Devizes again

We wanted to get away for a long weekend but with most of the UK campsites closed for the winter there are relatively few places to go. Last winter we thoroughly enjoyed the few days we spent at the campsite at Seend, near to Devizes, and so decided to book a pitch for Sunday to Wednesday 26th-29th November. Thankfully, Steve and Laura  agreed to look after the cat for the duration so we packed up, filled up with LPG,  refuelled and set off early on the Sunday afternoon.

The outward bound journey was uneventful and within 2 hours of leaving the house we had parked up, plugged in, and were taking a stroll along the Kennet & Avon canal in the fading light of the afternoon and stopped to watch the mumerations of starlings.


The weather forecast for the Monday was mediocre at best which gave us the excuse to take the early bus to Bath rather than walk to Devizes. The Bath Christmas market was in full swing so we meandered around from stall to stall while trying not to spend too much. We also had a good wander around the shops and escaped from the city before the evening rush hour started. Back to the van for a freshen-up and then over to the Three Magpies pub for our evening meal with some of the Waddingtons local brew for refreshment.

Seend is about 3 miles from Devizes, which takes a good hour and a bit to walk but is less than 15 minutes at most by bus. The canal tow path along along the canal goes along the spectacular Caen Hill lock system; a system of 29 locks extending over a 2 mile stretch. It was difficult getting decent photos of the lock system, I guess the best way would be to use a drone flying high above.

It’s uphill to Devizes and downhill on the return journey, however on this visit after lunching and wandering around Devizes for a few hours we caught the bus back to the campsite.

We had intended to use our bikes to cycle along the tow path to Bradford-on-Avon but ran out of time. Maybe we will come back here at some point in the future.

Weyfest – one off the bucket list

Neither of us had ever been to a multi-day music festival and we both had put attendance at one on our “bucket lists”. We had  missed the Wickham festival in early August, which was a real shame as it was close to home. Fiona spotted the Weyfest festival advertised and after checking the line up and the location we decided to buy tickets. Weyfest is held outside the village of Tilford in Surrey, which is about an hour away. Despite it being “out of county” we bought the various tickets, loaded our stuff into the ‘van, including  sufficient food and alcohol, topped up with clean water and headed off up the A3M on Friday morning, arriving at Tilford shortly after midday.

We had decided against paying for electric hookup (£36 for 3 nights! ) preferring to  rely on our leisure battery having sufficient charge to last the 3 days.

The campervan/motorhome park was no more than 200 metres from the main stage so we could sit out in the sunshine and still hear headline music from our camping pitch.

Weyfest is held at the Museum of Rural Life, which was a bit of a find in itself. Lots to visit there, including a prefab house, with all original fixtures and fittings. The museum also has some fascinating collections of craftsmens’ tools from a bygone age. We each noticed a resemblance to our Dads’ sheds/ garages. A real piece of nostalgia there. Also, there were modern day craftspeople, demonstrating spinning, and needlework. Not quite rural life, but there was a also a Dr Who exhibition which included real Daleks and Cyber men, as well as other props. Oh, and there is a small railway, which runs round the site- we of course had a ride on that.

Friday afternoon saw us take a wander around the venue to get our bearings and we had some tasty Nepalese curry from a stall. Later, we enjoyed the sounds of Mike Sanchez. After a break back at the van, we strolled  back to  watch and hear the music of Jeramiah Ferrari and finally some sounds of the 80’s when the Buzzcocks blasted out their repertoire.

The Buzzcocks were so loud that I don’t think I could hear properly until the following morning. I was beginning to wish that I had brought ear defenders or earplugs to protect my hearing.

Saturday morning was nice and dry, and  after enjoying a cooked breakfast in the morning sunshine we lazed around until 11:30 or so for the music to start. There were 4 stages all running concurrently, each with a different genre of music so there was plenty to choose from.  We spent a fair bit of time at the ‘Old Kiln’ stage, which offered music of a laid-back variety.

Harry Baker knocked out a number of soul/funk/chillout numbers. He was excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed his set.

Mid afternoon saw us head towards the main arena. Eddie and the Hot Rods were due on stage at 14:30 and we’d decided to give them a go.

Blooming excellent!

Eddie etc were superb. They were on stage for over an hour and really had the crowd dancing. Good to see a band who clearly still love performing. ‘Do anything you want to do’…..


From the comfort of the van we heard ‘Inglorius’ and ‘Brother Strut’ as we ate our dinner, a fine pre-prepared chicken curry, which was accompanied by a superb rose wine from the Carr Taylor vineyard that we visited back in July.

Saturday evening – this is the one I had come for: Alison Moyet!. And she didn’t disappoint. She really belted out those old Yazoo hits and many of her later solo hits as well as some new material.

An hour and a half of Alison Moyet. She started with one of my favourites “Nobody’s Diary” and it got even better from there.

I could have listened to her all night. Superb!

The sky was lovely and clear on Saturday night and the temperature plummeted;  it was freezing out in the countryside. We woke to a clear blue sky but rain was forecast for the evening.

The Sunday line-up included Ralph McTell and Jools Holland and numerous other acts that we would try and see.

We headed back over to the arena in the early afternoon after a cooked brunch. The acts playing on the Old Kiln stage again impressed us with performances from ‘Cousin Avi’ (funk/soul/pop) and ‘Jungle Brew'(ska/funk/swing/latin) after which we headed back to the main stage to listen to Ralph McTell.

Ralph played a number of his songs from the 70’s including ‘Streets of London’. By now the rain had started and brollies were being deployed as seen in the photo.

After Ralph, it was back to the van for a chilli con carne and more wine while listening to Hayseed Dixie from afar, and then back to the Old Kiln stage to listen to ‘Gilmore and Roberts’ (contemporary folk/acoustic).  It was hard pulling ourselves away from this group so we stayed for their finale and then rushed over to catch the start of Jools Holland.

Jools and his orchestra were sheltered from the cold rain, unlike the rest of us. Hmmm, I’m not into boogie -woogie music but Fiona was really enjoying herself.

By now the rain was torrential and only God knows how many hundreds of people stood in the downpoor for 90 minutes listening to Jools with his Rhythm and Blues orchestra and guests including Chris Difford from Squeeze, and Ruby Turner.

It continued to rain until the early hours of the following morning. Hundreds of cars, vans etc leaving the grassy field parking,  together with inches of rain,  equals loads of soft, slippery mud. On my way back from the shower block I spied a MoHo slipping around in the mud, unable to gain traction to leave the field and thought “I hope that doesn’t happen to us”. Bugger, it did happen to us. Embarrassingly, we had to be pushed out of the mud. Grateful thanks to our fellow campers for that one.

So, our first music festival, and we chose a good one. A great atmosphere, lots to do and see, as if the music wasn’t enough. Weyfest has been running since 2007, and there are many return visitors. Lots of people wore t-shirts from previous Weyfests….that moment when you think “ooh, I’d love to see them live!”…oh well, we’ll be waiting to see next years’ line-up, hopefully we’ll be back.

A day out in Winchester

Well, its off to Winchester for a cheap day out. We have a giftcard for lunch, valid tickets for a visit to the Cathedral and  the park and ride is only £2.50 after 10am.

Our lunch  is courtesy of Sheena and Stuart Brennan who, a couple of Christmas’s ago, gave us a giftcard for Rick Stein’s restaurant chain which luckily has a branch in Winchester.

The bus journey from the park and ride took about 15 minutes. Our lunch table was reserved for 2pm so we had an hour to kill. Having visited the cathedral last August, our tickets gave us unlimited access for 12 months. I really begrudge giving money to any church so it was time to use those tickets again and get more of my money’s worth.

The cathedral is a marvel of medieval architecture and craftmanship, as well as 19th and 20th century maintenance. There has been a cathedral on this site in Winchester since the year 640. The current cathedral dates from the 11th century has the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. Ah, the treasures on your own doorstep. God no longer lives here as he was evicted during reformation back in the 16th century, but there are still traces of him around the building.

A view along the nave of the magnificent Winchester Cathedral

Visiting on a Monday was a good idea as there were relatively few visitors. Here is a photo of the nave looking towards the altar and choir. Note the tall vaulted roof. The aisle is replete with old gravestones and grave covers many dating from the 17th century.

Here is a gallery of the photos we took during our visit:

Once we had  the cultural stuff out of the way, we headed off to the Rick Stein restaurant for lunch. As it was ‘Rick’s place’ (not that one) we really had to choose fish and both started with the Amritsari fish starter which was white fish with a delicate spicy batter..truly melt in the mouth! For mains, Fiona chose the prawn dish, a mild prawn masala. I chose the hake. Again, both were delicious.

Many thanks to Sheena and Stuart for the giftcard.

Empty plates and soon to be empty glasses. Follow this with ice cream and lemon posset and wander around the cathedral again to walk off the alcohol before heading back to the P&R and the drive home.

All in all, an excellent day out.

English wines? Why not?

For my 60th birthday Louise gave me a ‘Vineyard Tour and Tasting with lunch for two‘ voucher that I could use at any one of a number of vineyards in the south of England. We looked at the map and decided to use it at the Carr Taylor vineyard which is found a few miles north of Hastings in East Sussex. I booked the visit for the 12th July and then searched for a place to stay nearby for a couple of nights as we intended to stay in the ‘van and use our bikes to get to the vineyard. We chose the Meadow View campsite as it seemed to be closest to the vineyard, and we reserved our space for the 2 nights.

Our drive to East Sussex was uneventful; it was dual carriageway for most of the way. The last 12 miles or so to the campsite was not so easy; our satnav took us cross country along some very narrow and steep roads. Thankfully the oncoming traffic was fairly light and gave way to let us pass.

Parked up and ready for the tour of the vineyard

The weather had been scorching for the previous couple of weeks. A change was forecast. It started raining shortly after we arrived at the campsite and it rained very heavily all night. This was a worry for our cycle ride. Thankfully, the rain stopped by about 6am.

Hmmm…the bike ride was a little harder than anticipated. The terrain around Sedlescombe/Westfield is very hilly and not brilliantly signposted. One wrong turn and we ended up cycling about 4 miles further than intended. Somehow, we managed to arrive on time.

The tour of the Carr Taylor vineyard itself was well worth the visit. The tour group was about 20 strong, the guide was very knowledgeable, explaining how the vines were planted, which varieties were grown and why, and he had heaps of interesting information about how a vineyard and wine producer works throughout the seasons.

The wine tasting was an eye opener for me. I had only tasted English wine once, and that was enough. My experience was limited to tasting an English red wine from a local vineyard. Carr Taylor doesn’t produce red wines, the reason being that we don’t get enough sunshine in England to ripen the grapes, so they stick to white and rose wines, and to fruit wines including apples, elderberry and others.

The tour lasted for a couple of hours but the time passed quickly as our guide was very  entertaining. It concluded with a wine tasting- then lunch with a glass of still white wine.The tasting comprised  sparkling brut white and sparkling rose, followed by still white and still rose and then a selection of their fruit wines. Carr Taylor is planted with mostly German sounding grape varieties as well as some Pinot and Chardonnay Their white and rose wines, and the fruit wines, are really very good, so good in fact that we bought a bottle of rose and two bottles of apple.

Tucking into the buffet lunch complete with stilton, pate and local wine.

The cloud had disappeared by now and it was starting to warm up a bit. We had decided to buy a couple of bottles of the local produce and were discussing with the tour guide how to get it back to the ‘van when he mentioned that the vineyard operates a ‘BritStop’ camp site on the premises. So, we could have parked in their campsite/carpark just yards away from the tour start point! Oh, yes, and we discovered there had been a Groupon offer at the campsite…missed that, too! Oh well, at least the vineyard tour was a gift!

These three beauties will go into the wine fridge for a while, but they won’t have to wait too long before being opened.

So, we loaded 3 bottles into the pannier bag and attached it to my bike, then it was back to the van for an afternoon relaxing in what was left of the summer sunshine. 

Very tasty home made chilli accompanied by French cider for dinner. The chilli had been in the van freezer since the beginning of June so was ready to be eaten.

The journey home

The trek homewards towards the Caen ferry begins. Our fairly direct route from Nevers to Caen/Ouistreham is planned to be via Orleans where we have reserved a pitch for Monday night. We are now on first name terms at Olivet Camping! To fill the weekend gap, we try a site at Salbris, near the Sologne Forest. We’ve stayed in hotels in the area before, and the camping website looks good.

Our fuel light comes on about 10 miles from Salbris and I’m nervous, though, as Fiona is driving again, I will blame her if it runs out…sorted!  As it happens, we find a garage, and fill up with (cheaper) French diesel..and find the campsite quite easily, after a quick trip to the local Supermarket for the usual supplies…mainly alcoholic!

The site is lovely, the owner is very welcoming, and she offers us a choice of pitch. We opt for a lakeside setting which turns out to be perfect with our awning protecting us from the heat of the sun.

There is, she tells us, a music festival in town this evening, so we decide to wander into town to investigate. Hmmm…after the music festival in Avallon a few nights earlier, this is very different. I describe the music as Oompah meets Sangria…but the locals obviously enjoy it. There is a lot of clapping and audience participation. After a while, our ears are hurting, so we return to the site. We can still hear the music…and the finale of the evening is a quite spectacular Firework finale..the French sure know how to put on a show, even in small towns!

Throughout the holiday I have been on the lookout for Swallowtail butterflies which must be one of the most beautiful butterflies around. Thus far I have not caught sight of any.

We decided to go cycling while at Salbris, after all, there’s not a lot else to do in France on a Sunday afternoon. We set off on a 30km cycle ride on small roads through woods and fields and with little or no traffic.

We stopped in a real hurry and grabbed the camera when I spied this beautiful creature fluttering over the meadow we were passing.  The little sod didn’t stick around long enough for me to get a good shot though. But what a beauty (the butterfly not the fence post)!

We stayed at Salbris for 2 nights as it was very nice, then left on the Sunday morning heading for a stopover at Olivet before the long drive back to Caen.

The drive was long. 198 miles long. Thankfully Fiona drove the whole way so I arrived refreshed and relaxed. Heading north at Chartres we spied a Hen Harrier in a field, presumably there to end the short life of some furry mammal, anyway, it was the first one I’d ever seen.

We knew when we’d arrived in Normandy as the rain started. When I say rain, I mean the thunder, lightning and the deluge which started at just before Falaise and continued until we arrived home.

Can’t complain though, it was pretty much the only daytime rain we had in the 3 weeks we were away.

The van fuel light came on just before Caen, but then the ‘low fuel’ warning flashed soon after. This panicked us into a desperate search for a filling station.

The ferry journey home was ballsed up by Brittany Ferries. They had lowered the car deck by the time we boarded and so we had to wait until they had unloaded everyone else before we could get off. As we went through Passport control at Portsmouth, the officer aked “oh, you’re from the Mont St. Michel sailing, are you?”, as we were obviously way behind all the other passengers from the sailing. Grrrr….A real stinker will be fired off response to their ‘how did we do…’ email.

Nevers again?

Friday evening sees us parking on the south bank of the Loire at Nevers. Fiona has driven all the way from Avallon and has not been shouted at once- well, not by me, I can’t vouch for other drivers. Nevers is a lovely town, with a real buzz to it. We would happily spend more time there, but we are moving on.

Riverside parking

The campsite is pretty much full but we get a pitch on the lower slopes without electric hook- up. No electricity is not a problem, but the site is rather crowded and the facilities really aren’t up to much. 

The town is a short walk across the main bridge. There is a plaque in the cathedral blaming the RAF for accidentally dropping a 1000lb bomb on the church during the 1939-1945 nastiness.

In the early evening we head across the bridge and explore the town.  We happen upon a concert rehearsal in the cathedral and find ourselves drawn to the music, spending almost an hour listening in to a variety of classical tunes including Adagio and Faure’s Requiem.

Then it’s off to the town bars for a couple of beers while ‘people watching’ and then back to the van for a salad as Fiona is not keen for me to get the BBQ out when we are so crowded in.

We drive off the campsite by about 10:30 the next morning but find that we are among the last to leave – the site is being deserted. Our travels continue….

Avallon – but not a round table in sight

It’s too hot for us in Auxerre so we pack up and head off in a SE direction towards the town of Avallon in  Bourgogne (Burgundy). The temperature doesn’t get any more comfortable; it’s 39.5C as we approach the town where we find a nice quiet campsite within walking distance of the town centre. Fiona drove to this destination, including an amicable meeting with a French lady bus driver on a tight bend…Fiona practised her reversing downhill…no point in road rage!

Anyway, when I say walking distance, what I really mean is 3km of uphill, very uphill, walking; needless to say it’s very steep all the way to the town. Avallon is a very old town and was built on a granite spur between two ravines; we are camped in one of the ravines.

It’s the summer solstice today and in Avallon tonight there is a free festival of music with around a half a dozen bands performing at venues around the town. In the early evening we hike into town and thoroughly enjoy an evening of listening to live renditions of ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Stairway…’, ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ and a whole load more classic hits from long ago. We also found a group of yoofs, who did a good version of Purple Rain..

The next day we cycle into town. The temperature is 37C so cycling up that hill was rather testing. We spend a few hours exploring the town, take a few photos and enjoy a couple of cold Monacos before a lovely downhill cycle ride back to the ‘van for dinner.

We spent 2 nights at Avallon and it’s still baking hot when we leave. Fiona is driving again. Andrew is a nervous passenger.  A short distance from Avallon is Vezelay where we stop to visit the hilltop basilica. It’s really commercialised here – you have to PAY TO PARK ! Outrageous! After doing the basilica, we have lunch in a small creperie and then move on towards the town of Nevers. It’s white wine country around here, so nothing much of interest, but we do find a delicious and ironically named ‘Grand Ordinaire ‘ in the local supermarket for €3.80.

Where to next?

We decided to return to Olivet camping at Orleans for the weekend as it is spacious, quiet and has very friendly staff.  On Sunday we used the extensive cycle paths to cycle into Orleans and then further alongside the canal for a picnic lunch.

It is so hot here now; the temperature is in the mid-30’s without a cloud in the sky, so thankfully there was a lovely breeze to cool things a bit. Despite the SF50 we both get sunburnt. Wearing sandals results in sunburnt toes.

Where to next?. Well, we had planned to loop SW,  via Blois, Tours, Saumur and Angers to visit a few vineyards and stock up our rather empty wine fridge at home. However, on Monday morning only a couple of hours from moving on , we changed our minds. Rather than visit places we have been before we thought we’d use the final week of our holiday to go somewhere we’ve not yet seen and so we headed SE instead, to Auxerre, in the Burgundy region.

The temperature is 34C as we drive into Auxerre; there is no wind and it’s really stifling; the fresh products section in the local supermarket gives us some respite for an hour or so then its back out into the oven.

Camping at Auxerre is less than a mile from the town so when we’ve parked we unload the bikes and head off to town for a visit. It’s still scorching as we wander around the old town, sightseeing and looking for a shaded place to have a cold drink.

Auxerre is a compact old city overlooking the river Yonne and has nice riverside walks and cycleways, but after an hour or so’s sightseeing we head back to the campsite and into the showers in the hope of cooling off.

Here is a gallery of photos taken in Auxerre

Homebrew 49r on his holidays

Relaxing in the evening

Homebrew 49er is enjoying his holidays too. Here he is looking cool but not chilled (there’s no room for him in the fridge). He has travelled well, and his only problem is loss of weight. He started off at just over 5kg, but is now down to about 750g and will soon be all gone.

I must take a pair of them next time, so they don’t get lonely.


After spending 2 days at Gien we move on in the direction of Sancerre and aim for the riverside camping site at Saint Satur, arriving at the campsite during the long French lunch hour. We wander around the site and choose a pitch, then book in, once the office is open.

It’s getting very hot here, the daytime temperature is well into the 30’s and there’s no wind to cool things down. We wait until the heat abates before venturing into Saint Satur on a shopping run as we’re running short of food. Steak with onions in a baguette, delicious.

We are camped about 3km from Sancerre so decide to cycle there on the Friday. It’s very hot and Sancerre is actually 3 miles away, but it’s all up hill. Thankfully there is very little traffic to bother us.

Sancerre turns out to be a very nice place with some superb panoramas of the surrounding countryside with views over the extensive vineyards. The town itself is very old and perched on top of a steep hill. There are many vignerons in the town, and many outlets selling wines but the steep and narrow roads discourage us from even thinking about bringing the ‘van in for a shopping spree.

Fiona enjoying a lunchtime salad, cider and Monaco in the shade in the centre of Sancerre. We later enjoyed a chilled bottle of the local produce.

After a good lunch we had a further look around the town and visited the ‘World of Sancerre’ wine museum which was well worth the visit, especially the 4D wine production simulator. That was so good, we did it twice! The views of the surrounding countryside are truly spectacular, as shown below.

The ascent to Sancerre is around 260metres over a distance of about 3km, so its uphill all the way and was hard going. Our descent, however, was great fun,  as the roads were pretty much traffic free. The Garmin recorded speeds of up to 24mph on the way down…woohooo! Payback for the upward climb.