The second of our two indoor shows this year, the NEC being a much bigger venue and show than the one at Manchester. Our theme this time was much more serious as the weekend included the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War. We had planned a display to celebrate the evolution of the motor-drawn caravan with the earliest being one of the very first Eccles caravans to be built. The most popular though, prove to be the little Sprite as so many people could be heard to say “we used to have a Sprite..”. Again we were kept busy with visitors and although we didn’t win a prize this time, we were honoured to be named as a runner-up in the Club Display category.
An indoor show was to be a new experience for us, with Manchester being the first of two this year. As setting up was to start early on the Friday morning, we decided to travel up on the Thursday and stay overnight in the caravan. The journey there involved quite a challenging drive over Saddleworth Moor with some quite hair-raising hills and bends to navigate. Christina’s choice of site proved to be a little dubious, and certainly nothing like it’s website portrayed, but we had an enjoyable evening with Chris and Cam and set off early the next morning to meet the rest of the gang just outside Event City. We were re-using part of the Carry On Camping display, and the shower scene again grabbed lots of attention. We even had some celebrities, namely Stig and Ed China, photographed in it. We were kept busy throughout both days with lots of visitors wanting to share their memories of caravan holidays, but the highlight of the weekend was when we were awarded the top prize for Best Club Display Stand. The journey home was a little more relaxed although still involved some pretty steep hills, and our stopover on the way back was much nicer, a pitch on a farm with lots of old cars in various states of disrepair.
The second of our three-in-a-row rallies was on home-turf, which meant that we were the hosts. We had been invited to display our caravans as part of the Sandringham Game and Country Fair, and after much discussion we had adopted the theme of ‘Carry-On..’ A team effort had resulted in signage, bunting, a ‘Camp Office’ and the very popular ‘Camp Shower’.
The weather stayed mainly dry, with Sunday the better day, which meant that there were lots of visitors to the show, many of whom wandered through our area and had their photos taken with Hattie and Kenneth in the shower!
Most of the RCC members attending had agreed to dress to the age of their caravan, which added to the display.
Other attractions at the show included the inevitable clay pigeon shooting, and of course we all had to have a go!
Horseboarding was something we hadn’t seen before – quite a spectacular new sport combining water/surf boarding with horse racing.
After 2 weeks at home, during which we gave the car and caravan some well-deserved tlc, cleaning, polishing and touching up some of the interior paintwork, it was time to hook-up again for the National Rally at Nuneaton. The sunshine had returned and we had an easy drive to arrive at Makins Fisheries by early afternoon. The rally field was on the edge of some beautiful fishing lakes and there was plenty of room for the 40+ caravans that attended. The whole weekend was great fun as we caught up with friends met at previous rallies as well as making new friends.
The beautiful Bluebird towed by a classic landcover won ‘People’s Choice’ of best caravan at the rally, with James’s Sprite, towed by his Morris, a well-deserved runner up.
The traditional Sunday coffee morning, which followed the AGM, was also the arena for judging the best caravan-baked cake. There was no argument over the winner – Alistair’s incredible Lemon Meringue Pie (although should a pie really win a cake competition?)
After just a few days at home following the two Triumph rallies, it was time to get back on the road and head towards Newbury for Retro Festival. We left quite early and after a brief lunch stop, arrived at the Newbury Showground to find that there was some confusion going on around where/how we were to pitch. After a phone call to CB, Paul donned his imaginary Hi-Vis jacket and assumed the role of ‘Boss’, a title which stuck with him for the whole weekend! With new arrivals coming in regularly, we were kept busy but seemed to manage to get everyone parked happily. With more arriving throughout Friday, and some shopping and preparation to be done for the ‘RCC Disco Nite’ we only had a little time to look around the rest of the show, which opened to the public on Friday evening, before the disco began. Thankfully the weather had improved as it would have been a shame to cover up our outfits!
The RCC had almost 40 caravans on display, although the new layout for the show meant that we had fewer visitors than last year. The music was just as good, though, and we spent an enjoyable 3 days chatting with friends and members of the public, as well as a little bit of dancing!
TSSC TriumFest at Shelsy Walsh
The continuing heatwave across the UK had led to much discussion about best departure and stop-over times to avoid traffic queues and the possibility of overheating the Herald. In the end we decided to leave around 8am with our first break after about 2 hours. Hinchingbrooke Country Park was the chosen destination and, with no delays on the way, we arrived there just before 10.00. There are height restrictions to the car park, but we managed to get into one of the bays reserved for horse boxes and other higher vehicles. It is a lovely little park, with woods and play areas, and a small café where we had a drink and shared a piece of cake. Definitely better than a motorway service station and one to remember for future stopovers, especially as the warden has said if we phone ahead he can make sure there is a space for us to park. We left at about 10.45, intending to stop again at Corley Services in another couple of hours. However, as it seemed to be getting hotter and hotter, Paul decided he would prefer to be clear of Birmingham and the possibility of delays before we stop again, and so we continued for another 45 minutes, by which time it seemed more sensible to just keep going and have lunch at the campsite. Unfortunately, after clearing the A14, M6, M42 and M5 with no delays, we hit roadworks just 10 miles from our destination, and faced the worst possible scenario – a long queue, in 30C heat, going uphill. The poor car was not happy, and it took lots of revving to keep her going. Thankfully we got to the end without her stopping and managed to reach the campsite just after 2pm. We were soon pitched up and sitting in the shade with our lunch, watching as the field filled up with campers. Refreshed and revived, we took a stroll down to the Paddocks to see some of the cars that would be racing over the weekend, but decided it was too hot to attempt to walk up the hill. After catching up with a few familiar faces, we had our customary first-night chilli then bed.
Saturday morning saw us all looking sky-ward as the heatwave seemed to have come to an end and the threatened storms seemed likely. The forecast was for showers off and on throughout the day so, armed with waterproofs, we took the Herald to the display area before setting off up the hill, stopping at several points to watch the cars racing up the hill. Paul was keen to join the Cavalcade of Triumphs as they paraded up the hill, so after a delayed start we drove up the track and a somewhat slower pace than the cars we had been watching earlier. By the evening, the wind and rain were becoming more persistent, and Christina was regretting leaving her boots at home, but Paul joined Mike and a few others up at the bar where a band was playing.
On Sunday morning, there was no doubting that the heatwave was over, and rain was set in for the day. Several tents had been blown away, and those that hadn’t were very wet, so most people were packing up by the time we had breakfast. We packed most of our things before having a last wander around the race area but decided there was little point in staying any longer and so finished packing, hooked up and left just after 11.00. We had a short journey to our next campsite, Somers Wood in Meriden, and so were thereby 1.00. The rain continued to come down, so we sat in the caravan until it stopped, had a walk around the site before dinner, then watched a film on the laptop.
By Monday morning, the rain had stopped, and the sunshine returned so that we had a quiet, relaxing midweek break. We felt a little overpowered sometimes as bigger units pulled in either side of us, but we felt quite sure that we wouldn’t have swapped with any of them!
TSSC Leicester and Rutland Sunshine Rally
We left Somers Wood on Friday morning, and called into the TSSC Headquarters and museum on the way to the Sunshine Rally at Rutland. It was good to finally see where Angie is based when she’s not out on the road cooking breakfasts and running the hospitality tent!
We arrived at the Rutland Sunshine Rally at about 2pm to a very warm welcome from the organisers. Colin joined us at around 5pm, and we worked together on the evening’s quiz, and chatted with other ralliers. On Saturday morning we set off for the run, with Christina navigating, Paul driving and Colin following behind as he was driving solo. We stopped at a working windmill, then Launde Abbey for refreshments. The best stopover though was Barnsdale Gardens where we spent a good couple of hours looking round the gardens that Geoff Hamilton created for the BBC Gardeners World programme, getting inspiration for our garden. When we got back to camp, Mike and Sue had arrived, so we opened a few bottles ready for the evening’s BBQ which was delicious. On Sunday morning we went by coach to Oakham for a Treasure Hunt, then back to camp for the show and shine, before gathering together for the competition results and raffle. We packed away and left at about 4.30, having had a really great weekend.
The Annual Norfolk TSSC Fish and Chip Run to Cromer. Once again, we arranged to catch up with the convoy in Dereham and were pleased to see 5 cars arrive soon after us. The recent hot spell seems to have encouraged more classic car owners out onto the roads and after a pleasant drive down to the cliffs it was great to see a total of 18 cars on show. The sun remained warm as we ate our fish and chips down by the seafront but by the time we left, around 9.30, the warmth had gone, leaving Christina wishing she had brought a warmer jacket for the journey home. A really enjoyable evening and good to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a while.
Following 3 weeks of non-stop work trying to get the house ready for our wedding, we had had a fantastic day but were both ready for a break. After cooking bacon rolls for those that turned up on Sunday morning and a doing a good tidy up we set off with the caravan. First stop was a one night treat at Lynford Hall Hotel. On the way we popped into Brick Kiln campsite to say goodbye to the RCC rally goers and other friends and ended up leaving with a “Just Married” sign on the back of the caravan.
After our first night at the hotel, we were soon heading along the M11 to the M25 and Dartford crossing. Our usual one or two beeps a journey had increased 10 fold thanks no doubt to the sign on the back.
Arriving at the pre-rally campsite we had chosen just outside Maidstone we started to realise how little prepared we were for our holiday. First trip would be a supermarket followed by car spares shop for some oil.
We had to pay an extra £2 for our new canopy but it was well worth it. Finally a bit of shade we could sit under instead of moving around the caravan as the sun went through its course.
So followed three days of total R’n’R interspersed with a trip to Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey and a wander around Maidstone.
Last day at the campsite and after getting told off for washing the car we hitched and took the slow road to the RCC rally at Fairfield Farm. Bravely parking the combo in the high street at Rolvenden we visited a small motor museum there. The museum housed mainly Morgans but there was also a rare Bampton caravan on display, which caught our interest.
We seem to be getting almost blasé about where we go and were we park with the combo as we stopped off at the Sovereign Light Cafe in Bexhill for some lunch and to pay homage to the Keane song. Again, parking on the side of the pavement.
This was followed by taking a combination of town centres and single track roads to our final destination, Fairfields Farm for the RCC rally.
This turned out to be a very restful weekend with the occassional cream tea and strolls around the area. The last day soon came around and after the usual coffee morning we set off home. Taking the side roads again we stopped off for a pub lunch in Eynsford. Yet again parking in the High Street. Then it was what appeared to be the long drive on the M25 and M11 to home.
Isle of Wight
After a very cold and wet day on Monday we were pleased to wake up to sunshine for the start of our journey. We did the final packing, Paul nipped over to the bungalow to quickly spray the weeds in the drive and by 9.30 we locked the door and drove away from the house, trying not to think too much about the fact that there is no bathroom, the drive looks like a builder’s yard, and there will only be 4 weeks til the wedding by the time we get back! Having checked Google Maps several times we had decided to go anti-clockwise around the M25, but a last check a few miles before the junction made us change our minds and so a quick DartTag purchase was made. We stopped for lunch at Clackett Lane Services and had our photo taken several times as we brewed up and ate our sandwiches! We arrived in Portsmouth around 3.30 and got onto the 16.00 ferry, an hour earlier than we had booked, which meant we drove onto the Isle of Wight around 17.00. we encountered the worst traffic jam of the whole journey as we drove from the ferry to the campsite, which meant a short 5-mile journey took well over half an hour. Check-in and pitch-up was all straight forward and we soon had the kettle on for a well needed cuppa and cake. The sun was still shining but there was quite a nip in the air, so we abandoned the idea of eating outside and enjoyed our traditional first night chilli in the warmth of the van. By 9.30 the excitement of the day had caught up with us so and early night was had.
As forecast, the rain was back today so we had a lazy morning in the ‘van, which was no bad thing given how tired we had been after our journey. The rain stopped just after midday and the sun came out soon after, so we put on our walking boots and set of along the old railway track to Shanklin. It seemed that Shanklin was just waking up from the winter, and getting ready for the coming season, as there was a lot of maintenance going on along the seafront. After an hour or so wandering along the esplanade and around the shops, we headed home after a short detour to Lidl to get provisions for the evening meal. By the time we got back we had both realised how unused to walking we have become! As soon as the sun went down it became quite chilly again and so dinner was cooked outside with coats on and eaten inside with the heater on.
The weather was forecast to be sunny but breezy all day today, so we decided to spend the day driving around the island, partly to check out the best towing routes back to Fishguard. Almost immediately we had ruled out going down to Ventnor as the road went steeply down to the town and then steeply back out again. We drove almost a complete circuit of the island, stopping off at The Needles for a picnic lunch. Although the sun was shining, there was still a cold wind and so coats were needed with the top down. After a shop-stop to get food for dinner we got back to the campsite for cake and a cuppa before Paul had a snooze and Christina got her nose stuck into a book. It was another chilly evening so by 9.00 we had battened down the hatches and got ready for bed.
Arrival day for most of the Triumph owners so we spent a while tidying and polishing our combo before setting out to do the circular walk to Godshill. Today was sunny and warm and we had a lovely walk across the fields, past flocks of sheep with their new born lambs. Godshill is a pretty village, very much geared towards the tourist, with tea shops and gift shops a-plenty. We visited the Model Village which proved to be extremely well set out and maintained. The models were really well made but we both also spent time admiring the clever planting as many ‘regular’ trees and shrubs are kept trimmed to be in scale with the model houses. One of the gift shops provided us with the perfect napkins for the wedding so we bought 4 packs before treating ourselves to an ice-cream and then heading back. As expected the campsite car park was filling up with Triumphs and a few more tents were being pitched. We had lunch whilst watching more people arrive, then went to officially check in and collect our weekend entertainment pack. The bar was open in the evening so we went along for a drink and a bit of socialising.
The first of the weekend’s activities was a run out to the Steam Railway. All the cars congregated on the top field for an 11am departure. The route was short and easy – no tulip directions, just photographs of the signs we had to follow. We arrived at the railway at about midday and found a table to eat our picnic. After spending some time looking around the various exhibits, which included an interesting video about how a group of teenagers in the 1960’s decided to save the railway and still volunteer on it today, we decided not to spend £23 on the train ride and returned to the campsite via a supermarket for provisions. Back at the caravan, Paul had a sleep while Christina read a book, then Paul made his speciality chicken curry which went down very nicely. We spent a couple of hours in the bar chatting to the 3J’s before returning, tired, to our bed.
Another, even shorter, run today, which took in some quite exciting hairpin bends down to Ventnor, for a BBQ lunch at the Cricket Club. Somehow around 60 Triumphs were squeezed into a very small car park and everyone found a space to sit in the sun, or shade. The sun was really out in force today making it a lovely relaxing day. We didn’t stay long at the cricket club, once we had eaten our burger and sausage, returning to chill out at the caravan, catching some sunshine (Paul even put shorts on, it was so warm!) After we had both had a snooze, we showered and changed ready for the evening entertainment. Arriving at the bar we tried to keep our heads down to avoid being roped into the games but we were found and joined in the frivolities. The ‘feely-bag’ game was a good one, and something we will keep up our sleeves for a caravan rally. However, the ‘eat a dry Weetabix’ and ‘who can eat 15 marshmallows quickest’ will probably not be repeated! The word search was easy but the ‘quiz’ was only possible for those with an encyclopaedic knowledge of spitfires. However, a good evening was spent making new friends and catching up with those met at earlier events, which meant we were still in the bar when ‘time’ was called.
Last day of the ‘event’ so during the morning we watched tents being packed away and provided coffee for those who had packed theirs. A short run to the Hare and Hounds pub was planned, with a lovely beer garden which we actually avoided because it was too hot! We shared a table with a mum and daughter from the Devon group, then had a brief look around the Arreton craft village before returning to the caravan. A lazy afternoon, with the only activity being a walk up to Appeldurcombe House to wander around the gardens what is left of the house. A good hour was spent working out the route for Wednesday and getting a load of washing done then Paul spent the evening chatting to some of the younger members of the TSSC, telling them about his youth with the club, while Christina got her nose stuck in a book.
Our last day on the IoW, so after packing away most of the ‘stuff’ (leaving out the bed for the journey this time, to see how that works) we went down to have a wander around Ventnor. The weather wasn’t so hot today and there was a sea mist making Ventor even cooler. We checked out all the charity shops then walked down a steep set of steps to have a coffee at the Spyglass Inn. Refreshed, and with the mist blown over, we walked the coastal path to Bonchurch then back up to pick up some fish and chips to eat on the seafront. After a quick stop-off at Tesco’s to get provisions for the next leg of our journey we returned to finish packing, shower and hook up to leave. Having changed our ferry crossing to 7pm so that we didn’t have too much time in Portsmouth, we still managed to arrive at Fishbourne before the 6pm ferry had gone so were ‘persuaded’ to go on it by the man at the check in who told us there was a lorry stuck on the 7pm boat so it might not be running. It must have been fate pushing us to go though, as we bumped into Christina’s old neighbour from about 7 years ago and had a very brief catch-up with her before docking. We also spent a lovely couple of hours walking along Portsmouth seafront and gardens before heading to the Cross-Channel ferry port to await our next crossing. Once on board we settled into our cabin to get as much sleep as possible before our journey to ECCR.
We shouldn’t have worried about oversleeping – the ding-dong at 6.30 to inform us that breakfast was being served got us up and ready to go. There was quite a queue to get through customs, but we were out and on the road just after 9am French time. Once again, we were grateful for the TomTom to get us out of the town centre and onto the right road, although later in the day we did have to switch it off and use the old fashioned paper map as Christina began to disagree with some of its decisions. Trying to avoid tolls in France can be difficult as nearly all the motorways have them. We decided it wasn’t worth paying to go on a fast road, when we can’t go above 45 mph, so stuck to the N roads, which are pretty good, long straight roads with very little traffic. Despite the anxious build up, the journey was pretty hassle-free, and the car coped really well considering the heat, distance and gradients the day threw at her. We stopped every 2-3 hours to let her cool down and to stretch our legs. Lunch was a picnic in a shady lay-by where we opened up the bonnet to cool the engine – this was prevention, not cure! We finally reached the campsite just after 9pm, so a full 12 hours on the road. Thankfully we had the bed already down, and our traditional first-night chilli ready to heat and eat. After sharing a drink and chat with other RCC members we could hold off the fatigue no longer and crawled into bed for some much-needed sleep.
Any hope of a lie-in was thwarted by the church bells sounding out at 7am so we put the kettle on and got ourselves up. The atmosphere of the campsite makes the journey worthwhile, with so many beautiful and unusual ‘vans to look at, and everyone friendly and happy to stop and chat about their caravans and the journey they had to get here. The campsite is on the banks of a river which forms the border between Germany and Luxembourg. The day was cooler than we have been used to, with light rain throughout the day. Neither of us was feeling particularly energetic so it was good to have a relaxed day. We went for a stroll into Echternach, the village on the Luxembourg side of the river, and bought a few provisions for our evening meal. Paul tried to have a snooze but kept getting disturbed by people wanting to read the info notice on the window. At 5pm everyone on camp gathered for the welcoming party, which involved unlimited free beer, then we all drifted back to the UK corner where we took our own meals to join together for a street-party style gathering. It was interesting to see the range of caravan meals, from risotto with wine through to our own mix of salad and cold meats. The evening went on until well after midnight, which was when we made our excuses and retired to bed.
The weather was back to being hot and sunny today, so we spent a relaxed morning looking round the caravans and chatting with other RCC members. We took a walk across to “Norma’s” supermarket for lunch then Paul withdrew to the caravan for a snooze (remembering to close the curtains today), then we went off in the car for a drive around the German mountainside. We got back in time for the “party evening” to learn that there was an hour delay, so we had time to shower and change at our leisure. The party consisted of more free beer, and wine, to accompany a meal of salad, bread and half a roast chicken. This was followed by a band playing some good dance music so Christina and a few other RCC members had a good boogie, joined now and again by Paul. The band stopped at 10.30 so we returned to the RCC area to find more music and dancing going on there. We stayed for a little while but then made our excuses and left for bed – another late night for us!
Open caravan and “flea market” today. We had brought our bag of pennants that we had bought from the auction and these proved to be very popular at one euro each. We sold about 50, mostly to RCC members, so it was worth bringing them! We had a look around the other stalls but managed to resist buying anything so ended the day better off than we had started. At about 4pm we went off to get petrol and to buy some of the bargain Cava for the wedding. Unfortunately, the garage where Chris had originally seen it had sold out of the one we wanted so we bought a box of the sweeter one from them before trying the supermarket next door. They had 8 bottles, and we bought 6 of them, leaving Cam to clear the shelf. We got back to the site just in time for the presentation of the prize for ‘most beautiful caravan” which went to a Belgian ‘van as had been predicted. A final gathering at 6.30 saw the closing speeches and presentation of gifts to the host country. Another ‘street party’ gathering was held but finished earlier than previous nights as everyone was preparing for their drives to home or next destination the following day.
We were up early and packed ready for our departure time of 9am, which was almost met! We convoyed out of the ECCR in grand style, with first stop 5 minutes away at the petrol station. Our actual departure time was 9.30 once all tyre pressures had been checked and tanks filled. Our estimated journey time of 5 hours actually became 6½ with only brief stops en route so we arrived at La Croix du Vieux Pont just after 4pm, feeling hungry and thirsty! Much of the journey had been through rain, which continued after our arrival. We managed to buy milk and bread at the shop on site and soon had the kettle on for a much-needed cuppa. After a wander around the site we had our evening meal and settled down for a quiet night in.
We awoke to more rain today so had a lie-in and a relaxed start to the day. Once the rain had stopped we took a wander around the site, which is another on the banks of a river. It’s a really big place with lots of cabins and fixed tents, as well as the touring pitches. After a coffee in the bar we returned to the caravan to read for a while before lunch. We enjoyed baguette from the camp bakery with ham, cheese and salad then spent the afternoon reading, snoozing and chatting with other RCC members. At about 6.00 we saw 5 of the others heading off to the swimming pool so decided to join them. We had the pool pretty much to ourselves and enjoyed about an hour in there before heading back to the caravan for dinner. We spent the evening in the bar, where Paul showed the younger ones how to play pool.
The sun was back today so we went for a walk to the local town. If you were to imagine a ‘typically French’ town, then this would pretty much fit the picture. There were café’s with tables outside, patisseries and boulangeries, a small chateau and hotel de ville. After a stroll there and back we spent the rest of the day doing very little, then went for another swim. We had planned to go for a meal in the restaurant with the rest of the RCC gang but the restaurant was closed when we got there so we bought pizza’s from the take-away and had another ‘street-party’. As we were planning on an early start the next day we bid our farewells before heading for bed by 10.00.
Time to go home! We were all packed up and ready to leave by 8.30. Pam was the only one up to wave us off, so it was a quiet departure. The journey went well, but took a lot longer than we had expected, with a mix of sat-nav and map reading. Unfortunately, we decided to follow the sat-nav at the end and realised too late that it was taking us to the motorway, which was not the best experience as there were lots of lorries passing us. We eventually made it to Calais and checked in to the Tunnel terminal. We had about half an hour topass before we could board so after a drink and loo stop we were called and drove onto the train. Half an hour later we arrived in Dover and set off on the final part of the journey, making it home just before 7.00. We went straight round to the Bell for something to eat and a drink to celebrate the fact that, once again, we had done it!