Caravan, Caravanning, Caravans, Glastonbury, One Hairy Caravanner, The Old Oaks, West Somerset Railway
A few weeks ago we had a five-day break down at The Old Oaks, Glastonbury but all did not go quite to plan.
We had loaded up the caravan over the weekend ready for an early departure on the Monday. I’d done the usual checks, including wheel nut torque and tyre pressure…. oops, the left was down from its normal 62 PSI to a lowly 50 PSI and the right hand side was sitting at 52 PSI. Now at home I have a compressor and air lines in the workshop and it’s a simple matter of pulling out the retractable airline and squirting a bit of air in the tyre, but one thing I don’t have is a suitable 12 volt air compressor. Never the one to miss a tool or accessory buying opportunity after loading the caravan we headed in the direction of one of the well-known auto stores. Finding the correct section in the store and reading all the boxes of the various options it seemed they didn’t have an offering that would hit the magical 62 PSI…. not even the all-singing digital set your pressure and bob’s your Uncle £60 version. OK I’d have to come up with an alternative.
Monday 28th June
We set off just after nine for the 200 or so miles drive south to Glastonbury. I’d decided that it would be easier to stop off at a garage as soon as we could to correct the tyre pressure in the caravan tyres. I’d thought about the route and the only garage i knew that would allow me to get the Freelander and caravan in was the first services on the M6 – Knutsford. We joined the M60 in Stockport and picked up the M56 past the airport. The main cause of damage to under inflated tyres is over heating brought on by overloading and speed. We weren’t overloaded and I reduced speed as much as I could on the motorway without hopefully causing any problems. I had noticed that the caravan didn’t feel comfortable being towed. Normally towing with the Freelander is a pleasure as Land Rover know how to make vehicles that can tow, even an older one like ours.
It wasn’t too long before we were leaving the A56 and joining the M6 south and within a few hundred yards I was indicating to pull off into Knutsford Services. We have only been in Knutsford Services once before to meet up with friends coming down from Scotland to head in convoy to the Isle of Wight and one thing that struck me, being more aware of the need for them towing a caravan, is the lack of signs. We followed the road round for the filling station and pulled in looking round for the “Air Line” sign. Sue jumped out and walked over the forecourt shop, emerging a few minutes later. “The air line is round the back” Great… we were in totally the wrong position and would have to reverse back “and it’s out-of-order” Fantastic. No choice but to head back on to the motorway and call in at the next services – Sandbach.
What a difference, plenty of signs and you didn’t have to go through the garage forecourt to access the airline. It was a pay-to-inflate unit and setting the pressure to 62 before pulling out the air line, which was quite long enough to reach we were soon back to our normal operating pressure. Sue popped into the shop and picked up two coffees and we headed out back on to the M6. What a difference a few pounds of air pressure makes. Within a mile or so I could tell everything was behaving and feeling as it should. Since this trip I’ve bought a portable 12 volt air compressor that is capable of inflating to 95 PSI and Ill be posting a full review of it shortly. If your tyres are only a few pounds out, sort it out before you set off, it makes the world of difference to the towing experience.
Living in Manchester, like most Mancunians, we have a love hate relationship with the M6. We like the fact it is close and allows us to go north or south easily but hate the fact it is prone to mahoosive tailbacks from time to time. This morning it was the former, no accidents, traffic flowing easily and we maintained a cruise of 55-56 MPH all the way down to Birmingham, only slowing down for a bit of congestion at the M5 junction. The M5 was quiet and by 1:00 we were pulling in to Michael Wood services for a sammich and cup of coffee. Setting off again into the afternoon sun it was an easy hour and a half drive down to The Old Oaks, pulling in at exactly ten to three.
As usual, checking in is quick and easy and the staff are always friendly and helpful. As we hadn’t had chance to do our usual pre trip caravan wash and polish we took the opportunity to book a full wash and polish by a local company. This can be arranged by the staff in reception.
We were parked once again in the walnut circle, and as connecting to power, water and drainage is always straight forward at The Old Oaks it didn’t take long before it was wine ‘o’clock.
And the view from our pitch….
Tuesday 23rd June
Tuesday is market day in Glastonbury, and as Glastonbury festival was due to start it’s always full of interesting characters and after a tour of the market stalls, sitting outside Heaphy’s Cafe enjoying a coffee (green tea in Sue’s case) and Panini in the mid morning sun affords one the pastime that is people watching.
My feet were starting to hurt and were rather tender and I was hobbling rather than walking by now. The back story to this is back in March I’d gone back to work after a few years of ‘retirement’ and working airside at Manchester Airport we have to wear safety shoes, that are mainly plastic and Kevlar, so we can pass through the metal detectors without steel toe caps setting them off. These safety shoes don’t allow feet to breath and for the past couple of weeks I thought I’d got athlete’s foot and had been treating it with a proprietary medicated powder. However my feet had started to blister and walking was to say the least uncomfortable.
We drove back to the caravan and had an afternoon of sitting in the sunshine watching all the comings and goings at the site and catching up on a bit of reading, in my case a couple of copies of Land Rover Owner magazine.
By early evening we were both feeling a bit hungry so my alter ego “One Hairy Caravanner” assembled the Cadac and rustled up something from our purchases earlier in the day….
Local sausages, pan fried new potatoes, spicy omelettes (Mexican style) made from fresh eggs laid by the chickens at The Old Oaks, and salad.
By 7:00 I could hardly stand and Sue headed down to reception to find out if there was a local surgery where I might be able to get an emergency appointment. Sue appeared back shortly “We’re off to hospital” she announced. I though this would be a long drive to one of the major towns, but only three or four miles away was the local cottage hospital – West Mendip Community Hospital. 10 minutes later we were booking in. The receptionist entered my name, date of birth and address and up popped all my GP’s details. We sat in the waiting area with a few others waiting our turn.
Eventually we were seen by a nurse ( I wish I could remember her name) and in conversation it turned out she was from Stalybridge and worked at Tameside Hospital before moving south to an area her and her partner loved and had spent many holidays there. She took one look at my feet and decided it wasn’t athletes foot… and declared a second opinion was needed. A few minutes later another nurse practitioner appeared and after delving into a bit of medical history it suddenly dawned on us that I’d had an allergic reaction to something. Now backing up a bit, about 18 months earlier I’d bought a pair of – love ’em or hate ’em ‘Croc’s” to use pottering about in, but after a couple of hours wearing them I’d got tiny blisters over the top of my feet… didn’t wear them for a while, tried again and the blisters came back, even with socks on. It turns out I had a reaction to the plastic in the safety shoes at work.
Feet covered with cream and bandaged and with a big box of antibiotic pills we sat outside the caravan…. this was going to scupper all the plans we had for the holiday.
Wednesday 24th June
Having the ability to only hobble a few yards and having to have my feet dressed twice a day meant it was a feet up kind of day, doing absolutely bugger all. By now I’d read everything. Sue had depleted her reading matter and sat in the sun realised that she might just have to tow the caravan home on Sunday. This would be a bit of a challenge as Sue had never towed the caravan. I’m definatly going to get her on the next Caravan Club towing course.
We did manage a genteel walk (or hobble in my case) around the fishing lake at The Old Oaks and along the new path created that takes you through the woods and round the top of the site.
I managed to just about capture a couple of the dozens of dragonfly’s that were around the lake…
…and somewhere under here was a big fish that kept causing a splash as it was after the insects…
Wednesday night was curry night, and we, like a lot of the other caravanners and motor-homers ordered a curry, collected by a couple of the staff from the site from the local Indian restaurant.
Thursday 25th June
Thursday started rather misty…. well it was at ten to seven!
Dispite the misty start, by eight o’clock it was burning off nicely and promising to be another warm sunny day.
Today was the day that the guys were coming over to wash and polish the caravan so we put the chairs away so they had a clear run around the caravan.
The twice daily feet dressings seemed to be working and we decided to head over to Bishops Lydeard, just north west of Taunton, to take a trip on the West Somerset Railway for a day out in Minehead. The first steam train departed for Minehead at 10:25 so estimating it would take about an hour to drive we set off just before nine. I’d already programmed the station as a POI into the Sat-Nav a couple of visits earlier as we had always intended to go before now and the cross-country route was an easy drive through some picturesque countryside. West Somerset Railway is apparently, the longest heritage railway in England.. although I have heard that Severn Valley hopes at some point in the future to add to its route which may be slightly longer. Then again West Somerset has ambitions to connect up to Taunton via Norton Fitzwarren.
It takes about an hour and twenty-five minuets for the train journey from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead, passing through eight stations. One of the more notable stops is the one just before Minehead at Dunster, where you can visit the castle or walk through the old village.
Somehow pictures of steam trains always seem better in monochrome…. well to me anyway!
Although I worked for a rail company for years, I know very little about steam engines, apart from the basics. I do like some of the engineering details though. This do-hicky was gently hissing steam but I haven’t a clue as to what it is or does.
I appreciate all the people who give up hours and hours of their time to volunteer and work on many of the heritage railways we have visited. They look after everything from the engines and rolling stock to the track bed and buildings in a supreme effort to maintain some of Britons finest engineering heritage. It’s always worth visiting these railways in en effort to support them… and it’s always a good day out too!
Sue waiting patiently while I wander round taking photos, even getting the coffee in!
One of those classic “looking down the platform from the train” shots….
The first glimpse of the sea after passing through Williton…
…and of course the other classic train shot… the train rounding a bend…
After years of traveling on trains up and down the country, it is great to not have the background engine noise from a DMU or some motor or other running on an electric unit… just the clickety-clack of wheels passing over rail joints. No welded rails here. The down side is of course sometimes getting covered in ash if you forget to close the window at the appropriate moment!
Minehead is probably more well known by generations of families for the Butlins holiday camp than anything else. There is evidence of human occupation in the area since the Bronze and Iron Ages.
There was a small port at Minehead by 1380, which grew into a major trading centre during the medieval period. Most trade transferred to larger ports during the 20th century, but pleasure steamers did call at the port. Major rebuilding took place in the town following a fire in 1791. The town is the starting point of the South West Coast Path National Trail, the nation’s longest long-distance countryside walking trail.
Minehead’s picturesque harbour with its RNLI station and shop, also hosts summer pleasure boat cruises on the paddle steamer Waverley and motor vessel Balmoral.
It doesn’t take too long to walk the sea front and using a handy pocket guide we picked up on the station platform we set off up the main shopping street in search of coffee and brunch avoiding the crowds at the cafe next to the station.
Although it was overcast, it was warm enough to sit outside and do a spot of people watching as we ate lunch. Sue needed to find a chemist to stock up on bandages and gauze pads for dressing my feet… which were improving at a remarkable rate, and according to the guide there was a “Boots” on the main street.
Medical supplies replenished we explored some of the other shops. The further away you go from the sea front, the shops change from mainly tourist/souvenir to a mix of local and specialist.
By now it was time to head back towards the railway station. We planned on catching the last train back at 16:25 arriving in Bishops Lydeard around 17:35. I think a lot of people were planning on this and the platform was fairly busy… I guess how it must have been in the heyday of rail.
We got back to find the caravan all lovely and shiny in the evening sun. The guys had been and washed and polished the caravan and after a close inspection I concluded that they had done an excellent job. I can recommend the service.
Friday 26th June
“Phew what a scorcher” could well have been the headline in any of the red tops. Clear blue sky and first day proper day of Glastonbury Festival. We had passed by Clarkes Outlet Village several times and naively assumed it was just an outlet village for the Clarkes shoe factory, but reading through some of the tourist info available in the information centre at The Old Oaks discovered it was lots of shops. Sue never wishing to miss a ‘shopertunity’ (and me neither really… ) thought it might be worth a visit.
There is a great selection of major brand outlet shops that seem to go on forever and they link up with the main shopping street of Street – the town. There is a selection of chain restaurants there too if you need sustenance on an extended visit. Sue spied a “must have” handbag that was a bit of a bargain and I managed to pick up a pair of sandals from the Clarkes shop.
Friday night is ‘fish and chip’ night at The Old Oaks… you place your order anytime throughout the day and they are delivered direct to the site. The only thing we found was it’s worth popping the oven on before they arrive to warm the plates and heat up the fish and chips for a few minutes. These were washed down with a rather nice bottle of local cider bought in the site shop.
Saturday 27th June
Another place we had always intended to visit on one of the previous trips down was the Haynes Motor Museum at Sparkford near Yeovil. It’s only a short drive following the Sat-Nav across country, almost the same route you take to the Fleet Air-Arm Museum (another ‘must’ if you haven’t been before).
The museum, which was established in 1985, is an Educational Charitable Trust chaired by John Haynes OBE, of Haynes Publishing Group, the company that publishes the Haynes Manuals. The museum contains over 400 cars and motorcycles.
When we arrived in front of the recently refurbished and new sections of the building the local motorcycle club was holding an event and there were stands from motorcycle suppliers, the local police and ambulance services with displays including some of the bikes they use. It was an added bonus to the visit.
While there you can visit the Museum Motoring Shop or get a coffee or a meal in the Café 750 and if you really want…. you can get married there too!
“Do they do them in any other colours?”
Err… that will be a “No”… this is the red room.
Sunday 28th June
All to quickly our time was up for this break. Sue was pleased that she didn’t have to go through the traumas of towing the caravan for the first time as my feet were recovering quite well. We packed up and by 10:15 were leaving The Old Oaks heading towards the M5 and back north towards home. Nothing went to plan on this trip really, but sometimes it’s just like that and there is not much you can do except just ride along with it. We had great weather and as usual The Old Oaks and it’s staff proved why it’s probably one of the top sites in the UK.
It was unusual for me to return home from a trip and have to go back to work the following day. I’ve not had to do that for a few years and hence why this post about the trip took so long to write… next time I’ll start writing while we are away.
So where is our next trip going to take us ?. Well, back in January (before I knew I’d be returning to work) we had booked a number of trips away, some of which we had to cancel. However one of the trips we did book that we can do was to another Tranquil Touring sites for our wedding anniversary in September – Plough Lane Caravan Site, near Chippenham.
What’s next, Well I have a review of a rather handy 12 volt tyre inflator which I mentioned earlier that I have been impressed by coming up for you and I’ve been trying to catch up on all the emails the blog receives. Since passing one million page views a while back the blog is as busy as ever and companies are now interested in asking me to review kit and equipment, so there might be some sponsored reviews coming up in the near future. I’m still blown away by how fast the blog has grown in just over three and a half years since I started tapping away on a keyboard.