Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Chertsey 8 - 12 Feb 18

It's been a while since we've been here and, as the Walton C&CC site closes (for some reason),  during the winter, this site was an obvious choice for a visit to the west of London. We had forgotten what a right royal pain in the butt it is to get anywhere from here by public transport. 

On Thursday we arrived and immediately headed across to Chiswick to visit Mother on the incredibly slow and hideously expensive South west Trains. It would have been cheaper and quicker to go from home. The British Railway system is a bloody joke! Anyway, ranting aside we had a very enjoyable evening with Mum, eventually got home (Chertsey town centre is not a particularly nice place to walk through at night) and tried to sleep through the motorway, river weir and aircraft noise. 

On Friday we wanted to visit Hampton Court. Again we negotiated the stupid rail system (2 changes and 1.5 hours to go 7.5 miles). It was a bitterly cold day. Inside the palace was freezing. We had a good look around, got lost in the maze, eventually got back to Chiswick and went out for dinner in the Kingfisher Pub on the other side of the bridge. The food and beer were just as good as they were the last time we visited here in the old van.

On Saturday we were going to go to the Stoop to watch England Women v Wales Women, but the weather was atrocious, Harlequins had cocked up all the arrangements (they are getting more and more inept as the weeks go by) and we didn't fancy braving the awful SWT trains again so we stayed in the warm and dry, drank wine and watched the match on the telly, followed by the England v Wales 6 Nations match.

Sunday it was an early start to go to the Stoop. The trains were bad enough during the week - imagine a Sunday service when Notwork Rail has decided to screw the Trains to Twickenham yet again. It wasn't pleasant but you know the score by now. We met our friends for breakfast, had a few pints to dull the pain of an embarrassing performance on the pitch, had a few more pints to moan about the club, game and trains and then went home. However, we missed the one train per hour (can you believe that?) by seconds as we arrived at the station at the same time as the train, but the moron train driver stopped halfway down the platform instead of at the normal point and we didn't have time to get it. We love trains. Also, whilst I am on a rant, what is it with SWT that they have to be stopped for at least a minute before they deign to open the doors? Is the system run by the same idiot who puts the "wait half an hour until you can open the door" timer on washing machines?

Even the pundits cannot believe how crap Quins are
On Monday it was a glorious, but cold, morning. We had a slow start and eventually arrived home after doing a bit of damage in Costco in Milton Keynes en route.

What a moaning, miserable blog this is. Chertsey site itself is probably alright in the summer when you can use bikes instead of the ridiculous trains, but we won't be hurrying back.

Devizes 6 - 8 Feb 18

After an easy drive to Devizes Camping and Caravanning Club site (it's nice not to have to pay to go over the Severn Bridge back to civilisation), we quickly set up and went for a long walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal to find the Caen Hill flight of locks. Having ascended the supposedly steep hill in fine fettle (we must have become very fit after all that trogging around the Forest of Dean), we decided to go on into Devizes for a look around. A nice town and, even better, a nice brewery offering tours. We decided that the brewery tour would be an ideal way to spend a Wednesday morning. By this time it was starting to get dark so it was a quick dash back to the camp site before pitch black set in.

Wednesday was brewery day and it was bright, but very cold with a sprinkling of snow on the ground. Off we walked again, stopping to chat to a group of Canal and River Trust volunteers and once again zooming up Caen Hill with the promise of beer at our destination. We arrived early and had time for a coffee and croissant. The brewery tour was excellent and we learned a lot from our excellent tour guide, Jim, during the 2 hour tour and tasting. Following the tour we had time for a beer in a local pub before heading back and an excellent meal in the pub adjacent to the camp site.

On Thursday we somewhat reluctantly headed off on the last stage of our tour to the dreaded London.

Forest of Dean 1 - 6 Feb 18

On Thursday we arrived at Bracelands Camping in the Forest site in the Forest of Dean. It is a very pretty site situated in the middle of the forest on quite a sloping piece of land but it is very quiet and ideally situated for exploring the local area. The many signs warning of the wild boar were a bit of a concern and we reckon that the site would be hell on earth when rammed full during the summer. We had a quick wander around the area to get our bearings, popping into an outdoor shop where we chatted with the owners for a long while. It was a taste of the friendliness and hospitality of this area.

On Friday we set out to walk to Symonds Yat Rock, going cross country through the forest. Unfortunately there were a number of fallen trees blocking the trails so the route had a number of detours and a bit of steep hill cross country work. However we soon arrived at the rock and enjoyed the lovely views. We had previously asked if we could watch the Quins v Northampton game on TV in the local Rugby club that evening, so we got back to the van, cleaned up and went into the Globe Pub for dinner. What a bargain! What a great Pub! A real, local, reasonably priced, friendly pub and highly recommended. The pub has a large mural painted on one exterior wall depicting a scene from the BBC series "The Singing Detective". We were told that the playwright, Dennis Potter, was a local lad, hence the connection.  Onto the Rugby club to watch the very disappointing game, but we were warmly welcomed and met some lovely people in there.

On Saturday the weather was atrocious, but the very kind people of the rugby club had invited us to their supporters' lunch and to watch the 6 nations games being screened there that afternoon. A delightful day was spent in their company, watching the local team and then the 6 Nations. A great club and great people - we learnt an awful lot about the Forest of Dean from a day spent in their company.

On Sunday the weather had improved, so we walked along the River Wye, back over Symonds Yat Rock and back to the site before going to the Rugby Club to watch Italy v England. 

On Monday we walked the long trek into Monmouth, had a very average lunch in Wetherspoons and then decided to get a bus back as we were running out of daylight. The bus ran very infrequently so we were stuck in Monmouth for quite a while. Not a bad town, but we found the inhabitants somewhat unfriendly. We couldn't wait to get back to England!

Our final morning was a leisurely affair with a slow pack up and a nice drive down to Devizes for our next stop.