Spending time with friends, especially good friends is always a pleasure. Since we had ‘retired’ from flying, it had been too long since we had managed to spend time with F & R although we did keep in touch by phone and email. They had fancied the idea of a motor home and wanted to give it a try, so a plan was hatched to spend a week at two different locations. We would take the caravan and they would hire a motor home.
As F & R would be hiring a motor home from www.landcruise.uk.com in Chichester, West Sussex we thought it would be best to choose a location not too far away for the first part of the adventure. I chose Morn Hill Caravan Club at Winchester as they accepted non-members and none of us had ever been to Winchester.
Saturday 5th April
It is a well rehearsed and practiced routine for us now loading up the caravan and by 9:30 we were pulling out of the caravan storage facility for the 280 mile trip south. The route for us was fairly well-known as we had travelled it many times down to Southampton. The M6 southbound was fairly quiet and by 11:00 we were pulling into Norton Caines services on the M6 Toll for a leg stretch. There were plenty of caravan parking spaces available and 20 minutes later we were setting off again. We took advantage of the Caravan Club’s member discount at the M6 toll booth and for the car and caravan it only cost us the price of the car. The M40 was as quiet and we made good time to the A34 exit. Just north of Newbury as we approached the M4 junction our Sat-Nav indicated a delay of 5 minutes ahead… then 10 and as we passed the M4 the traffic started to slow. We came to a stop just as the A339 splits away from the A34. We could see standing traffic up the hill in the distance. The Sat-Nav was now telling us the delay was up to 25 minutes, but we were still on the fastest route.
Unbelievably cars were now moving from the A34 standing traffic and pulling out into the two lane A339… with quite a few very close calls and a lot of horns being blown as cars were shooting past at a fair turn of speed. As traffic was building up behind more drivers were taking the A339 and whizzing past us on the inside. We turned on the radio just in time to get a traffic update – the A34 was closed to allow the Air Ambulance to land.
The madness started. We could see cars further up the hill turning round and driving back down the carriage way in-between the two lanes of stationary traffic. The Eddie Stobart driver had correctly left himself a gap between himself and the vehicle in front which was now being used by vehicles to cut across lane 1 and the painted hatched area onto lane 2 of the A339.
The driver of a white coach on the A339 must have required a change of underwear when a vehicle pulled out in front of him causing him to swerve from lane 2 across lane one almost collecting a small car in lane 1 in the process. We counted some twenty to thirty cars perform this manoeuvre just to get out of the traffic jam. Yet all the time our Sat-Nav said we were still on the fastest route. As we looked across the traffic on the A339 was now grinding to a halt in its own traffic jam and ironically we could see the cars ahead further up the hill starting to move. The whole delay was only about 30 minutes so not a big deal really. By 15:00 we were pulling into Morn Hill Caravan Club site just east of Winchester.
We were lucky and managed to find two adjacent pitches on the site. By the time we were set up, F & R arrived in their rented motor home. It didn’t take too long to get F reversed in to position in line with the pitch peg and the EHU plugged in. Time for wine.
That evening we decided to go out for a meal and after trying the local pub, The Golden Lion (www.thegoldenlionwinchester.co.uk) which was fully booked, the Landlady recommended The Chestnut Horse (www.thechestnuthorse.com) and phoned ahead to book us a table. We can definitely recommend you try The Chestnut Horse. Directions are on their website.
Sunday 6th April
Not much to report – weather crap, wine stocks severely depleted, lots of ‘nibbles’ nibbled, serious amount of catching up done, tested all the switches in the motor home.
Monday 7th April
Weather much improved! We had a number of options for fine weather and a visit to Beaulieu home of the National Motor Museum was one. It was just over forty minutes away in the New Forest. The museum is home to a wonderful collection of vehicles, from the humble Mini to Formula 1 and everything in between. Outside the main museum building is the World of Top Gear telling the stories behind some of the vehicles featured on the TV program. It was surprising to see that in real life just how bad some of the vehicles really were and I wondered how they managed to legally drive them on the road!. Lunch beckoned and The Brabazon Restaurant fuelled us up for part two. We hopped on the monorail to take us round to see Palace House, the Secret Army Exhibition and the Abbey.
Tuesday 8th April
The sun was shining and Winchester was the target for today. We found the multi-story car park on Sussex Street near the County Council offices and headed off towards Westgate and The Great Hall, the home of “The Round Table”
While visiting The Great Hall, take time to visit the gallery (up the stairs just to the right of The Round Table) it tells part of the fascinating story of Winchester.
From The Great Hall it is only a couple of minutes walk to the Hussars museum and the Gurkha museum. Although only small there is a huge amount packed into these two museums. Both tell their stories quite well. The Gurkha museum was especially interesting for me as my knowledge was sadly lacking about this proud regiment and people. We left the museums and wandered towards the Cathedral. However, the requirement for a caffeine and calorie infusion took precedence so we turned off towards the High Street with The New Vaudeville’s 1966 hit “Winchester Cathedral” rattling round my grey cells.
Suitably refreshed we wandered up High Street window shopping. Our stocks of wine and nibbles had taken a bashing on Sunday so we headed back to the car park and picked up the car to go in search of a supermarket that could replenish stocks. That evening “One Hairy Caravanner” donned his apron of disguise and cooked 4 pork steaks on the Cadac accompanied by onions sautéed in Balsamic Vinegar, spicy potato slices and fresh carrots.
Wednesday 9th April
Moving day. Our time at Morn Hill Caravan Club site had quickly come to an end and we were due to move some 80 miles north-west to our favourite site “The Old Oaks” at Glastonbury. By 10:40 we were all packed up and pulling out of the site with F & R following in their motor home.
Morn Hill has just over 100 pitches, all grass. It is a great location for exploring Winchester and the surrounding area. The site is split into two, an upper area where reception is located and a lower area. Although all grass, the pitches were quite firm even though the area had a lot of rainfall in the past few weeks. The facilities are a little dated but clean although the showers seemed very tiny. It was the first time I’d had to use a motor home service point so I can’t really give that a rating, but I will pay more attention in the future!
Next: Time With Friends… Pt 2
Places to visit: Beaulieu - Home of the National Motor Museum Buckler's Hard - 18th Century Village where Nelson's ships were built Winchester Cathedral Visit Winchester Mid Hants Railway - Watercress Line Military Museums The Gurkha Museum - not to be missed! The King's Royal Hussars - another one not to be missed Winchester Science Centre