Tag Archives: Small Towns

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.

Trains past Baker Street

The night we’ve been packing for finally rolled around and we were off to the airport for our almost midnight flight to Singapore from Auckland. We’d dropped the car off with daughter in law, Sarah earlier in the day and caught a shuttle to the airport.

What we didn’t know was that both of our sons, Drew, his girlfriend Jenna and Alex were on the same flight up from Wellington. We could have driven our car to the airport and they could have driven it home.. never mind. The shuttle was booked and paid for and it was too hard to undo.

At Singapore with our A380 about to take us to London

We left Auckland at 11:55 and about 2am, we both finally got some sleep. I find it really hard to sleep on a plane and dozy bouts is as good as it gets. I end up tired and grumpy at the other end and after a decent sleep, I’m right again:-)

Arriving at Changi at 6:30 odd, we had two hours before the next flight left at 9am. .. 13 hours !!

Both flights was pretty good though. I was watching the flight track and it was interesting to see that we flew over India and then up through Tajikistan and across to Moscow, out to the Baltic sea past Vilnius and then down to the English channel to Heathrow. .. well clear of the trouble spots!

The terminal transfer Train

Arriving at Heathrow was a doddle and what a massive airport. 5 Terminals all connected by trains in tunnels and you walk for miles between things.

Just to get our luggage was a hike through several buildings. I was expecting to get our bag and then go through Immigration. Not here.. you get in a queue, yep, they love their queues and once through Immigration, you get your bag. There wasn’t any customs that I could see.. we simply walked out, amazing. The immigration guy was a great guy and was more interested in having a chat about some of the strange photos he’d seen of people coming through than holding up a big queue 🙂 .. nice guy.

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We were both knackered and made our way straight to the airport Hilton (terminal 4) where we were booked for the night and crashed.

At Paddington with the amazing roof

The next morning, we were up early and caught a train to Terminal 3 where we caught an Express train into Paddington station.

People going for it at Paddington

Paddington is amazing with one of the big wired WW2 looking hanger structures over the whole platform area. Just like you see in all the old movies. Great for piccies so I took a few here. It was busy too with people everywhere.

We caught another train from here to Kings Cross and then changed again to catch our prepaid train to Ely. Kings Cross station is very like Paddington with the huge Hanger like look .. amazing.

A visitor from Hawkes Bay checking out the Baker street sign

On the way to Cambridge was the Baker Street stop. My immediate thought was  Sherlock. When we stopped, the double entrance doors perfectly lined up for the Baker Street signs and while I took a piccy a young girl wandered into the shot to photograph it herself.. all this without getting out of my seat ! My lucky day.

After lunch, we rocked into Ely.  A few trains, cabs and stuff but we’re here and its fantastic.

Horses in Kaikohe

I was on my way to the Horeke Tavern but after hitting some gravel road and with 18k’s to go and the weather looking iffy, I thought I’d be a wuss and head back to the Equestrian Centre in Kaikohe for a park for the night.

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Great parking

I’d just arrived when a smart looking VW Sprinter based van followed me in. This turned out to be some veteran motor homers in their 3rd month away from their home in Alexandra in Otago. They came over and joined me for a happy hour cold one.

This is an amazing place to stay. A huge carpark with power boxes dotted around so you can take your pick. In the middle at one end is a toilet block with showers and a dump station and potable water too. All this for $10 a night. They have made good use of an old red telephone box by making that the place where you pay and register for the night.

The Red Telephone box

The day we were there, the local pony club were practising. Its a great scene.

They are very careful about making sure the gate is locked behind you and for the night with the padlock. While we were there, 4 or 5 police cars raced by in different directions so they must have their reasons 🙂 .. Despite that, we all felt reasonably safe.

The old Ngawha Springs pools are just down the road. I’m not sure if they’re still open though.

Power boxes everywhere you look

A fabulous place to stay in the North and at a great price!

The Netspeed Speedtest .. a long way from a tower!
Download: 5.94 Mbps
Upload: 2.32 Mbps
Ping: 60 ms

Rafes Tracker Map

Rafe’s Tracker map


Staying in a Train

I rocked in to the Dargaville Campervan Park and Cabins and was immediately greeted by Donna leaping out of her live in caravan with a big welcome.  She was fantastic. She and her husband Vic have been managing the Park for some time now and love it.

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Being the only Motorhome in the park in the middle of the week, she suggested I could park anywhere. Unique to this park are a couple of the parks that have an ensuite cabin for Motorhomes where you can park next door and have exclusive use of your own private shower and bathroom for the duration of your stay. The cost of my parking was $18 for the night on my own but on gravel and the bathroom facilities are amazing. There is also a dump station available.

Rafe parked next to an Ensuite

Around the outside of the Motorhome parking are about 10 “cabins” which are actually ex NZ Railways Good wagons converted to accomodation and done really well. With decks attached, small kitchenettes and full bathrooms, they’re fantatsic.

The park is right in the centre of town and with Countdown and the Warehouse at the end of the road, makes it very handy to everything.

You can’t beat the welcome from Donna and its a very comfortable place to stay in the centre of a neat town.

Rafe’s Tracker Map

Dargaville at the top of the map

Top Value Parking with Top Value Tucker

The Coromandel Hotel is a real surprise.

The front of the Hotel

By walking down the street beside it reveals a nice private flat powered Motorhome park behind the hotel nicely planted out with Palms and with a nice outlook. It is $25 (for two)a night and includes the use of the nearby Backpackers Toilet and Showers. It also has a dump station.

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Solid ground too.
The Backpackers with the Dump Station, Showers and Toilets.

We arrived early on a Friday and checked in for a weekend at Coromandel. Our friends Dianne and Gary were staying in a motel room in the Coromandel Top 10 right opposite so it worked perfectly.

We went for a walk down to the town which takes all of 10 minutes and enjoyed a cuppa at one of the many cafes down there and after checking into some of the shops wandered back to Rafe. There is a Laundromat there too.

That night it rained and we popped over to the Motel unit and enjoyed a few laughs and glasses of wine before heading to the Coromandel Hotel for tea. It was stunning. Gary and I had a carpetbag steak each, Fiona had a seafood chowder which had huge pieces of seafood in it and Dianne had the roast pork. The best was still to come.. liquorice ice cream with sambuca.. and it was huge. We all hooked in. This is really something to see and even better to eat.

Looking down the back

A neat place to stay and great place to eat as well.

I have done a blog on this before but this is the first time we’ve stayed here and I’m pleased we did!

One thing I did find interesting is like Simpsons Beach, I had to switch the router back to 3G. Although it worked on 4G, It was significantly faster on 3G.. see the speedtests below.

The Netspeed speedtests for this site.

Download: 22.95 Mbps
Upload: 2.41 Mbps
Ping: 67 ms

Download: 5.67 Mbps
Upload: 0.08 Mbps
Ping: 72 ms

Cruzin in Thames

The  sign said “Park in an empty park, plug yourself in and make yourself comfortable and we’ll be round”. .. or words of that effect. We were just parking when a huge smile appeared around the corner of the next door Motorhome helping us to park.

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I’d heard all about Cruzin N Stop before and was keen to try it out. It is right in the middle of Thames and is perfectly located for checking out the shops and cafes so I was immediately scoring huge brownie points with Fiona 🙂

Rafe in the park

For $20 including power for NZMCA members with toilets and a shower. Its a neat wee place to stay right in the middle of things. Its not a place you would go for a holiday given that it comes with in town distractions but its safe, handy, good value and the people are really helpful.

We stayed the night here on route to Coromandel. The road up the coast was closed due to slips and washouts and after a stroll around the town and a good gander at some antique shops, we headed back to Rafe and settled down some good old fashioned Netflix movies while it rained. Fiona on one TV, me on the other 🙂

The next morning, we walked the other way and after a visit to the Dump Station, we were off over the hill.

The Brian Boru Hotel

A neat spot to stop for a night or two, very very handy to everything in Thames and great people. At $20 with power and other facilities in the middle of town, it’s pretty reasonable.

The Netspeed Speedtest for this site.
Download: 33.20 Mbps
Upload: 23.19 Mbps
Ping: 48 ms
Rafe’s Tracker Map