Wednesday, 25 January 2017

January 24th 2017: Moreton-in-Marsh: Day 4

Monty the Motorhome is back home after a short winter break.

Last night was another cold one. This morning I went to get some water and found all the outside taps frozen solid, even those protected by wooden cladding.

We stayed at Moreton this morning to attend the Tuesday market. This is a much hyped weekly event which is supposed to bring visitors in from far and wide.
Well we were mighty disappointed as there were only a small number of food stalls, along with a smattering of tat, shoes and cheap clothing. Perhaps it is more of an event in the summer months.
We ended up buying some decent looking sprouts and a couple of sausage rolls for lunch.

After a quick walk through we decided to have a coffee and found a small cafe that looked very inviting. Shortly after ordering the waiter apologised that the machine had been switched off overnight and would take a while to warm up. No problem for us, so we sat and waited. After about 20 minutes the waiter appeared again, looking flustered, saying it was still heating up and perhaps he could amuse us by doing a dance. We sort of smiled politely and murmured something about there being no need for that. But I think he had the look of a ballet dancer about him and was serious, so we may have missed out on a performance there!

The trip home was in glorious sunshine for most of the way, before hitting some lingering fog on the last few miles.

Monday, 23 January 2017

January 23rd 2017: Moreton-in-Marsh: Day 3

Monty the Motorhome is thawing out at Moreton-in-Marsh campsite. Note the subtle change in the name of where we are - I got it wrong before.

Yes the temperature is rising, but not much. It still feels chilly and everyone is togged up in their winter woolies.

Today was walk day. Looking at the OS map we saw a circular route that took in two long distance footpaths - the Monarchs Way and the Heart of England Way. We started off from Moreton village and headed towards Batsford Arboretum, quickly becoming aware it was going to be a bit muddy in places. By the time we got to the Arboretum we had quite a bit of mud on boots and trousers, so very quickly snuck in to their shop/cafe to use the loos, then scurried off not daring to venture into the cafe.

Passing the village of Bourton-on-the-Hill we continued through a small country estate where the main building was called ‘India House’ - a mogul palace set in a romantic landscape of streams and waterfalls.

The place is open to the public, but only on Thursday and Friday each week.

Our final few miles involved crossing a recently cultivated field, where very quickly a thick layer of mud, several inches thick, became glued to the bottom of our boots. It made walking very difficult and laboured. Final distance - just under 10 miles.

Difficult to see how thick the mud on the bottom of our boots was as it is blending in with the soil below, but I assure you it was several inches thick
Back at the campsite it was clean up, change of clothing, then back into Moreton to an Italian restaurant (Ask - part of a chain) for lasagne, tiramisu, olive oil and pistachio cake and coffees. Oh and their home made lemonade was very nice too.

Tonight will be reading, playing cards, and maybe a film. Tough life.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

January 22nd 2017: Moreton-in-the-Marsh: Day 2

Monty the Motorhome is still at Moreton-in-the-Marsh, which has emptied out considerably during the day. 

Last night was bitterly cold, such that we left the heating on low all night. Monty’s new quilt cover worked a treat - after such cool temperatures we would expect plenty of condensation on the inside of the front windscreen, as well as it being slightly cool in the front cab area. However we woke to a condensation free windscreen and toasty warm conditions throughout the van. 
So a big thumbs up for silverscreen. 

Today is Sunday, which for us means big boy breakfast. So into Moreton and Tilly’s Tearoom. They don’t use the term ‘big boy’, but ‘full English’ means exactly the same. 
Then a little stroll round the village - all honey coloured Cotswold stone and very easy on the eye.

Then back to the van for a lazy afternoon with the papers.

This evening it was back into Moreton and The Spice Lounge - a very cosy Indian, complete with log fire. We were impressed with their food - tasty without being over spiced, and plenty of it.

January 21st 2017: Moreton-in-the-Marsh: Day 1

Monty the Motorhome is tucked up nice and warm, on a chilly winter’s evening, at the Caravan Club site in Moreton-in-the-Marsh.

We had an invitation to view the two short-listed venues for James and Becka’s wedding, so with the prospect of good weather for the next couple of days decided to give Monty an outing.
We set off early this morning with the temperature registering at -1 degrees C and drove south, and perversely into colder weather, finishing at -4 at our first venue near Reading. Meeting up with James, Becka and Becka’s parents we toured Ufton Court, a secluded country manor with tithe barns and well manicured grounds. Then a drive north again to Huntsmill Farm, between Brackley and Buckingham. Here we had a guided tour by the site owner and detailed explanations of how he was renovating various farm buildings ready for 2018 wedding events.

Clearly there was much more to both these places, both of which the others had already visited before. So it was off to a pub (The Red Lion) in the village of Evenley, close to the second venue, for lunch (fab food) and a detailed discussion on which venue to go with.

Eventually Huntsmill emerged slightly ahead and got the nod on the day. The final decision will obviously be with the bride and groom, but at least they have the pros and cons of both places from four other people.

By now it was late afternoon, with the temperature falling below 0 and darkness descending. I was glad when the drive to Moreton was over as the roads were starting to glisten, with no sign of any gritters.
We were the last van to arrive on a site that was completely full, but had booked beforehand, so had the last pitch available. However that was not a problem and we were soon hooked up and heat on. This was also the first occasion to test out a new purchase - a ‘Silverscreen’ insulated windscreen cover. Report tomorrow

Monty with his new windscreen cover

Sunday, 9 October 2016

October 9th 2016: Suffolk: Grafham Water (again)

Monty the Motorhome is back on his home drive after a week away in Suffolk.

Last night we were undisturbed in a pub car park, which was surprising considering it was Saturday night. I think there were only three other cars parked there, and we never heard them leave.

This morning dawned with bright sunshine and we were soon back at Grafham Water to hire a bike. Yes just one bike. A tandem.
The intention was to ride the 10 mile cycle path around the reservoir. However after about 2 minutes riding I thought we’d be lucky to make one mile. Neither of us had ever ridden a tandem before, and it was really challenging. Both riders have to pedal at the same time - sounds obvious - but in reality quite tricky. If one rider stops pedalling, even for a couple of seconds, the other rider is taken by surprise and finds a considerable resistance in the pedals, which can throw their balance off. Also any shift in balance by one rider will affect the other person - again quite obvious - but really disconcerting to suddenly feel the bike go out of balance without warning.
I felt like it was like riding a bike for the first time, before balance becomes second nature and something you don’t think about.
Poor Ruth was on the back, with handle bars too low for her (they were part of my seat, so couldn’t be raised any higher), which meant lots of pressure on her hands. Plus her saddle wasn’t the best, which quickly leads to one thing - saddle sores.

However we made our way, slowly, with lots of wobbles and lots of stops. Two hours later we had made it. A complete circumnavigation. Two proud people.

A quick picnic lunch in the van, then the drive back.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

October 8th 2016: Suffolk: Lavenham

Monty the Motorhome is parked up in the corner of a car park belonging to a small country pub not far from Grafham Water. We are staying the night here with a view to returning to Grafham Water again tomorrow as we really liked it on the outward journey a week ago.

Today started with rain. The first we have had so far on this trip, so can’t grumble. Anyway we took our time packing up and set Sat Nav for the town of Lavenham in East Suffolk. 
This place is supposed to be the best example in England of a medieval town. Certainly on arrival the place seemed doted with half timbered buildings leaning at all sorts of drunken angles. We later found out there are 321 listed buildings in the town from a a very knowledge guide at the Guildhall. This chap also succinctly described why Lavenham has so many such buildings, so I’ll try and do the same. The town made it’s wealth from wool back in the 16th Century, specifically  a blue dyed wool known as Lavenham Blue, which financed the building of many timbered buildings and an immense church. However competition from Flemish sources took away that trade and the townsfolk had nothing to fall back on. Other wool towns also suffered, but they were able to diversify in some way, so retained some wealth, which was put to use as the fashion for building turned from timber to brick. Poor Lavenham could not afford to pull their timber houses down, so they remained, luckily for us.

The Guildhall
We had a good look round the town, visiting ye old tearooms for sandwiches, and also visiting the church which is huge for such a small town.
Not often you see clipped topiary in a churchyard

Detail from the stained glass windows
Then on to our resting place tonight - the St John Arms, just outside the village of Melchbourne.

We had reserved a table, but ended up as the only people in the lounge for most of the meal. The food was delicious, steak for me while Ruth went for pie and veg.

Friday, 7 October 2016

October 7th 2016: Suffolk: Sutton Hoo

Monty the Motorhome is preparing to say ‘goodbye’ to Suffolk as we move on tomorrow, back towards home.

Today started where we left off yesterday - food.
Last night I was catching up with last weekend’s papers and saw a small piece about a bakery at Orford - a small village about 20 minutes from where we’re pitched. The place did breakfast and when I mentioned this to Ruth she immediately decided that was to be our first destination today. Needless to say I did not put up much opposition to this idea.
We arrived in Orford to find it just about deserted, and this was also the case when we got into the bakery and found ourselves alone on a long communal table in their cafe. However by the time our bacon sandwiches with prune sauce arrived there were a number of other people seated and ready to eat. So, marks out of 10 for the sarnies - 10. Marvellous sour dough bread, really really tasty bacon and a sauce that was just right as an accompaniment. We’ll be trying to replicate this back at Morgan Towers. Then there were the cakes - pain au chocolat and eccles cake - both really sumptuous. We also took away a few bits from the bakery - more on those when they are eaten.

Pump Street Bakery - got to be one of the best in the country
 Suitably nourished we pressed on to the second destination of the day - the National Trust site of Sutton Hoo. This is the burial site that was excavated just before the Second World War to reveal an impressive Anglo-Saxon burial ship and a collection of treasures that were heralded as one of the most important British archaeological discoveries of the last century.

Some of the original finds are displayed, such as weapons and pots, but the valuable treasure is all in the British Museum in London, which was a little disappointing, but understandable.
We also walked round the original burial mound site, which still has a number of mounds still to be excavated.

This burial mound has been excavated; it has now been filled in again to restore it to the  original shape to demonstrate the size

This notice amused us
A quick lunch of sausage rolls from the bakery (8/10) and then a quick look at the coast near our site. This involved a trip along a narrow dead end road to a row of coastal cottages that seemed in the middle of nowhere. A barren shingle beach stretched in both directions, with just a few fisherman braving the gusty wind coming off the north sea. We walked along the sea bank for a while, before turning for home.

The sweeping East Anglian sky from the sea bank
Tonight will be a simple meal in the van, a moroccan chicken dish that was prepared some time ago and frozen. It made the journey all the way to Scotland and back on our last trip, and has languished in the freezer for the whole of this current one, so it’s about time it should be eaten. Accompaniment will probably be sour dough from this morning’s foray.