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This time of year is great for getting away in your caravan or motor home and getting into the festive spirit. We have owned a caravan for 5 years now and every year to extend the season we have managed to take in a Christmas Market – Lincoln, Erddig, Cheltenham, Oxford, Birmingham to name a few. This year would be no exception and we had decided to re-visit Birmingham. Around the same time as we were planning this, Andy Harris, the TV presenter, owner of RoadPro and avid motorhome enthusiast had been in touch and had a product he wanted us to try out… and make a video!

Monday 12th December

We had booked in again to Chapel Lane Caravan Club site in Wythall on the outskirts of Birmingham. Its ideally located for getting into the centre of Birmingham via the car or train.

We picked up the caravan from the storage facility and set off at 10:50 for the 104 mile trip down to the site. The motorways were showing clear on the GPS. Slight delay through the roadworks on the M6, but no major holdup. Pulled into Chapel Lane Camping and Caravan site at  13.15.

Pitching the caravan is by now, a well rehearsed act… pink and blue jobs and we both get on with it. However my awning setup routine was interrupted by Sue announcing “the loo won’t flush” You can read all about that in the previous post: Flushed With Success…. Eventually.

Twinkly lights under the full moon

Twinkly lights under the full moon

Tuesday 13th December

A little trip out to CAK Tanks for a spare part was the order of the day after ringing to confirm they had the part in stock. Before we set off Sue prepared the evening meal in the slow cooker (crock-pot). Sue recently ‘re-discovered’ our slow cooker and has been trying different recipes. It really is ideal for the caravan…. prepare everything in the morning, turn it on and set off for the day knowing there’s going to be a hot meal ready when we come back. Absolutely ideal for caravanning in the colder months.

We punched the address for CAK Tanks into the sat-nav and set off. It took us about 25 minutes to get there. This was our first visit to CAK and let me just say YOU GUY’S NEED A BIGGER SHOP! The existing shop was packed to the roof with products and I guess they only had a tiny percentage of what they actually stock on display and I would have loved to have spent hours browsing (and a small fortune probably) and chatting to the staff.

We arrived back at the caravan and I set to sorting out the ‘repair’…. which wasn’t really a repair, more putting right someone else’s mistake.

Wednesday 14th…. the video man cometh!

We were up fairly early to make sure everything was tidy… not that it usually isn’t, ready for Andy arriving. He was due to arrive about ten and had already got permission from the Caravan Club to shoot video on site.

Thankfully we were lucky with the weather. The previous days gloom and drizzle had given way to clear sky and in the morning bright sun. As for the video and what it was all about…. well you will just have to wait a few days but needless to say I ain’t going to win anything in the talent stakes!

Thursday 15th December

Wednesday night the temperature dropped and the fog started to appear. We were up early again and peering out of the caravan window.  After our showers it still didn’t seem like daylight had arrived properly. At least it wasn’t raining. We set off a little after nine to walk the mile or so down to Wythall station to catch the 09:57 train to Moor Street station which is perfect for visiting the centre of Birmingham.

Waiting for the train at Wythall Station in the morning mist

Waiting for the train at Wythall Station in the morning gloom

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Walking down New Street

Leaving the main entrance of Moor Street, if you cross over the road and climb the steps opposite it brings you out at one end of the Christmas Market on New Street and you just follow the stalls. We dropped in to a Costa Coffee to stock up on caffeine and followed  the trail of stalls. The stalls run along New Street and into Victoria Square where a number of the food and drink stalls are located.

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Some of the stalls in Victoria Square

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From Victoria Square follow Fletchers Walk toward Centenary Square where all the Christmas Craft market stalls are located, opposite the building that houses the Library and Birmingham Repertory Theatre. (You can use the loo’s in here if required). There was an excellent stall dispensing hot cider with sloe gin… well it would seem rude not to!

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The big wheel in Centenary Square next to the ice rink and library

Back at Victoria Square we partook of the first festive continental sausage… washed down with mulled wine (Sue)… and a hot chocolate with whipped creme (Me) and it wasn’t even noon yet!

We walked part way back down New Street past the stall on the other side and eventually cut across to New Street Station and the shopping malls for a spot of window shopping and in search of a late lunch.

 Friday 16th December – British Motor Museum, Gaydon

Last year, our efforts to visit the British Motor Museum were shorted lived. When we arrived it was shut. Not doing any checking about opening times was down to me. If I had, I’d have discovered that there was a £1.1 Million refurbishment being undertaken. This year however, I did check and it was open (well the first floor of the ‘Collections’ centre was closed while the floor was being repaired) and after a thirty minute drive from the site we arrived spot on 10:30. It’s well worth a visit if you have any interest in British car manufacturing, however I was a little disappointed that there were not as many Land Rovers on display as I had expected… plenty of Jaguars (well it is owned by Jaguar Land Rover) but a bit thin on Landy’s. Here are a few photos rather than me waffle on….

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Sue’s second favourite car

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Above & Below: Laura Croft’s Tomb Raider Landy

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Sue’s favourite car…. I’d better start saving!

A highlight was this 1935 Royal Winchester caravan. I managed to get a couple of photos through the windows without too much reflection. With a lot of the cars the door windows were open, and although you are asked politely not to touch the exhibits… you can almost put your head through the window for a closer look and to sniff the interiors… its surprising the memories this triggered. Unfortunately the caravan had all it’s windows firmly shut and I would have loved to have been able to at least have a closer look (and sniff) at the interior.

This did get me wondering, as we have been building caravans almost as long as we have been building cars, do we have a national collection of caravans anywhere?

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On the way back we called in to Hatton Shopping Village, the place we found last year. The shops were fairly quiet as it was Friday and obviously the schools hadn’t finished for Christmas yet. There were over a dozen Christmas stalls set up outside in addition to the many specialist small shops. As it was about lunch o’clock we dropped into Spinning Jenny, the restaurant, bar and tea room. Sue opted for fish cakes and I plumped for the gammon.

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However it arrived on a routed and planed scaffolding plank. My pet peeve is food served on planks, shovels, roofing slates or for that matter anything that is not a plate or something that can be suitably washed. OK I can accept a cheese board on wood, but grilled meat… unless they have a butcher’s apprentice trained to scrub a butchers block for twenty minutes with water and bleach washing up… I have a problem with it. That said… it was very nice.

As are most of our caravanning trips it had come to an end and the following day it was time to go home.

If you havent thought of using your caravan or motor home out of season, or thought about visiting a Christmas Market, start thinking about it now. Using your caravan or motor home in the winter isn’t an issue, they are all designed for all year use and have good insulation. Our tip is when you arrive put the heating on full blast and get the living space up to a comfortable temperature as quick as possible. Don’t fall into the “Keep the heating low to save gas/electric and let it warm up slowly….. use the “blast furnace” setting and get the heat into the van quickly, once it’s comfortable reduce the setting to maintain the level of warmth you are happy with.

Sites are usually quiet this time of year and you won’t have too many problems booking somewhere…. the hardest thing is deciding on which Christmas Market you want to visit… or visit two! Spend a few days at one then move on to another, that’s what caravans and motor homes were designed for, moving about. Remember you can go everywhere like a local!

OK that’s it for our travels this year, we are already looking forward to 2017 and the caravan and motor home show at Event City in Manchester in January…. then the NEC in Feb…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Simon & Sue