeable town (ie less than a mile walk via the shortest route, or about a mile via the scenic route along the River Great Ouse).

A stroll into town to explore, and establish the whereabouts of the Catholic Church, is about the sum total of our exertions.

Tuesday, 26th September 2017

A grey and misty start to the day, but, by 11:00 sunshine and cloud, and a pleasant 19C.

There is a cycle track, right at the entrance to the campsite, so, we set off to explore where it goes.

We soon find there is a network of cycle tracks, mostly well surfaced, but, we learn, not so well signposted! We have an OS Map of the area, but, even with the aid of the map, we do not know where we are, most of the time!

Lesson learned today, so much choice, leads to confusion, a detailed plan is required before we set off for Grafham Water (which is planned, so I am told).

We manage to cycle a little over 12 miles, without actually going anywhere!