Good morning, it’s half term and it’s raining which can only mean one thing – we’re away in the caravan. Yes, Patsy 2 seems to have acquired her predecessor's traits and since we’ve been away I’ve had to get the bucket and sponge out. Twice.
Since the last blog we’ve been away again a couple of times – firstly over Easter up to Crystal Palace for a long weekend of erm, research and the chance to test out some products kindly sent in by companies eager for feedback on their products. Click HERE for a link to the reviews page to see how we got on. We also got to to see the excellent ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ at the Savoy Theatre in town starring Robert Lindsay. Very entertaining and well worth it.
Patsy has had some attention lavished on her too. A complete wash and polish the other weekend and the addition of a nautical style clock, hygrometer & thermometer trio procured all the way from the States – although made, not in China as you might expect but India. Anyway, back to the matter in hand.
It all began last Saturday, arriving at the storage compound nice and early and Trev put the clothes and food away whilst I carried out the pre-flight checks outside. All though clearly not all of them. We were about five minutes in to the journey when I noticed that we hadn’t put the towing mirrors on. Now, Trev was doing the first leg and many of you will know that he was a cabbie in a previous life so, not noticing the absence of the mirrors was hardly surprising. He does, on occasion actually use indicators these days but clearly old habits die hard.
We were travelling a little lighter too. Only one pair or leather jeans and even a pair of shorts and some t shirts made it in to my side of the wardrobe and I reluctantly left my trusty old leather coat at home – in hope rather than expectation that it would be too warm.
We were heading back to Wiltshire. Some may recall that we stayed in Devizes back in February, after switching sites due to the appalling weather. Our destination was Stonehenge Touring Park, which as the name suggests, is near to Stonehenge. Funny that.
I took over driving around half way, and having studied and printed out maps, was happy that I new where we were going, so I completely ignored the brown camping sign and instead carried on thinking there was a better way to the site further up. There wasn’t of course and we found a layby to pull into just as the heavens opened.
The Sat Nav app on my phone suggested I was right though so we carried on, turning off in to the next village as indicated and ending up at the back of a farm. Thankfully there was adequate space to turn, so my rudimentary reversing skills were not overly challenged.
Heading back, we turned off at the sign on to the caravanners favourite – a nice single track road with high verges and a bumpy, muddy passing place which I utilised when an impatient looking driver in an Audi appeared from the other direction. Is it me or do all Audi drivers look impatient? Anyway, after what seemed like ten miles although was barely more than one – caravanners will know what I mean – we found the site, tucked away in the little village of Orcheston.
The welcome at reception could not have been friendlier, and even the rain eased as we were shown to our pitch. Setting up was quick and we soon had the kettle on.
So, what of the site? Well, it’s really pretty – and compact. Just a dozen hard standing pitches for caravans and motorhomes and a large grassed area for tents of which there were many and the site was approaching capacity. Hardly surprising given that it was a bank holiday weekend AND half term. Our hard standing was quite narrow – room for the caravan and nothing else, although there were some larger ones at the far side. Facilities looked clean, tidy and well kept. The shop looked well stocked and mobile reception – on Three and Virgin - our networks of choice – was good. The site offers free WiFi – there’s no timecodes, cards, registration or logging on. It’s an open network though so perhaps best not to do your banking on it but it was very welcome nonetheless and something more sites should consider in my opinion. TV - the signal was weak but reception was fine. Also on offer was the chance to rent fire pits or a chiminea. What a great idea.
After a little snooze we decided that a research expedition was in order. The nearby village of Shrewton yielded two pubs but one had recently closed down and the remaining one did not open until 4pm. A drive around proved fruitless, however there were frequent reminders that you were on Salisbury Plain – in the form of signs warning of tanks crossing at various intervals. For those with blank expressions Salisbury Plain is where the army likes to practice and there are lots of camps around here too.
Eventually we happened upon the village of Tilshead – just up the road from the site – which yielded a hostelry which was actually open. No new beers to try, but the 6X was excellent and a large black Labrador made the most of the extra attention. On leaving I grabbed a photo of the pub sign – tacky or clever – what do you think?
That evening with the sun making a belated effort to put in an appearance we got the bbq out. The site was, by now, pretty full and the kids were loving it.
Sunday saw us in Salisbury, passing the already heaving Stonehenge Visitor Centre on the way. We’ve had the dubious pleasure of traversing the Ring Road that partially encircles Salisbury a couple of times so it was nice to at last get the chance to see the city itself. It’s Wiltshire's only city and it’s star attraction is without doubt it’s pretty cathedral, which is where we headed after a stroll through the market square. Entrance is free, although donations are strongly suggested but there are no restrictions on photography except in the Chapter House which houses one (and best) of just four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, which next year will be 800 years old. Incredible. Translations from the tiny Latin scrawl are available in many languages.
Back in the Nave you will find what is believed to be the worlds oldest clock – dating from 1386 and a stunning modern font with water that, despite a constant flow, is so still it acts as a mirror.
A walk around the boundary walls of the cathedral brought us back in to the town and the car park. Salisbury really deserved more of our time but once again my feet had had enough. Something that is starting to become a problem.
Monday, and it being a bank holiday, the rain was doing its best to make it’s presence felt, although we did manage a bbq’d breakfast before it got too bad. Andover was our chosen destination, not least because it meant traversing the A303 and a glimpse of the famous stones of Stonehenge. Clearly we weren't the only ones with the same idea and traffic was heavy and slow. We found a farm track to pull off in to and stopped to grab a few pictures. Now, I know I’m supposed to be impressed by them, and perhaps close up they look great. However, to be honest, they didn't do much for either of us and we were both glad we had decided not to fork out. Heathens? Probably but there it is.
For the record It’s nearly fourteen quid per person but free for National Trust or English Heritage members. Trev actually had the gift of a National Trust membership for his recent 60th birthday – thank you again T, J, S & l – but we have decided not to start it until after the summer holidays as we shall be in Ireland for most of them.
Andover. Well, functional is probably the best way to describe it although I guess only locals could tell you if that’s true. The weather was grey, damp and the rain was coming and going and to be fair nowhere looks at it’s best under those conditions. The expedition did yield something though – some new and more sensible footwear which will hopefully make things a little easier when we’re out and about. Early indications are promising. You will not be surprised to learn that they are, of course, black. Standards have to be maintained!
Tuesday saw us back on the road with Patsy 2 for the second part of our trip – south and west to Melplash, near Bridport in Dorset. Look out for another blog soon!