UK 2018

Lauren and Gareth's Wedding

Owen and Julie in the UK

France 2013.


This year is going to be more a holiday rather than an adventure, though there is a fine line between the two.

The green line is 2018.

Blue is 2016.

Red is 2012.

Photos 1 Photos 2


25 May. After getting home from Terry and Tricia's place at about 9pm, we discovered that the power was off. Only the power circuits, the lights were OK. I narrowed it down to one power circuit that was tripping the RCD but couldn't find the fault. A few extension cords and double adaptors later, I got the kitchen fridge and the security lights back on line. Didn't have time to do anything else, probably a job for when I get home. Managed to still get some sleep before getting up at 0245 to get ready to go to the airport. We had pre-booked an Uber and it turned up on time. Going through the tunnel on the way, I discovered I had left my phone at home so got the driver to go back and pick it up. Can't do without it on our travels, it is my nerve centre. Still got there in plenty of time, checked the bags all the way to London and had a change of clothes in a backpack for the stop over in Dubai. All worked well, it was a reasonable flight, service was much better than last year and we had an empty seat next to us which helped.
Caught up with Jamie Roberts (ATC Dubai Tower ex Perth) for afternoon tea. The Avenue Hotel we tried this time is cheaper than the previous but on a par otherwise and a little more convenient to the airport, so we are happy enough with it. Managed to stay up until 8pm then we both crashed.

26 May. Got up earlier than planned, but we both slept well. A breakfast was included in the deal and that was pretty good too. Taxi to the airport then straight through security to the gate with no checked luggage and "Smart Gate". A380 to London and again we had an empty seat next to us. Both legs we had an aisle and adjacent seat in the centre and it was fine but may not have been if we had someone else in the third seat. The service on this leg was also good, so maybe we were unlucky last year. Long wait at Heathrow Border Control but no problems. Took the tube to Bond St Station which now has step free street access and walked to the VSC. Greeted like old friends at the door which was very nice. A quiet night tonight before we get into the swing tomorrow. Weather is good, a bit hazy, 25C, no compaints here! Dinner at St Christophers Place where we shared a pizza.

27 May. Woke early again, have to stop this. Up at 6am when the breakfast doesn't start until 7:30! Great breakfast it was too. Showers and storms were forecast for today and when we setted out, there were signs of rain having fallen and even worse, it was still spitting. We normally bring two fold up umbrellas with us but with all the traumas before our departure, they were overlooked. We bought two new ones from a souvenir shop as everything else was closed being a Sunday. Managed to haggle 2 for £8 when they were £5 each. We then walked to Regents Park, about 2Km away. Quite a lovely park amongst suburbia but sadly most of the gardens were in between flowering. It was impressive anyway but would have been much better if all the roses were in bloom. It is spring after all. Walked back to the VSC early afternoon for a well deserved lie down. Later, we walked to Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly and managed to buy very little. Returned home via Piccadilly Circus and Carnaby St. Dinner at the club. After about 25,000 steps each, we are both exhausted.

28 May. We are on our way to visit Peter and Margaret in Buckhurst Hill. The Central Line takes us directly from Marble Arch to their place which is a bonus not having to change lines. Peter picked us up from the station. We had a very pleasant lunch, after which I volunteered to mow their lawn. Peter's back is not good and I thought it was the least I could do, especially as they were going on their own holiday in a few days. The afternoon went by very quickly with a lot of catching up and a few drinks. We went to their local Indian restaurant for dinner which is always a treat, then caught the train back to the club. We are finally coming to terms with the time zone.

29 May. I had filled out some forms required by HSBC bank and intended to drop them off at a local branch, along with changing about £150 of £10 notes that we brought with us from home that are now no longer legal tender because they have changed from paper to polymer. Sadly, we didn't come across one between the club and Bond St Station, so it will have to wait. Caught the train to Upminster to pick up our van. At Upminster, we took an Uber to Cranhams which was a minor debacle, but we did finally get there. The van was in good nick and after setting up the scooter and trailer, we were on our way. It rained heavily, with lightning and thunder while we were getting it all ready but Julie did well with holding my umbella while I did it. Drove to Enfield to restock the van and then off to Theobald's Park campsite. Unbeknown to us, it was a school holiday week and they were booked out, but managed to find us a spot for the night which was much appreciated. We set up the van to a livable condition which always takes a few hours and the rain abated once we arrived so that helped. Among all the little jobs was to put the battery back in the scooter. After 9 months of sitting idle, it fired first time which is a huge bonus. A quiet night in tonight and tomorrow we head to Congleton to visit Brendon and Lorna. Brendon and I were on the ATC course together and have been friends for 40 years.

30 May. Headed to Congleton. It was mostly via the M1 and the M6 motorways. The traffic was very busy, like peak hour the whole 179 miles. The M6 was particularly bad with roadworks everywhere. We finally did get there though, even if we were a bit more stressed than we should have been. Got the motorhome in their driveway OK and still left enough room for their car behind. Had dinner with them, along with a few wines to ease the pain of the day. Settled in to the motorhome for the night.

31 May. Brendon and Lorna had an appointment in the middle of the day, so he drew us a map of where to go to do the tourist bit. First stop was Biddulph Grange Gardens, a National Trust site. We are members of National Trust Australia which has reciprocal rights in the UK. Lovely gardens and a wonderful manor house but only the gardens are open to the public, the house is still a private home. We walked around the grounds for over an hour then stayed for a morning tea/lunch. Next stop was Mow Cop Castle, a set of ruins on top of a hill. Not much left of it though it would have great views in clear weather. Unfortunately, today, like the last few days, has been very hazy. While there, we had a call from Lorna saying they would meet us at Little Moreton Hall which was our third and final stop. Rode there and toured the huge Tudor mansion built in the 1500's. Amazing any of these Tudor buildings are still standing, though when you see the modern bracing that is holding them together, maybe it is not so unusual. The floors sloped so much you could almost fall down from one end of the room to the other. Very fairy tale in its look.
From there, went in to Congleton to go to HSBC to lodge some paperwork with them and also took the opportunity to change our paper £10 notes for the polymer ones. Having £150 worth, it was nice to get some that will actually be accepted on the street. The four of us went shopping and then dropped off our scooter at the local Honda dealer for a service. It is almost 2 years old and done 1150km, due for its first service. They will do it tomorrow morning and it should be ready by lunchtime. We are booked in to the local pub for dinner tonight at 8pm. Tried to get in earlier but that was earliest we could get. It is obviously popular. The meal, service and drinks were very good and the bill at the end was reasonable too. No wonder they are popular.

1 June. A good sleep in for us all. Had a call from the Honda guy to say it was all done about 1030, so I rode pillion with Brendon on his bike to pick it up. He has an identical scooter, except mine is faster, it is red, his is black. After picking mine up, we went for a ride through the moors and the hills to Buxton and back around the other side in a big loop. It was a lot of fun. After getting back, we picked up the wives and drove in their car to Buxton for a late lunch. We had been here before in 2012 but it is such a wonderful place, we were more than happy to renew our aquaintance. Back to Congleton and a take away Chinese dinner. Tried to book ahead to our next stop in Yorkshire but the Caravan Club was booked out for part of the time we wanted. After much searching, we have booked a few nights in Ripley. We will head there tomorrow.

2 June. Got away at about 1100. Had to reverse the van out on to the A road with blind corners not far away in either direction. Brendon stopped the traffic wearing his flouro vest, allowing me to back out then park half on the footpath and then hitching up the trailer. A few people had to wait to get past but no one got annoyed or tooted. Love the Brits. If we did that in France (and we have) the noise of horns would deafen you. Headed for Ripley via the outskirts of Manchester and Leeds, all on A and M roads, so the driving was pretty easy. It drizzled almost the whole way but it was OK. Settled in, and decided to try the fish and chip van which comes every Saturday evening. It was pretty good, we have had a lot worse, and reasonably priced too. We got an early night but the kids in the campsite were rather noisy. That should be better tomorrow as the holidays are over as of now and the park will probably be deserted then.

3 June. We scootered to Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage site, run by the National Trust. I had studied Google Maps and worked out the shortest route. As it turned out, there were signs to the Abbey at every turn, even though we were on a tiny rural back road. Made it very easy. The Abbey dates back to 1132. It was a huge complex, though in ruins now, but the ruins still were vast enough to make it easy to envisage the scale of it. It never ceases to amaze me what was built in those times. Attached to the Abbey is Studley Royal Estate and Deer Park. Unfortunately we walked around there and saw no deer, though there are apparently quite a few there. The Abbey and grounds are superb and include a few "follies" in the mix. The landscaping is brilliant. The only blight on it all was the inclusion of a few "temporary follies" that have been placed around the site. They are supposed to be artistic, and a couple were, but one was based on a "south sea parrot" and was totally inappropriate. It was in a position that dominated the scenery and was in gaudy bright colours and quite frankly, ruined the vista.
After the Abbey, we rode in to Ripon, the nearest town, and went for a walk around the town. It was not busy being a Sunday, but a pretty little town. Rode back to Ripley for dinner in. The campsite population has diminished significantly so we should have a quieter night tonight.

4 June. A bit of a sleep in today, I think we are getting into the holiday routine. A much colder day than it has been, top of about 15C. Rode in to Knaresborough and thanks to the thermals, my knees weren't frozen on arrival. Checked out the main town and then worked our way to Mother Shiptons Cave. This place is the oldest tourist attraction in England, apparently. Long story behind this place but it is basically an external limestone cave. It has dripping water that is loaded with calcium and any item placed under the drips is calcified in 3 months. They had a heap of small teddy bears they were working on hanging from string in the drips. Quite a unique feature. After that, we did the riverside walk then back in to the town. Stopped off at the Nidd Gorge on the way home and while it was peaceful and pretty, it was really just a small river in a valley, not quite a gorge. Dinner at the Boars Head pub tonight. I guess it's better than dining at the Pig's Arse pub. It was a very nice meal and made walking among the sheep and cows to get there and back worthwhile.

5 June. Today is Harrogate's turn. The ride in was very short, but not very quick. The traffic, even though it was after 10am was very busy. In a way, that made our job of riding in easy, it meant the traffic was slow so we could keep up on the scooter. We parked near the tourist information centre and that spot was going to be good all day. We found out the best places to visit and went with it. First stop was the Royal Hall which is an old theatre that has been lovingly restored since 2002. The restoration can only be described as outstanding. You could feel that you have been taken back 100 years. It rivals such places as His Majesty's Theatre in Perth. Very impressive. Next stop was the Mercer Art Gallery which was very interesting as they had a lot on the Suffragettes, when we had only last night watched a show on that subject on the BBC. Not a great gallery but interesting nevertheless. A walk through the Valley Gardens was followed by a visit to the Royal Pump Room Museum. Harrogate used to be a Spa Town, in fact, the first Spa Town in England. We had expected the Pump Room to be a museum of the Pump Room. Silly us. It was a museum of the Spa Town with really nothing on the pump room. It was interesting, but not what we expected.
Lunch time so we headed in to the main city centre. Opted for lunch at the M&S cafe and while it was fine, we think we should stick to the more local cafes for lunch. We rode to a caravan shop to try to get better tie downs for our awning. The ones we have are a little fragile and almost invisible. We managed to find some flouro yellow and black tie downs which at least people shouldn't trip over. Next to do a bit of shopping then back home. Dinner in tonight (turkey) and the pre packup for a departure tomorrow. We are headed for Ironbridge in Shropshire, about 3 hours away. We have booked ahead, which we have found on this trip to be a good idea. We have booked 3 nights, and that is all we can get as there is an RAF 100th anniversary airshow nearby on the Sunday. The Lancaster is supposed to be flying then, but history tells us that is not a guarantee of attendance. Add to that it is booked out anyway, we will wait for another time to see the beast in flight.

6 June. Not a good nights sleep, what started off being warm became very cold during the night. Finally got up at 5am and turned the heater on. The morning was cold with low cloud and drizzle. A good day to be in transit. We left Ripley at 11am and headed for a campsite just out of Ironbridge in Shropshire. It was a good drive with no real hold ups. Arrived at the site a bit after 2pm and set up camp. Neither of us felt like doing much this afternoon so we vegged out with a book and a glass of wine. We found out that Iron Bridge is under restoration and is covered in scaffolding and cladding, so we are not expecting any good photos. There are many things to see in this area anyway, so we will take the good with the bad. The campsite here is adults only, meaning, no kids, so the night should be nice and quiet. The campsite in Wells that we have picked out for our next stop is similar, so we should get some good nights sleep!

7 June. Rode in to Ironbridge, home of the World Heritage site, the Iron Bridge, only to discover that the bridge is totally covered up in tarpaulins for restoration. In fact, it is totally wrapped up, you can't see any of the bridge. Ironbridge also has 10 museums all associated with the district. Ironbridge is recognised as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. It had water, iron stone, coal, clay and probably a few other resources. It's products include iron, fine china, tiles (of the floor and wall kind) tar and pollution. We bought a passport ticket to visit all 10 museums. That cost £20.50 each and you only have to visit 2 museums to make it worthwhile, and the tickets are good for 12 months, of which we only have 2 days. We visited 5 museums today, maybe another 3 or 4 tomorrow. The Ironbridge area is very pretty, as much of this part of the country is, but from the history we have seen of it today, it must have been disgustingly polluted in its heyday. All great history though, we have enjoyed it. We did some shopping on the way home, and off to the Cuckoo Oak pub for dinner tonight.

8 June. A lot of rain last night. I even got up in the middle of the night to put a cloth on the rear bumper because the water was dripping on it and giving us a Chinese water torture inside the van. When we finally surfaced, it was still drizzling and cold. We set out for Blisthill, a Victorian Town. That's not our words, it is the advertising. It is a preserved, relocated (in parts) and recreated in some others. The reality is, they have done an incredible job of it. The volunteers that work there are the ones who put the icing on the cake. It has original blast furnaces and various shops, workshops and rail and canal infrastructure. It gives a great insight in to life in the area in the 1800's which, quite frankly, was not a good life. We really enjoyed the town. Then off to the Coalport China Museum (that's fine China, not the country). Some very impressive works were created in the Ironbridge area. A walk along the canal to the Tar Tunnel finished off the tour of Ironbridge. We then went to Bridgnorth (that's not a typo). Bridgnorth is also on the Severn River, as is Iron Bridge, and is a town on 2 levels. One at river level and the other on the high ground. The high side is typically quaint and pretty English town style, the lower more modern medium density housing without being at all ugly. We parked on the high side. Walked to the cliff walk, looked around, then caught the funicular rail to the lower level. I'm sure the distance this funicular travels is no more than 80m but it does cut out a big climb. Walked across the river, had a look around, then reversed the trip back to the scooter. Rode back on the A road to the van, a feat which requires full throttle the whole way to try to at least make an effort to keep up with the other traffic. With a 60mph limit and us having a maximum speed of 50mph two up (less uphill), we are never really going to quite make it. It did make for a fast trip home though.
It has been a good two days in the Ironbridge area. Dinner in tonight, and tomorrow, we head to Wells, just north of Glastonbury.

9 June. We have booked in at Wells Holiday Park for 4 nights, another 200km drive from here. Headed off a bit after 10am and worked our way south. Much of the trip was via the M5 which was flowing beautifully, just for a change. As we approached Bristol, there were signs on the motorway advising of delays on the M5 farther on. I said to Julie that this was good, because we were taking the next exit. Little did we know the exit took us right into Bristol then an A road towards Wells. We lost 30 minutes in traffic. In fact, that 30 minutes was lost in about 3km. We could have made lunch while we waited. We finally cleared the traffic and got going again. Arrived at the campsite, set ourselves up and decided we had had enough for the day and relaxed for the rest. I rang Rainbow and John as we are quite close to their neck of the woods and we have organised to catch up with them on Thursday, which means we need to kill an extra day once we leave here. We think the best way to do that is to extend another night right where we are. There is a lot to see around here, being a short ride from Cheddar, and Cheddar Gorge, and Glastonbury in the other direction. There are also other towns we can visit too.

10 June. Chose Cheddar as the first port of call because today is Sunday. Wells and Glastonbury will be a little quiet but Cheddar should be rocking. Julie did the homework on Cheddar and the reviews for Cheddar Gorge was that it was wonderful as long as you avoid the paid for tourist traps. Apparently the main attractions (which are not main for us anyway) are only accessible with a £20 ticket each. Not our cup of tea. We visited the area and the tourist trap alarms were ringing loudly. We rode up the gorge, great ride too, and at the top, we picked up the cliff top walk enough to get to the panoramic views of the area. If we started from the bottom, we would have to have bought one of the tickets. The view was great, except for the haze which has sat over England the entire time we have been here. If there was no haze, it would have been excellent, and the photos we got will not do it justice. Stopped off and bought a few rolls and stuff for lunch and rode home. Both worn out by the walk we did, lots of steep climbs, and took the rest of the day off.

11 June. Wells turn today. The main attraction here is the Cathedral, dating back to the 12th century. We rode in to town, initially finding an old church and thinking that is was not at all spectacular. We then found the real cathedral and it was very much spectacular. We started doing the guided tour but at the same time, they were having the organ tuned. It was deafening, especially for me with my tinitus, and we couldn't hear the guide anyway. We were on the 11am tour so I checked with reception to see how long they would be doing the tuning. The answer was, until 4pm, so we will come back another day, there was no way we could put up with it. We then went to the Bishop's Palace adjacent to the cathedral. It was quite a complex though the buildings themselves were no where near as amazing as the cathedral. There are 10 hectares of gardens which includes 3 "wells" after which the town got its name. They are actually springs which fed the town with fresh water for many centuries. It was worth the visit. We did a small amount of shopping and went home for lunch. Later in the afternoon it was back to the cathedral to get more photos with the sun in the right direction. Today is sunny with clear blue skies and very good visibility for the first time on this trip. We also went for a walk up Vicar's Close, a short street that has not significantly changed since medieval times. Beautiful street! We got home at wine o'clock.

12 June. Part 3 of our stay in Wells is Glastonbury. It is about 6 miles away, making it closer than Cheddar. We had a good ride there and even managed to find a dedicated motorcycle parking area. This is always a bonus in England as they are not as free with MC parking as Europe is. Wandered through the main streets of Glastonbury and there was a Tuesday Market on, which we expected. We have driven through this town two years ago, with the intention of spending a day or two, but it was just before the Glastonbury Music Festival which is huge. As a result, the best we could do was drive through the town and see the sights from the van. From this, and what others have told us, we knew to expect a 1960's hippy community. We were not disappointed. Beads, body piercings, blue streaked hair, tie dyed shirts and dresses and mystical crystals were in huge abundance. I haven't been to Nimbin to make a comparison, but it could certainly be a very large Balingup, with more pizzazz. It certainly gives the town a character, not to mention a reputation, but it was all good.
We next went to the Glastonbury Abbey, which was built in the 12th century and then left to run to ruins once Henry VIII bought in his dissolution laws against abbeys in the 16th century. 1539 was the unlucky year for this Abbey and looting and natural decay took its toll. It would have been an amazing structure if it had endured, but sadly, it didn't. We did a guided tour of the site from a woman probably pushing 80 but did it with a personal flair and style to make it a lot of fun.
Time to head to the Tor, a hill overlooking not just Glastonbury but the surrounding area for many miles. It was a steep walk to get to the top but the effort was worth it in spades. The view was stunning. It would have been even better if we did it yesterday when the sun was shining and the visibility was unlimited. Today, it was cloudy and not bad visibility, but not pristine. Walked down the hill, back in to the Abbey (our ticket was good for the day) and did the bits we didn't do the first time. Rode in to Street, about 3km away to do some shopping at Sainsburys. Back home again, another good ride, and time for drinks and dinner.
We have now booked each nights campsite for every night until we leave, so we have a plan that is set. Something we would not normally do, but we have had problems with getting in where we want to this year. Planning ahead has been much more important this year.

13 June. We went back in to Wells this morning to finally do the cathedral, having missed out on Monday with the organ tuning. We chose not to do the guided tour and instead did our own thing. There were still plenty of people around that we could ask questions to. I have to admit, this is one of the better, if not best, cathedrals that we have seen. Architecturely it is stunning. The use of scissor arches particularly is especially impressive. It is ornate without being over the top. Considering when it was built, the craftsmanship is outstanding. I do have to admire the talents of the time. Wednesday (today) is market day in Wells. The market area is next to the cathedral so we didn't have to walk far. The markets were very much upmarket compared to Glastonbury, but then, the two towns are very different.
One of our neghbours here at the campsite suggested we check out "Wells Reclamation", a company that deals in many things, but specialises in historic homewares. That is not a fair description, as you could buy an old Bloodhound air to air missile, an anti aircraft gun, a Soviet Tank, or an old Royal Mail Post Box. We went there and were more blown away than we even expected. Phone boxes, statues, street lamps, you name it, they have it. Gates from stately homes, fireplaces, the place was more a museum than a restoration store. In fact, it could have been a tourist attraction, but the reality is, it was a working trading company. Amazing place. We would have loved to have bought stuff from here except for the logistics. The thought of mounting a Bloodhound on our front lawn got the blood pumping, but the logistics killed that off pretty quick.
The weather was turning and looking threatening so we did a very quick shop and got home hoping that the awning hadn't blown away. It hadn't, so all was good. Tomorrow, we head south to Dorset.

14 June. Another good weather day, we have been very lucky so far. We took our time packing up as we are only an hour and a half from Portesham. Got away about 11 and went via Glastonbury to refuel and do a small shop. Checked the planned route from there on and decided we would go a different way to avoid narrow lanes. This added about 8 miles to the journey but that was fine. We still ended up on a couple of very narrow lanes as we got closer to Portesham but managed to negotiate them OK. We set up a basic camp, using only the ramps and not disconnecting the scooter and not putting the awning out. That will make for an easy getaway tomorrow. Called Rainbow and she picked us up at 4pm to go to their place, the same one they were in 2 years ago. Last time, they wanted to show us the great view from their home but it was a thick fog, so had trouble seeing the back fence. This time is was perfect and the view was excellent. Green fields, the Channel, and all the way to Weymouth. Went in to Abbotsbury, a small village nearby, for dinner at the pub. It was a good night and we enjoyed catching up with John and Rainbow. Tomorrow, Salisbury.

15 June. Another casual start to the day. Again, not much more than an hours drive to Salisbury and as the campsite we are going to is one of the club sites, we know they get be pretty anal with what time you can arrive. We left well after 11 and had a good drive to Salisbury, though we did have some issues. The traffic was very busy, much of the road we travelled was the main south coast highway and it seemed every man and his dog wanted to be there. Some of the roads were two lane, but the lanes were not much wider than the van, so the concentration level required was pretty intense. Add to that we came across an accident about 25 miles out of Salisbury that had blocked most of the road. There were enough people in attendance that we didn't need to stop to assist, though the emergency services were nowhere to be seen. We don't think anyone was seriously hurt. One guy was doing point duty, controlling the traffic to get through the small gap available, and doing a damn fine job of it too. We could not have turned around (which many cars did) without unhitching the trailer so we elected to wait in the queue. It was not too long a wait, 5 to 10 minutes, and we were on our way again. We arrived at the campsite at 1:05pm to find a sign up saying no arrivals before 1pm. I guess every cloud has a silver lining.
After setting up, we walked the 30 minutes in to the centre of Salisbury. Even after 3 months since the attack on the Russian father and daughter, there are still "no go" areas in the city and guards everywhere. For us, it had no significant impact, but you have to wonder what they expect to find or achieve after 3 months. We went to the cathedral again, but they wanted £13 for the two of us to go in. OK, it was a suggested donation, but the pricelist was pretty complete, they may as well have said, this is what it costs to enter. Seeing as we had been in there before, we opted to save the money. Still an incredible structure which can be appreciated from the outside. Walked back to camp and decided to take the scooter tomorrow. A 4 mile walk can be pretty draining. Had pizza for dinner, courtesy of a visiting pizza cook at the park. Good pizza too.

16 June. The weather is not looking too good, dark sky and cooler than yesterday. We rode in to Salisbury and parked in a dedicated motorcycle area we noticed yesterday. Saturday is market day in Salisbury so we spent quite a bit of time there. Great markets, if we lived locally we would do a lot of shopping there, good stuff at good prices. We then took a scenic walk across the wetlands to the old Mill which is where John Constable painted the cathedral from. I think there must be more trees now because the view was not quite the same as his painting. Back to the markets for lunch and had a good feed for £10 for the two of us. A bit more wandering around the town and we discovered that the Mill Pub in the old part was cordoned off. After a bit of research we found that this is one of nine locations isolated because of the nerve agent used on the former Russian spy and his daughter. The agent used does not break down and has to be treated chemically to remove it. All very sad for Salisbury, but there were many more places initially affected.
The weather has got a little worse with a light drizzle, but nothing that stopped us doing what we wanted. We visited another National Trust site, a manor house near the cathedral, so we have got our membership value now!
It rained a bit overnight but that suits us fine. Tomorrow we are off to Henley on Thames for 3 nights.

17 June. Another casual start to the day, not wanting to get to Henley too early. We looked at the options on how to get there, and Google and Tomtom had quite different ideas. Googles route included B roads and a couple of "lanes", so we went with Tomtom who was M and A roads the whole way. It was a good drive, but once we got on to the M4, Tomtom suggested a change of route to save 24 minutes, due to congestion on the M4 later on (I love live traffic). We checked the optional route and it was all A roads, so we took it. This route went right through the middle of Reading, including a bridge where I am sure we were wider than the lane was, but we got to Henley with no real drama.
Checked in at the campsite and got what we think is a pretty good spot. A quick lunch then walked in to Henley. It is a wonderful town, much character, and the Thames running through the middle is the obvious bonus. We finally ended up at a pub advertising fine wines so we got a white for Julie and a red for me before we discovered they were not being entirely honest. Having said that, it is not easy to get a good wine in England. Lots of nice ales I am sure, but they are not big on their wines. Walked back to camp and Julie cooked lamb chops for dinner. All is good!

18 June. Rode in to the town's tourist information centre and got as much info as we could on the Midsomer Murder TV show filming sites as possible, along with other general "what should we see" stuff. Headed off to Hambleden, the closest village on our riding tour and found a delightful village that looked like it was just out of the 50's or 60's. Classic, we loved it. From there to Turville, where Vicar of Dibley was filmed. Again, a very small old style village. We had lunch at the pub (not 60's prices!) and rode on to Watlington, which was a much bigger place than the first two, but much less character. We did manage to refuel the scooter there, so nothing wasted. The ride up to this point was very interesting. Very narrow roads, some so narrow that if we had come across a small car coming the other way, we would have had to move the scooter off the road for them to pass. Fortunately, we didn't actually meet anyone coming the other way on those bits of road. On parts, we were literally riding through tunnels of trees such that it was dark in them. The road surfaces here were terrible, and with the dark tunnels, it was almost impossible to see the holes and bumps. Not fun. Even the A road south from Watlington was rough as hell making for some uncomfortable riding. We visited Greys Court, another National Trust site. It was essentially a stately home with great gardens like many we have seen before, but still worth the visit. The road back in to Henley was as smooth as silk which was a last minute bonus.
Dinner in tonight and watching some of the England Vs Tunisia soccer until I couldn't stand any more before half time.

19 June. Today we are going to Marlow, like Henley on Thames, Marlow is also on the Thames but doesn't advertise it. It is, like most of this area, a pretty town and amongst other things, it has a chain bridge. There is only one other place in Europe that has a chain bridge, and that is Budapest, which we have seen too. It sort of pales a little when we find our motorhome is both too wide and too heavy to drive across this bridge. The bonus for us was the roads were smooth, so we had a good ride. Had a pleasant morning walking around the town and river. Rode back home for lunch, did some washing and walked in to Henley. We planned to have an ale at the oldest building in Henley (which, surprise is also a pub) but they only had one choice of ale which was Bakspear Bitter. No other choice. Now, those who know their English pubs will know that they normally have 4 or 5 different ones to choose from. Sadly, this pub being part of the Bakspear chain, doesn't. We have seen at least 5 Bakspear pubs in Henly alone, not a good sign. Anyway, Julie tried some and decided on a cider (an alitteration) and I persisted with the bitter, even though I would have preferred a non bitter. Nice little pub anyway, so we enjoyed it.
Back to the campsite to enjoy a good Aussie red wine and home cooked meal.

20 June. Left Henley bound for Stansted. Our route was via the M40, M25 and M11. The first two motorways have bad reputations for traffic snarls, especially the M25. We were very pleasantly surprised to find no major hold ups at all so it was a hassle free journey, aside from the last 5km that was on a narrow lane, but we survived it alright. The campsite we are staying at is a "certified location" and is part of a farm. It was very tranquil and nice grass areas except they decided to mow the lawns and do some whipper snipping which kind of shattered the peace. Olly and Rachel picked us up around 8pm and we went to "The Cock" pub in Henham, about 3km down the road. A good meal and great company made for an excellent night.

21 June. We had organised with Theobalds campsite to arrive early today as the normal arrival time is after 1pm. After filling the van for the last time, we arrived at 10:30 and set up for the post trip clean up. Again, the drive on the M25 was smooth. What with the weather also being good, we are counting our blessings. Julie did one load of clothes washing today and will do the bedding tomorrow. I cleaned up the scooter and removed the battery ready for storage. Having only been on the road for 24 days, the van is still quite clean, so all that remains is to do all the shut down procedures, emptying all water tanks, vacuum sealing the linen, and generally tidying up. We are feeling quite upbeat about this end of the journey.

22 June. We had to wait on other peoples laundry to finish before we could use the machine but we had plenty of time. We had woken early due to the sun blazing in through the blinds on the windscreen. The clean up went well and we packed the cases to drop off at Peter and Margaret's and headed their way. A good drive and we delivered the cases and drove to Cranhams. Got the scooter sorted with covering and a final check, set up the solar charger (be interesting if it works or not) and Ubered to Upminster station and trained to Buckhurst Hill. Margaret put on a great spread for dinner.

23 June. The four of us walked to The Owl pub for lunch. It is a walk we have done a few times before through Epping Forest and it was as good as usual. P & M drove us to Woodford station where we caught the train to the VSC. Last time we were here, we had a very small room with hardly space to put the suitcases, so I politely asked when we checked out if we could have a bigger room next time, and why. The room we got is great. Much bigger and with a bigger and better ensuite. It was another good greeting from Jay, one of the doormen/porters, to make us feel at home.

24 June. We took the tube to St Pauls and walked across the Millennium Bridge to the the Tate Modern. After our utter disappointment with the Gugenheim in Bilbao a few years ago, we were pleasantly surprised to find the content of the Tate to be both talented and interesting. From there we walked to Westminster (Big Ben is covered in scaffolding) and then trained home from there. Later we caught the train back to St Pauls and walked to the Black Friar pub for dinner and tubed it home again.

25 June. Our last day in London. I had some paperwork with HSBC Bank that I needed to sort out. There are 2 industries in the UK that have lost the plot. One is banking, the other is insurance. Come the revolution, I expect them to be the first casualties. Anyway, I got it resolved, though not to my entire satisfaction. Common sense still does not prevail. In the meantime, Julie was shopping for presents to take home, and we teamed up again once we were both finished. Had a rest time, the temperature here is high 20's which in London can be very draining. We walked through Hyde Park to the Serpentine lake on the southern end where there was a huge "sculpture" of oil drums floating on the lake. Interesting without being stimulating. We had planned to do other things but the heat was wearing us down. Went back to the club and vegged. Bought tickets for the Gatwick Express train online and saved the equivalent of $20 by doing so. Our last dinner in London was at the VSC. Tomorrow, we will be up at 0530 for the start of the laborious trip home.