Category Archives: Travels & Camping

Bristol 2017 (New Year)

It’s becoming a bit of a ‘done thing’ that Mandy and I head off in the Van for the first week of the new year. It’s nice to have a little time off for Xmas, but we both have the option of working in between Christmas and the new year, so we would rather do that and chill for the first week when everybody else is going back to work stressing.  2015 was the first new year break in the van at Links Lanes Campsite, Lincoln . Last year we had 4 nights at Baltic Wharf and enjoyed it so much we decided to do a similar thing this year.

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Fairbairn Steam Crane , M Shed Quayside

Bristol is a great City Break! As with any trip, the better the weather the better the overall experience. That said, you do have the safety with a city break that if the weather is particularly bad, you  can  fall back on some selective sight seeing, shopping, restaurants or catch the odd movie to keep you out of the elements. Basically the trip is not going to be a write off if it rains non stop. Last year was enjoyable because Bristol was a relatively new experience, majority of the time it was pretty damp, drizzly and overcast, but none the less, still lots to see and do.

The temperature over the Christmas break for 2016 was close to tropical, and it just didn’t seem like a traditional Christmas. I was praying for the colder weather because that’s what makes you want to hibernate, and it gives you the justification that staying indoors, eating food and watching TV is the right place if it’s cold outside. I was keeping an eye on the forecast after Christmas and on the run up to the new year and it looked like things were set to change. We saw New Year in …just! We are normally in bed pre 12am, but we made the effort this year to watch the fireworks in Londan before retiring after midnight. We weren’t booked into the campsite until the 2nd so New years day was spent chilling and getting the van ready for the following day.

So with the van all packed up and ready to go we left Derby  just after 9am. As the forecast predicted the day started cold, crisp and clear. As we drove the journey was interrupted occasional by fog and mist but it was a really nice drive and arrived at the campsite just after midday. Half an hour later we had checked in, filled the vans water tank, and we were pitched up ready for the next five night. The site owners had given us full autonomy as far as a parking spot was concerned and our chosen location was closer to the river than last year, which gave us good views over the perimeter fence where the brightly coloured town houses steep banks. It makes all the difference when sitting in the van having a coffee and listening to the radio if you have an interesting view…. as opposed to a line of white motor-homes & caravans. Its the little things that make a big difference 🙂

2nd Jan - Pitched up and ready to hit Bristol
2nd Jan – Pitched up and ready to hit Bristol

Our van was only a few yards away from a wooden security gate that exited onto the river path (visually blocked in the photo above by my van 🙂 ) but this was proof of just how good of a location we were in on this campsite. From the river path you could walk left to a pub called the Cottage Inn  for a bite to eat , or from the same spot catch the Ferry to any one of a number of different locations in the city center.

Ferry - River Avon
Ferry – River Avon

We decided to stretch our legs and take a walk towards the center along the footpath. The houses and industrial shipping buildings cast shade on the walkway in the winters low sun. It was still below zero and you could tell this by the occasional small frozen puddle along the way. That said it had a certain buzz of activity about it. People walking their dogs,  pushing prams, cycling , running and boating on the river . I guess I had to remind myself that this was Bank Holiday Monday, and most people were taking advantage of their last day of freedom before the first day of work in 2017. It was really energizing just being a part of it. The path lead along the river Avon a few hundred yards to a marina, then away from the waterfront via a couple of alleyways and roads for  a short stint. This is due to some dry docks, one of which contains the SS Great Britain. This is a fantastic attraction, one of which we did last year and well worth a visit. We then found ourselves back on the river front in a place called Prince’s Wharf . You could tell by the train lines, rolling stock and large cranes along this stretch that it used to be a real industrial hub.

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electrically powered cargo cranes

On the quayside  are four electrically powered cargo cranes built in 1951 by Stothert & Pitt. Three of these cranes are working and operate some weekends. A short distance to the west is a much older crane, the sole surviving operational example of a Fairbairn steam crane. Built in 1878,also by Stothert & Pitt, it was in regular use until 1973 loading and unloading ships and railway wagons with weights of up to 35 tons. It has been restored and is in working order, operating on some bank holidays and the Bristol Harbour Festival.

Bristol-Harbour
Fairbairn steam crane

Large building are dotted around the harbor as you would expect with industrial shipping . One is called the ‘M Shed’ which is a former ‘transit shed’. Its been developed as an attraction with museums, art galleries and is a real cultural hub for those that want to learn about the history of the area. More information on whats on here can be found at their website. We didn’t stop on the way into the city center, except to take the odd photo to capture the moment. Within 20 minutes we were at the Aquarium  where a large ferrous wheel had been placed. We were surprised at how little time it took us to walk to the this location. Last year we had used the ferry on every occasion, mainly due to the weather, so it was hard to judge from that respect, but we were please with the speed of access on foot, so this year walking was the preferred method of travel.

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The first day seemed to dissapear quickly after after lunch at Prezzo. We knew that we had plenty of time during the rest of the week to spend perusing the shops and exploring the surroundings, so stretching our legs with a brisk walk into the city and back with lunch in between was all we intended. This set us up for a relaxing evening in the van before retiring for the night.

The night heater was switched off as we climbed into bed. We usually get to warm if left on even in the coolest of nights. However, i woke up in the early hours with cold ears. I buried my head in the sleeping bag and didn’t really get back to sleep. I didn’t want to switch the heater on because i thought we would get too warm, but when we got up as the day broke, we realized that it must have been exceptionally cold. The sun roof in the cab is the only part of the van that gets affected by condensation. This was frozen solid on the inside. The temperature was reading -7. Maybe we should have left the heater on after all 🙁 .

So the heater was switched on and the van was nice and warm  when we got back from the showers. We took our time, had coffee and breakfast  and chilled in the van for until mid morning listening to the radio.

Mandy chilling with a cuppa ;)
Mandy chilling with a cuppa 😉

Once we surfaced we plotted a slightly different route into Bristol city by taking a left out of the riverside campsite gate, walked towards the Cottage Inn Pub and through a boat building yard. It was really great to get so close to the craftsmen working on these vessels, some of which looked particularly old.

Boat Building Ahoy
Boat Building Ahoy

The temperature was still very low, especially in the shade. From the boatyard we  across the road bridge, which was actually a turn table to let tall vessels through, and onto the opposite side of the river past the Pump House Pub. Here are a few photos of the mornings stroll.

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Well this pretty much set the scene for the rest of the break. The weather was very good most days and highlights included a walk up to Clifton Suspension Bridge on the Wednesday via Cabot Park.

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Cabot Park
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Cabot Tower

Bristol also has a lot of Banksy Graffiti. I am no expert on this subject, but I think some of these are from the famous artist? A couple are just cool. I think there is a fine line between unwanted scrawling, and something that genuinely adds something to a building or wall. Art is subjective.

Well I will conclude this blog (all be it three months after our visit) with a gallery of the best photos I took during the five night stay. Included is a photo of a great syncro T25 campervan called Rocky, owned by a really nice chap called David who camps weekly in it in Bristol. We had a nice evening at the pub talking BLOGs and camping, and as it transpired he did Europe In A Campervan in 2011. I cant explain in words just how much I love Bristol. We have already booked for the the first day of 2018 for another five night break 🙂

Liverpool – November Weekend Break

Mandy and I always make the effort to get away on our Birthday weekend which fall in February and November respectively. This used to be in the form of a B&B, or hotel in a nice location away from home. However, since we brought the camper its pretty much been an excuse to go away in the van.

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An example of Liverpool’s beauty

Come mid October we were struggling to decide on a location for my birthday. I saw a post on Facebook by somebody saying they had spent a night at Liverpool Marina in their camper, so we decided to investigated the option by looking at the Marina website ,and sending an email for prices and availability. The response was £15 per overnight stay in the outer car parks, which included access to shower facilities.  The price was fine as a room in a hotel or B&B in the center of Liverpool would have been upwards or £80. However, information on the camping location was sketchy, so Mandy and I were understandably apprehensive. We decided to commit to the weekend in the hope that it would work out for the ok. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Saturday 12th started well for me. I got presents and cards 🙂 . The weather on the other hand was dull and rainy 🙁 . We set off from Derby mid morning, and arrived at Liverpool just as the rain stopped and the sun came out. The post code we used in the Sat-Nav positioned us in a car park with a few campervans. Initially we thought it was the right location and were a little dissapointed at the lack of boats. There was water, but no boats. It soon became apparent we were in the wrong place as the Marina Yacht Club was nowhere to be seen. A short drive lead us to the right location where we found a nice spot on the edge of the car park to set the van up.

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This gave us great views of the boats in the Marina.

Pitched Up and ready to hit the city
Pitched Up and ready to hit the city

We popped into the Yatch Club to make our presence known, collected a swipe card to enable access the shower (£10 deposit), and paid for two nights parking (£30). We soon got our bearings and headed towards Albert Dock. This was a 15 minute walk along the River Mersey past the Liverpool Exhibition Center, BT Convention Center and the Echo Arena.

Mersey at low tide
Mersey at low tide

We had been to Liverpool in the past. The first time was a coach trip to the cavern club for an evening, and a couple of times after that where we parked up at the main shopping complex ‘Liverpool One’. On all  occasions we only saw a very limited portion of what the city had to offer. It’s not surprising that our impression of Liverpool was a little muted. That said, the regeneration and new developments seen on the brief walk from Marina to the Albert Docks was certainly giving me a reason to question my opinion. Over the course of the afternoon, my view of Liverpool changed dramatically for the better.

The quays, wharf’s, docks, architecture, museums and colorful history makes Liverpool one of the most interesting City’s to visit. I really couldn’t believe that  we had missed such a lot previously. Saturday afternoon gave us a great overview of the docks and its location in relation to the other areas we were more familiar with. A coffee at Nero, a meal at one of our favorite restaurants Zizzis, in combination with plenty of fresh air and  walking made the day pretty much perfect. Suffice to say we both slept extremely well that night.

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Sunday was Armistice day. This always fell on my birthday weekend so  we were used to being cought up in the excitement of the parades. This year was different. We had a leisurely start to the day because we didn’t feel the need to rush being so local to the city center. We had a shower, a cuppa & breakfast, then set off on a brisk walk up the now familiar ‘Kings Parade’  to the Albert Docks. We were so distracted by the shops and attractions at the docks, by the time we realized it was almost midday and we had missed the parade 🙁  …but I found this on youtube  🙂

On the Saturday I had seen some small ferries giving guided tours of the docklands and river. I decided that this would be a great way to pass some time and learn a little about the history of the area. Unfortunately no ferries were running on Sunday because of armistice day. So we settled for an open top bus tour.

The temperature in the afternoon dropped so this was a chilly experience, but it was a great way to see far more of the sights than we would have been able to on foot. One fact I  learnt was “Liverpool has more grade 1 & 2 listed buildings outside of London than anywhere else in England” .

Anyways, we stayed a second night at the Marina before heading home the following day. In summary a really great city break on a real budget. Highly recommended for anybody that has a campervan / motorhome 🙂

Blackpool Sands, Dartmouth (14)

Blackpool Sands was the venue for the last stop of our two week vacation. This was to attend the “2016 Vans in the Sands” camper van meet. This is a unique opportunity to camp on one of the best kept beaches in the country. It turned out to be a cracking event, and the Grand-Finale by all accounts.

Last year we attended the same event and this is the reason we committed ourselves early on as soon as the 2016 event came available to book. Last year it was at the mid way point on our two week travels, and  we had relatives visit which distracted slightly from socializing with the other campervan owners . 2016 was different in as much as it was our time to sit back, have a drink, and enjoy a little company with like minded people before we embarked on the drive back to Derby to conclude our holiday. Words can’t describe just how good it was. We made some great friends, and caught up with some of the people we met last year. We have decided that everything permitting we should be attending Vans in the Sands 2017 🙂

 

 

Looe & Bay View Farm (11)

We arrived at Bay View Farm late afternoon after time in Fowey and Polperro . The last couple of miles off the main road were challenging. Very narrow and parts of the road had large pot holes and other areas  were eroded quite badly as we approached the farm. I think the campsite had been told to restrict the sizes of vehicles that can stay on the site to reduce further damage to the roads. However, the views were worth it once we arrived. It was still chilly and overcast which turned out to be the theme of the day.

Extract from Campsite website

“At Bay View Farm Camping Site we offer you a warm welcome to our Cornish coastal farm, with its wonderful sea views overlooking Looe and St George’s Island.

The camp site is right on the South West Coast Path, making it an ideal holiday location for exploring the cliff paths to Black Rock beach, Millendreath and the quaint fishing village of Looe with its hideaway streets, harbour, fish quay, beach and cafés offering delicious cream teas. Further along the coast path is the village of Polperro, with its wide choice of restaurants and taverns, smugglers’ cottages and harbour.”

W e were pleasantly surprised to find two other similar campervans to ours on the  site. One an Autohomes conversion, and another Westfalia.

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Komet
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Westfalia Club Joker

We spent time chatting to both owners who turned out to be really nice. As the sun went day faded into night we admired the view.

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The following day started dull, wet and rainy. We thought that we were going to be affected by a weather front that meant that these conditions were going to continue for the rest of the day. So we decided that today would be a chance to unwind and have a day in the van with a book / radio / TV.  Surprisingly the weather cleared and the day turned out to be great. We still chilled but it was nice to be able to sunbath and admire the vista.

We felt really relaxed after chilling out. The following day was the day we were going to take a closer look at Looe. So far we had only admired it from a distance. That day turned out to be spectacular. We couldn’t have wished for the weather to have been any better!

Low tide early morning when we arrive in Looe

Looking cool...Is that really possible? 🙂

Having a paddle

On the Ferry from one side of the harbour to the other

Chilling in the carpark

The next stop was going to be St Johns, near Torpoint, Plymouth. We knew that my Uncle wouldn’t be available to greet us until teatime, so the last hour or so we chilled out in the car park by the tidal river before setting off to visit my Uncle.

Next Stop St Johns

Fowey & Polperro (10)

We awoke in the morning at Little Winnick Touring Park to damp and drizzly conditions. We chose not to stay another night at the camp site, but hadn’t found another pitch for later on in the day. We knew the general direction in which we were needing to travel so we had options, but nothing we had committed to yet. We had heard that the Mevegissey to Fowey Ferry was one of the best boat trips in the UK. Mevegissey was literally two miles round the corner from Little Winnick so we considered this as our main excursion of the day. However, after checking on the website we found that due to unsettled conditions in St Austell Bay, all trips had been cancelled 🙁 . Plan B was to drive to Fowey and see what that had to offer.

The day remained gloomy throughout, but it didn’t damp our spirits. We were content to be moving on after a couple of nights in one spot. It only took us about 35 – 40 mins from Little Winnick but climbing the hill to the main car park required us to take a second run up after a car pulled out of a junction at the bottom of the hill killing Wolfgang’s momentum. Quite embarrassing really, but we made it in the end 🙁 .

Fowey is quaint there is no doubt about that. Its twisting streets and alleys give it real character, and there are a raft of small shops and galleries to peruse. I would imagine that had the weather been good we could have gone on a harbor trip, or just sit and admire the boats. We spent an hour and a half looking round and getting our bearings before we decided it was coffee time. We found a nice Pub called the Gallion Inn. The view over the harbor was good so we chilled with a drink and took advantage of the free Wifi to look for a suitable campsite for the evening. An hour later we had polished off our drinks, had a meal and made a phone call to book in to our next campsite. It was still only early afternoon so the day was not over yet..

Quirky shaped building 🙂

Harbourside

Climbing the hill out of Fowey

We walked up to the van and waved goodbye to  Fowey. The next campsite was in Looe so we plotted a course to included Polperro. We weren’t sure how much time we would have there, but it was good to have the flexibility of pulling in another Cornish fishing village, even if it was on a whistle stop tour.

We were there within the hour, and parked the van in the main ‘tourist’ car park at the bottom of the hill on the way into the village.

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From there we caught the Tram down the road to the harbor. It was only a short journey passing some of the gift shops and pub / restaurants. We could have walked but I liked the idea of travelling in this odd looking vehicle (We would walk back 😉 )

Electric Tram..Errr, milk float more like 😉

In the car park. Novel way to advertise i guess

Harbour

Polperro is just a few miles from Looe,  and is sheltered from the ravages of time in its cliff ravine.  There was a tourist element about the place with the odd tacky gift shop, but that was limited and not overwhelming. I would say that Polperro had a similar genre of shops to Fowey. Some designer shops and art galleries. In total we probably spent about two hours there. Just enough time to walk around the shops and have an ice cream. In summary both Fowey and Polperro are amazing places and well worth a visit if you find yourself in this beautiful part of the UK. For us the lack of time in both places left us with enough reason to want to go back again in the future. Hopefully we will have some sun then, but for now we needed to get to our next campsite. Bay View Farm!

Next Stop Looe