Category Archives: UK

Our Last Day in the UK

There was free parking provided in a carpark right next to the Chunnel entrance so we took advantage of that for our last night in France. We woke up early to see if we could get an earlier crossing in the Chunnel as our booking was for 10:55am. Gary and Dianne were ready early so we were off.

Free parking in Calais

When we checked in, we found that we could get on an 9:50 crossing so we were in.

The Chunnel train port

After checking underneath and see if any stowaways were hanging on, as requested by the British border man, we headed off to Starbucks in the duty free pavilion until our time for boarding.

Driving onto the Train
Driving up to our spot Gary and Dianne in front

It was all really easy. After spending 20 minutes or so in the carriage inside Ralph, we were in Folkstone, UK and drove straight out onto the the motorway towards the Dartmouth Crossing.

A bit of traffic on the M25 around London slowed us down but we by 2.30pm, we were in Milton Keynes picking up our suitcases from Ralphs home at Hireahymer.com.

The camp

After this, we followed the Gary’s  GPS settings to the Old Dairy Farm campground which is right by a canal. Just beautiful. A really small camp with about 15 powered sites on an old Farm.

Looking over towards Harry

We headed off in Ralph up to a pub about 3 k’s called the Three Locks Hotel which is as it says, right by 4 locks and by the canal.

A beautiful setting. We went with Dianne and Gary and shouted them  a meal out on our last night as a way of saying thank you for being in their hair for the previous month or so and being great tour guides, especially of their old home country of the Czech Republic. We wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it without you guys. Thanks heaps to you both.

We had a great night there. I think we were all pretty tired as starting out in France early and driving to where we were was all a bit hectic.

Water coming through the lock gates
Two narrow boats in the lock

It was a relatively early night but what a lovely spot to finish off the trip.

Through the hedge is the Canal

In the morning we were taking Ralph home and catching a coach to Heathrow Ibis for a night and then our flight home to NZ.

The Chunnel Crossing

After checking out the new Niesmann and Bichoff at Telford, we all piled into Gary and Diannes, Harry the Hymer and headed to Milton Keynes through the traffic to collect Ralph the rental Hymer. We arrived just before 5pm and Peter the proprietor, gave me a run down on Ralph. Where the hoses were, the camp chairs etc and how everything worked.

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Ralph is a real hard case machine. Its a 1992 Hymer with a 5 cylinder 2.9 litre Mercedes with automatic trans. It starts first pop everytime despite its 250000 miles on the clock. Its a fun wagon.

The Hymers in the carpark at Bearsted

We stopped at a Caravan park in Bearsted after battling the M1 traffic for a couple of hours and we arrived 3 minutes late at 8.03pm. The sign said no admittance after 8pm so we spent the night out in the carpark but still had to pay what I thought were extortionate fees of 34GPB (NZ$70!) without power and not much else. What a welcome .. Dianne rang and we were basically told “Rules are Rules !” .. not a nice welcome…no wonder the other Caravan Association calls themselves “the friendly group”.

We were close to the Channel Tunnel for the next morning and that was all that mattered.

We were away at 8:30 to get on the Chunnel Train. We arrived quite early and clocked in through both borders and parked our car in the C lane and went to get a cup of tea and look at the duty free stuff.

Fiona and Dianne with the Hymers waiting to board the train.

Gary and I stumbled on this amazing deal for internet for roaming all over Europe with a prepaid card from 3.  All the Truckies use it apparently but its great.

After an hour of cups of coffee we were asked to line up Harry and Ralph Hymers and get ready for the train. Its was amazing how quiet and how easy it was.. very streamlined. Dianne even got a wink from the French immigration man with his “lovely accent”!

Dianne and Fiona at the Duty free terminal waiting for the boarding signal.

About 10 minutes early, we were asked to move the Hymers onto the train.

Our view of Harry on the crossing

We drove up over a small bridge and then straight down a ramp and the sideways onto the train. You drive through the carriages until you get as far forward as you can then they chock your wheels.

20 minutes later with what was a very easy smooth ride and we were in France. It only took about 10 minutes and we were cruising up the carriageway to Belgium.

The Chunnel station in France with Harry on the ramp

Fantastic service and so easy.

Nibi

Nibi is our good Motorhome friends newest thing of beauty. It is amazing. These are considered to be like the Rolls Royce of Motorhomes in Europe and one look over it, its easy to see why.

Gary and Dianne with the beast behind

We were meeting Dianne and Gary in Telford to check it out before it gets shipped to NZ and we were running late. I texted Gary with an update saying we’d just dropped off the rental car and on our way in a cab to see them. The reply was.. “I’m in RV Heaven” .. I could picture him drooling over it but its neat that both Dianne and Gary are pleased with it as its been a long time coming.

A happy Dianne in the living area while Fiona inspects 🙂

It has a centre island bed with a centre Shower/Toilet bathroom arrangement and the living area in the front. Based on a Fiat Ducato, it is 8.8 metres long and has a custom Alko Chassis from front to back to give it car like handling. Gary also got the Air suspension option so it can self level and be raised to avoid damage on rough campsites.

We’re continuing on around Europe with them until early August and it will be back in NZ before they will so what a great homecoming present..

Gary in the garage

Nice one guys. I want one of these too 🙂

Shakespeare Country

While had the rental car we found that we weren’t really that far from Stratford on Avon so we’d do a trip up there for a look around.

Shops at Moreton on Marsh

On the way we stopped at a neat wee town called Moreton on Marsh and also had a walk around there.

Moreton  on marsh Hotel

We noticed one of the pubs there was doing specials around the Sky showing of the Lions V the All Blacks so we asked if we could watch the Americas Cup as a back up plan and they were very welcoming. We managed to get our Sky Go app and internet issues sorted so it wasn’t necessary but very kind of them.

Stratford on Avon was an amazing town. It was chocker with people having fun everywhere and again some more of those lovely old buildings. These looked even older but more Thatched roofs and from basic building practices.

The Canal was busy with a couple of Narrow boats set up as Ice cream shops doing a great trade. There were canal boats parked on the river and moving in all directions along with tour boats and a larger restaurant barge left while we were there.

We had a good wander up through the shopping streets to look at some of the old buildings.

The Oldest House

There is one house there that is said to the oldest house still lived in. Part of it has been turned into a museum. It is just great seeing all these towns and they’re all different.

The Oldest Pub in England

We arrived in Stow on the Wold early in the afternoon. I kept forgetting what it was called and reverting to Toad on the Hill but eventually I got there 🙂

Tetbury Market Square

On the way there from bath, we stopped in a town called Tetbury which has an original old Market Square building which is still used for markets. I’ve seen pictures of it in touristy brochures so was really keen to have a good look at it. We sat over the road from it and enjoyed a nice lunch there.

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The Town square in Stow on the Wold
Fiona in the Square at Stow on the Wold

We later arrived in Stow on the Wold and what a neat wee town. We parked in the Market Square and pretty quickly identified what looked like a nice place on the edge of the Square. Amazing food and very reasonably priced and plenty of it. I had a Pork Pie and Fiona had a Tuna Sandwich with chips. We both ended up eating the other halves of this for tea 🙂

After an hour or so, we walked down to our Hotel called the Porch Hotel. Outside there was no parking but we found out that they 4 parks around the back and it was pot luck as to whether you got one and there was an empty park. I ran up to the square, grabbed the car and we were in.

Later in the day, we had a good look around the rest of the square and then settled in to our room at the Hotel. Just amazing. This Hotel was originally built in 947AD and is reputed to be the Oldest Pub in England and it looks it. The ceilings are all old beams, some lashed together and there is even some witches marks on the side of one of the huge fireplaces in the Dining Room.

The fireplace with the witches marks on the left

The Americas Cup was on and we managed to get one of our ipads to clock in to watch it live.

The main square

Lovely Hotel, very helpful people running it and the village was stunning.. again lots of lovely old buildings.

Buns on the Bridge

The temperature had dropped from the 30’s down to a nice 20C so we set out for a walk with Fiona’s school friend from Exmouth, Hilary.

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Hilary and Fiona in Bath

Fiona and  Hilary’s dads  were both in the NZ and British Army in Terendak Military Camp in Malaya when they were both about 8 years old.
This was the first time they had seen each other since then so it was a real occasion for them both.

Escape route for seagulls under the bridge
The shops on the bridge

We were heading towards the  Bath Bridge for a look and maybe have lunch around that way. It is amazing with shops and cafes all built on the bridge over a weir and a canal so the boats can pass on the Avon river below. Stunning place.

 

Back to the Abbey Hotel where we’re staying.

On the way back to the Hotel it was really nice to see people in deck chairs and just soaking up the views and the sun.

A Heatwave in Bath

32 degrees C and I thought they only have snow here. Its Hot!!

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We were up early to leave our London digs and to get to Paddington where the Bath train left from, we had to catch two Tube Trains. They are amazingly efficient and once you get your head around them, theyre fantastic. We were at Paddington with time left over for a thickshake and some free Wifi at McDonalds 🙂

The Bath Abbey

After an hour or so we arrived in Bath.  We caught a Taxi to the Hotel which has to go round the back of Bath due to the one way streets to get to our Hotel, and then later in the day during our walk, discovered that the Station is only just around the corner.  Oh well .. it was hot and we had a fair bit of luggage to drag around  😉

We dropped off our bags and went for a wander around to check out the town. This is one very old town which I think was built by the Romans and like the other towns has the same stunning old buildings. Some of these though are really old.

The Roman Baths arch over the street

We spent the afternoon sitting out the heat under an umbrella with some cold drinks watching all the tourists board their buses outside the hotel.

Fiona in the Umbrella Street. I’m not sure what this was all about but it is a bit different 🙂

A lovely town with more to do with the rental car over the next few days.

Round and Round

We arrived in London about midday and from the train station headed straight to our Hotel by the British Museum.

The Morgan, where we stayed in London

It was really handy to everything and only a block or so away from two of the Tube stations from significant lines.

The British Museum just around the corner

The next morning, we headed up the road to a bus stop for the Hop on Hop off bus or as many call it, “The round and round bus”. Armed with our London pass, we headed off down into the London traffic on an open top Double Decker bus and it was great.

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St Pauls from the traffic !

Down to Trafalgar Square and then we went left along the Strand and then to Fleet St. Here we hit the traffic and didn’t move for about 20 minutes!! It eventually let us past St Pauls and not long after that, we ended up at The Tower of London and the Tower Bridge.

From the Tower Bridge

Once we got across the Tower Bridge we hit the traffic again. It was almost gridlock and I think it took about an hour to get through to Southhampton bridge which is near where the London eye is.

There is a lot of construction going on down there with several new apartments blocks going up.

House of Parliament

We got across to Westminster where we got off the bus and headed for the Cathedral.

Fiona outside Westminster Abbey

What an amazing building and it just oozes history.

The audio tour is great and a must do but both Fiona and I struggled to understand what we were looking at as the Audio tour didn’t really line up with the map very well. We got there in the end and it was time to find a pub for lunch.

Just around the corner in Parliament St was the Red Lion pub which had an upstairs dining room. I had the biggest Cod and chips with mushy peas I’ve ever seen in my life with an English beer.
The fish was fantastic, the beer was fine.. it was called Londons Pride but not being a big beer drinker I was really just interested in a taste. I think I prefer Heinekin as far as beer goes.
Great service, resonable prices and nice food.. This was the first time I’ve had mushy peas and I loved them. Fiona had a chicken salad and that was great too. .. washed down with a quality English cider which neither of us can remember the name of.

The Household cavalry Museum

We left here looking for the Churchill War room but the queue was so long and in the heatwave sun, we decided to flag it and while Fiona headed for the Household Cavalry Museum, I headed towards the Marble Arch and got some images of Buckingham Palace and the arch itself.

Marble Arch

The Household Cavalry has a close association with the Coldstream Guards. Fiona’s dad served in Malaya with the Coldstream Guards under the then CO Sir Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Anstruther who Rafe is named after.

Buckingham Palace down the Mall

Fiona caught up with me at the Charing Cross tube station and we both headed back to the Hotel. It was hot. They were talking 30C! so we were pleased to get back to the air conditioning.

A good day and the bus is definitely the best way to see London.

Little Downham

One of the main reasons we came up to Ely is that my English family were all originally from Little Downham which is about 10k’s out of Ely.

The main street of little Downham

Little Downham is a small farming village basically all centred around one main street.

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The church at the end of the road

At one end is the church which is like what you see on the TV shows and at the other end of the street is a pub called The Plough. Word has it that every generation in my family has had a drink in this Pub. It was shut when we were there so my turn will have to wait for another time.

The Church

One of my cousins Jan and her husband Bryan who are motorhomers too, organised the family to meet at another local pub called the Anchor. For Fiona and I, it was the first time that we’ve met most of them but I had known about many of them.

Outside the Anchor looking down the main street of Little Downham

Jan is a niece of my grandfather Bert and there were 11 brothers and sisters in the Miller family ! .. lots of cousins.

The whole family around the table

My grandfather Bert was a real hard case and was in the battle of the Somme during the first world war. He was a Tankie in one of the old diamond shape tanks in this battle and was one of the few to survive. He was listed as missing in action as they couldn’t find him!

Word has it that when he arrived back in Little Downham the town was deserted. He saw someone he knew and asked where everyone was. “Oh they’re all down at the church at your funeral Bert!”
So off he went down the road. His mother was so pleased to see him that she scraped the dirt of his great coat and put in a tin. This has been handed down through the family and is now in the safe hands of my son Alex with all the other family military memorabilia. The dirt is said to be from the Somme but is could easily be from a puddle anywhere 🙂 Good story anyway!!

Back to the reunion.. we had a great lunch .. it was neat meeting all those from my Grandfathers family. They’re a fun lot and we’re looking forward to doing another trip here to see them again.

Linda, Jan’s younger sister who lives in Ely very kindly gave us a ride back to the Lamb Hotel in Ely where were staying.

I just love these English towns with the history and the amazing buildings.

The man at the Ministers Tavern

We were early to check in to the Lamb Hotel so we went for a wander around Ely...After checking out the Cathedral which is massive, we headed down the main street towards a market.

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Inside the cathedral

The buildings are amazing and the streetscapes just sensational. Everywhere you looked, there was a piccy.

The cathedral at Ely

We ended up in a pub called the Ministers Tavern right opposite from the cathedral and the Lamb Hotel along the road a bit. The barman was wearing a Lions rugby jersey and when I asked for a Chardy, he described it as cheap aussie stuff so I was really pleased to be able to tell him we were Kiwis but I’m sure he knew anyway.

Our friendly barman with the Lions jersey.

He was more interested in telling us that the Lions beat the Maoris with a huge smile on his face.
We talked briefly about the Lions tour and he was a real rugby follower. Nice guy too. He was pleased when I told him that the cheap Aussie Chardy was actually quite nice! It was the only Chardy he had! We checked in at a wine shop around the corner and they seemed to be light on the Chardonnay offerings too.

It was too hot for wandering around much more so we went back to the Hotel for a blob.