Not The “Retirement Tour” Tour

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On March 1st 2024, we embarked on our “Not The Retirement Tour” tour. This doesn’t mean I’ve not retired, it means, although I’m calling this my “Retirement Tour”, it isn’t really. Firstly, I retired 6 months ago and secondly, we’re not on a celebratory tour of my retirement.

I realise that will make little sense at the moment, but the reason for this tour is a bit different, however, at the moment, let’s call it my “Retirement Tour” where we are celebrating my retirement that happened 6 months ago. Oh, wait, I said that already. Damn..

Hertford C&CC Site

We started off with a couple of days at Camping & Caravanning Club’s site at Hertford. We’ve been to this site a few times and realistically, it’s the nearest site to home. This means it’s normally used as a little bolt hole. For example if we were getting stuff done of the house, which mean we couldn’t live in it, we’d leg it off to Hertford and escape the madness for a while. So, it’s been a good site for us. When we bought our last house there was a time difference between us selling and buying, so, we went off to Hertford while the buying process completed, enabling us to sell and have the money in the bank. It worked well, it was summer…

The day we arrived at Hertford it was raining and had been raining for some time. As we know the site, we have an idea of where we wanted to pitch. Camping and Caravanning Club run a system where the warden on a bike, or in this case and rather nice electric scooter escorts you to a pitch. Many years ago we joined the C&CC and was immediately put off by this, we saw it like they were telling you what pitch to go one and didn’t like it, never went to another site and cancelled our membership. Now, we’re older and wiser, we have rejoined.

The difference this time, is that in fact, the wardens aren’t telling you which pitch to go on, instead they are telling you which pitches are available. I don’t know how the CAMC do this, but some pitches are seasonal pitches, which aren’t necessarily in use, but you can’t go on. So the Warden directs you to pitches you can go on. You can refuse any suggestions they might make. Unfortunately there weren’t many pitches available, so we were on a skinny hardstanding surrounded by a bog.

It was a depressing start, however, we had better things to come.

Abbey Wood CAMC Site

We set off from Hertford and heading for Abbey Wood. We were glad to see the back of Hertford’s small, soggy pitches and looked forward to the luxury of what awaited us at Abbey Wood. Off we went, I followed the Avtex Tourer Two sat nav onto the M25. Then, it did a strange thing, it wanted to take me north on the M11. This wasn’t right. We quickly checked that I’d entered to correct destination, which I had. Hmm, now with a caravan on the back, I don’t make rash decisions on changing route, this almost always ends up in going down a road which isn’t suitable.

After a few minutes I realised it was actually taking us South on the M11 towards London. Then, a slight panic, thinking it was taking us through Blackwall Tunnel, or worse still Rotherhithe Tunnel, neither of these were Caravan suitable in my opinion. I eventually figured out where it was taking use; the Woolwich Ferry! Mandy did a quick google and the Ferry did indeed take caravans and it was free. Mandy used to use the Ferry as a kid when visiting her Nan. Cross on the Ferry and walk about through the tunnel to do some shopping.

As we approached the Ferry, within about 200 metres of the entrance there was a sign “Ferry Closed” FFS! Fortunately there was a place for me to do a U-turn. Sod this, we then went the way I would have chosen, the Dartford crossing Elizabeth II bridge. We couldn’t find any info about when the Ferry was open or closed.

Abbey Wood is a lovely site and oasis in the madness that is London. Coming from north of the river myself, the south always has an edgy feel to it (to me anyway). Now this isn’t based on any facts, but to me, you have more chance of being stabbed there than north of the river 🙂 I jest of course, or at least partly jest…

We were in Abbey Wood as Mandy was bought tickets to see Anton Du Beke, or Tony Beak as I like to call him. It was a good enough show, not really my thing, but Mandy enjoyed it.

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Little Henham Hall Farm CL

After spending the weekend at Abbey Wood, by the way, the weather was great and our spirits were lifted after a damp start in Herford, we went to Little Henham Hall Farm CL. This not too far from Bishop’s Stortford, if you don’t know that think Stansted Airport and you’re not a million miles away.

It was a bugger to get to, again following the Sat Nav we were eventually confronted with the choice of going under a rail bridge. 10′ 3″. Oh that looked a bit low, I could see it from the junction and was deciding if I should risk it. From memory the Sat Nav let’s you put in width and length, but height? Even if it did, would I have included the height of the aircon? I didn’t know, I couldn’t risk it.

I looked at the map and there was another way, under another rail bridge, we set off. It wasn’t a big detour, only about 5 minutes. It was down a single track road and the rail bridge was on a single track “S” bend. Jesus! But is was 13 foot, surely that was high enough. So I slowly navigated the tight “S” bend. There was a sign “Blow horn to alert oncoming traffic” oh great, let’s hope we don’t meet a school bus or something.

It went without incident, even though in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “Oh what a great video title this would make”. I say I was thinking that, I really wasn’t at the time, it’s just getting the caravan through safely!

We spend 5 days on the CL, it was lovely, you could see in the summer it would be great despite the tricky access. Just a couple of things bothered us. It was advertised at £18 per night, but actually the cost was £25. Also, it was a 10AMP hook, we were told 16AMP. £18 a night on a 16AMP hook up was a good price. £25 on 10AMP, not so attractive. Of course I understand about electricity costs, we’ve been through this before, and we’re going through it in our own homes. Personally, I think sites need to budget like householder’s do. You use less energy in the summer, more in winter so you average our your monthly payment, so that over the 12 months, your payments stay the same. Sites need to work out what to charge to cover electric costs in the winter, if they are open, or, install meters.

Anyway, the whole week was a pain having to manage electric use. The heating needed to be on, but we couldn’t use the kettle or microwave. anyway I’ll not ramble on as I’m aware these are first world problems. We just will avoid too many CL’s until the weather improves.

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Polstead Country Park Suffolk

I’ve spoken previously about the difficulty in finding open sites that have vacancies, even in March. This search took us to deepest, darkest Suffolk. The journey there took us through parts of Essex I’d never seen and it was a really nice journey over to Suffolk.

Polstead is an ex C&CC site, now owned to a private company. The pitches are very CC&C site. Narrow hard standing and this is a moan I have with CC&C, most of the sites we’ve been on just need a bit of updating, especially on the pitch front. They’re just too narrow – ok in the summer, where you’ve parked your caravan on the gravel and pitch your awning on the grass, in someways that’s the perfect pitch. But not in the winter or rainy parts of summer. When we first started caravanning we hated hard standings. We’ve moaned about the move to more hard standings in the past, but the clubs have said they were moving to hard standing to enable them to open all year around. Of course, our experience is very different, now they have hardstandings they close because of energy prices.

Anyway, back to Polstead, lovely little site, nice clean facilities, it sits in between Hadleigh and Sudbury, two places I’d never been to, and rather nice they are too.

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Quick Club Rant

Some may think I love to hate the clubs, I don’t hate them. I just think they’re are about 5 years behind everyone else. Look at their attitude to EV’s, there was recently some convention talking about how best to deal with EV’s. You’re 5 years too late, this should already be in place. Installing meters on sites, 5 years too late. Taking deposits, 5 years too late. Properly securing your customer data, well, just too late!

Do I feel better after that, not really. I recently tried to change some bookings, I mean change sites we were booked on. I was trying to change 12 nights, spread over 4 sites and I wanted them moved to 12 nights over 2 other sites, later in the year. I rang CAMC. After 10 minutes on the phone I gave up, they just couldn’t do it, they couldn’t understand what I was trying to do. It was simple, I had a consecutive 12 day booking across 4 sites, I just needed them moved. They couldn’t tell me if I’d lose the deposits I’d already paid, or what I’d be charged for moving them. I honestly thought they’d be no extra charge, I’m not cancelling. Anyway, I politely suggested I’d just go online and cancel the 4 bookings and rebook myself. It meant losing deposits, but sometimes, you just need to do something that’s less stressful!

End of rant…

What Next?

The tour continues with no end in site yet. We’ve decided to spend more time on sites rather than 3-3 days. E&P levelling has been a god send, seriously, when moving sites, it makes things much easier and as we haven’t been using an awning, it’s motorhome fast setting up and packing away! AND we have a car to use 🙂

We’re now spending 12 nights on one site, just sitting tight until more sites open at the end of March. Then, as the clocks go forward and the weather improves, things should get a lot more fun.

I’ll do something on how we’re getting internet in the caravan over long period some time in the future. I wouldn’t say it’s the cheapest option, but as far as reliability goes, it’s as good as broadband at home…

Tour Playlist

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