Friday, 3 December 2010

Fourth UKAirstreamers Gathering, Ludlow

Wow, what a weekend!

Pete and Tracey of UKAirstreamers spent their summer organising the biggest event on any UK Airstreamers calendar, and that was the 'big' Autumn gathering. And at an impressive 30 trailers and motorhomes, it was certainly the largest collection EVER of Airstreams in the UK, at least to anyone's knowledge.

Friday saw eight of us meet up at Whitchurch to travel down in convoy. And what an impressive sight we made:

Airstream Ludlow

There followed the most fantastic weekend ever. Our hosts Carl and Gaynor, together with Pete and Tracey, were the perfect swans; calm and serene on the surface yet paddling like mad behind the scenes to make sure everything went smoothly. Fabulous people, and a fabulous time. Let the pictures do the talking:

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

Airstream Ludlow

As Airstreamers, we are used to people coming over to have a look. But on the Monday we were packing up, we had the drop-in to end all drop-ins. The RAF (possibly the RN, I'm no expert) flew overhead. The next thing we knew, the helicopters re-appeared and came down to say hi! WOW!!!

Airstream; Ludlow

Finally, a video of the weekend (but sadly not the helicopters) is available to view here:


A big thank-you to Pete and Tracey, and Carl, Gaynor and the boys.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

"There's always Alderstead..."

I don't know whether it's to do with the slightly complicated approach route or the fact that you really need to use the car when going off site, or possibly because it is a site of gargantuan proportions, but you'll normally find a pitch at Alderstead Heath, no matter how busy the season. "There's always Alderstead...' is an oft-used phrase when my caravanning chums and I are planning a get-away.

And so it was, August bank holiday...

There's always Alderstead. And thank goodness. It is SUCH a lovely site, so green, so peaceful, and Carol and John the wardens never fail to have a warm and welcoming smile plastered over their faces every time I see them. They even know which pitch I like... oh dear, is that the sign of liking one particular site a little TOO much?

Airstream Alderstead Heath

This pitch, for your info, is not numbered. It is simply 'Andrew's Pitch' so if you ever visit and it's free, don't even THINK about parking there... ;)

Of course, work needed to be done, and Alderstead made the perfect setting for a couple more accessory videos. You may hear if you choose to watch the second, that all the fun and antics of a busy summer caught up with me, and a summer cold took hold. But not for long.

I had a very, very important date with another 29 Airstreamers the following week, and being poorly wasn't an option.

Rock and roll!

Peterborough, utopia central


Or Peter Bog Horror as sometimes it is unkindly called.

Generally, it isn't up there with Cornwall, Scotland, or the Lake District when it comes to choosing a destination for your summer holidays.

Except, that is, if you are a caravanner.

I've heard it on the grapevine that Ferry Meadows Caravan Club Site in Peterborough is one of the busiest, if not THE busiest, sites on the network. But don't quote me on that.

You only need visit to see why. Set in an extensive country park, you don't need to wander far at all to find everything from a steam railway to windsurfing. It's close to the A1, and being near a city means that everything is to hand from a multiplex cinema to a decent Indian restaurant that will deliver to site.

Top that with the cherry on the cake which is the warden team led by Ken and Lynn and you have Family Caravanning Utopia.

Seriously, I think the council should let the Club have the site rent-free, seeing as how much Tourist Pound emulates from that area.

Any excuse, and I'll stop off there.

To add to the excuses, it was my first opportunity to try the Caravan Club's new wi-fi system, £5 for five hours valid for six months. Blooming marvellous!

And a stunning pink sunset just to top it all off:

Airstream Ferry Meadows

Ode to Beamish

August was *supposed* to be a quiet month.

But life is what happens when you've made other plans.

Up popped a job in Durham.

I had only been to Durham for one night as a guest of the lovely people at Elddis Caravans, and thanks to their traditional North Eastern hospitality, I don't remember too much about it. But I DO remember making a mental note that this was a lovely city and I wanted to come back and 'do it' properly.

And it was the Airstream Summer Euro-meet on the way.

So what was not to like?

First port of call was Old Hartley Caravan Club Site at Whitley Bay, where I enjoyed a stunning view from the window of the Airstream:

Airstream Old Hartley

An enjoyable morning was spent cycling into Whitley Bay, having breakfast at Costa, then doing some snaps of the lighthouse on the way back:

St Marys Lighthouse

Next port of call was The Grange Caravan Club Site just off the A1 near Durham:

Grange Durham


My friend Steve was over from Seattle, so it was nice to have company for a couple of days. The summer was also spent making accessory videos for Milenco, and for the 'action' shots of the towing mirrors it was also rather useful to have a cameraman while I did the driving!

Being in Durham, it would have been rude not to see a caravan from nearby Elddis of Consett, so they brought along one of their brand spanking new 2011 Avantes. The nice thing about taking so long to blog about it is that the review has now been published so I can mention it.

Like many UK manufacturers, Elddis has really raised the bar when it comes to the interior design... very 'Boutique Hotel' methinks!

Elddis Avante

As part of a touring feature, I toddled off to Beamish Museum. Which, I must add, has a really good PR department staffed by real, warm, friendly, efficient human beings and not vacuous PR corporates. Maybe because it's not in London?

Best make it clear right now that I am not a museum person. Not in the slightest. But I DO have a weak spot for living museums, and museums of modern history. Something that I can relate to, even if it is to understand how my Nan used to live.

Beamish didn't meet my expectations. It surpassed them in every way. I was first in and last out. I had the most FANTASTIC day. Brilliant, simply brilliant. It really made for the high point of my whole trip. So much to do, so much to see, and everything is brought to life with real characters doing real things... Hopefully the pictures will give some idea as to what this place is like:





The whole day was rounded off by a brass band playing in the bandstand on the village green. How absolutely blooming perfect is that?


There was a lot of work to catch up on after that, so after a few days shut away in the Airstream I took myself off to Newcastle. I love that city:


To refresh the grey matter and for a bit of stimulation I went to the Baltic Mill Gallery that you can see in the picture behind the Gateshead Millenium Bridge.

I'm no artist I admit, or maybe I caught it on a bad day, but I wasn't overly moved by any of the exhibits with the honourable exception of a faithfully recreated spider's web. And the cake in the cafe wasn't great! But hey, the whole Newcastle/Gateshead quayside is a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon.

Cambridge - a total surprise

Late July/early August saw me heading to Ashridge Farm Caravan Club Site in Baldock, which is kind of on the A1 between Stevenage and Peterborough.

Airstream Ashridge Farm

It's a wonderfully quiet and relaxing site, almost like being in someone's back garden. Plenty of good walks too, although my favourite aspect was being able to wander into the pretty village of Ashwell.

From there, after a weekend chez Keith and Anne at Commons Wood (out of course, but everywhere else was booked and it's always nice to visit a site where the wardens are so welcoming) it was time to head to Cherry Hinton Caravan Club Site in Cambridge. This site had only just re-opened after some extensive work, and very smart it all looked too.

Cambridge really took me by surprise. Granted, I had a local guide in the form of my friend Mr Perks, but I was taken aback by how agreeable a place I found it.

One of the things that I loved the most about the city and about the site is how accessible everything is by pushbike. I didn't use my car the whole time I was there.

On the first evening, I cycled into town with Mr P to visit some of the traditional and friendly hostelries which was a real treat in itself. Also time for a little night photography:


Another time Mr Perks and his good missus put their kids in their respective trailers and tag-alongs and we all cycled out to The Orchard tearoom at Grantchester to have a cream tea in the dappled shade of the apple trees... a quintessentially English summer's afternoon, and as perfect as it sounds.

Interestingly, my experience of the tourist information people in Cambridge wasn't altogether positive. In fact, it was downright appalling. This is one thing that I find in this job. If you want help and resources on somewhere really popular like Cambridge, forget it. But go somewhere a little quirky like East Lincolnshire or Swanage, and the tourist people will bend over backwards to help and facilitate your trip.

But you only need to step out of the tourist office and into the city to instantly forget a bad experience and not let it put you off such a wonderful, wonderful city. I really, really like it.


Blogger's Block

Blogger's Block... any blogger can tell you about it. It's nothing like writer's block where the author doesn't know what to say. Blogger's Block is where the author has left it for so long that he or she doesn't know where, or how, to pick up again. And the longer you leave it, the worse it becomes. And the more time you need to spend to try and claw your way back to the present day.

Add to that the added complication that sometimes my adventures are in connection with features that are going to appear in magazines months later, so by the time it's published, the timeline has gone haywire and it's hard to go back.

But anyway...

Right now I should be on a plane to Boston to go see some friends including my Airstream chum Sue.

Instead, I'm sat at home with bronchitis and 12" of snow on the balcony.

So this is indeed a perfect time to make a start and get rid of that Blogger's Block.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

EU Airtreamers Summer Gathering

Earlier in the year, a couple of Dutch Airstreaming families mentioned to their English Airstreaming friends that they were coming to the UK for their holidays in August.

John and Carole decided to meet up with them, and publicised the fact on the UKAirstreamers Forum.

In short, a grand total of EIGHT Airstreams descended at Masons Campsite in the Yorkshire Dales.

As I wended my way to the site, I was blown away by the beauty of the area. Why had I never been here before?

As I skirted the opposite side of the valley to the campsite, I looked below me and saw Airstreams glinting in the distance in the evening sun.

The eight Airstreams on site were: two from the Netherlands, and six from the UK. There were three modern European Airstreams, three polished 'vintage' Airstreams, and two clearcoated US Airstreams.

Pitched in a circle, what a lovely sight we made:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

That first evening was spent chilling out around fire pits and barbecues. Ian and Robina, whom I had met last year in Skegness by pure chance, invited me to join them and what a lovely evening we had.

The next day, weather was a mixed bag of sunshine and showers. But that didn't stop Carole and John laying on a fabulous cream tea for everyone. Carole's scones, I am pleased to say, were of her usual VERY high standard! Light, fluffy, and melt-in-the-mouth with lashings of clotted cream and jam.


Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

For our Dutch friends, it was their first cream tea and first experience of clotted cream. And very impressed they were too!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the day and enjoying each other's company:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Axel and Anieta had the longest Airstream I have ever seen in real life... it just went on and on and on!

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Piet and Kai's amazing rig was a real head-turner and I couldn't stop taking snaps of it:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Of the three European models on site, the 532s were in the majority and the 684 in the minority... the first time I have ever known that!

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

And I fell in love with Harry.

Harry and his sister Meg brought their gorgeous little Bambi:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Harry stood guard, threatening anyone who came within 2 yards with a lashing from his wagging tail and a thorough licking around the chops:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Meanwhile, Meg sat inside on her throne, and put on her 'happy' face for the camera:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

As they were feeling particularly benevolent this weekend, they allowed their staff, Jim and Kathy, to join them:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

And Kathy might be new to Airstreaming, but she obviously 'gets it' already:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Another 'new' family joining us for the first time were Neil and Jo with children Ruby, Jack, and Freddy. They found out about the gathering purely by chance, having stayed at Mason's in their 'new' 1965 Overlander a couple of weeks previous. The kids in particularly liked the riverside location of the site:

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

And the last night was spent, of course, gathered around the fire pit. A torrential downpour failed to dampen the spirits as we merely covered the fire with Neil's gazebo. That evening many people discovered that the Dutch and the English have a similar sense of humour.

Airstream; Summer Gathering; Appletreewick

Particularly touching was a little parting gift made by Sven and Lynn, Axel and Anieta's children.

Neil and I left in convoy, with Bill going on ahead to make sure the narrow section of the road was clear before we left.

What a BRILLIANT time we all had! Big thanks to John and Carole for making it happen.