Friday, 30 July 2010

Campsite review -- West End Farm

It's the last night of our camping holiday. Tomorrow we will be faced with the task of decamping: taking down a probably very wet tent (yes, it's still raining!) while trying to keep the wet tent and groundsheet separate from the dry inside sections and sleeping bags; packing everything back into the car so we can see the road and the kids can breathe; and achieving all this by 11am!

The end of a camping holiday is always the best time to review a campsite. If I'd written this on Tuesday, for example, I would have criticised the shower block for being inadequate (I only found the second shower [yes, only two!] on Wednesday).

West End Farm (www.westendfarm.co.uk) near Louth in Lincolnshire is a working arable farm. They keep chickens (as we discovered on Monday), but they don't sell eggs (a real shame, they don't even have a shop to sell basics like milk and bread, and local shops are scarce).





The site is secured by a padlocked (key coded) gate and has five "areas", the seasonal touring area, an area for touring caravans, an area for tents wanting electric hookup, and two areas for tents without electric (one of these is outside the padlocked gate so it's not as secure).

We pitched next to the reception area, which is the shed in the photo above. This shed contains a fridge and freezer for campers' use, tourist information leaflets, and books to borrow.

At the beginning of the week the site was fairly busy, there was a youth group camping in part of the touring area (not a problem for us, they abided by the noise curfew of 11pm) but other than that the campers were families with young children or older couples.

There is a small playground for children (4 swings) and a large central grassy area for football, cricket, or other games. This is a great site for children, who meet easily and start playing together. My son within an hour of arriving was riding his bike (without stablisers!) with another little boy who was also riding his bike for the first time.





The facilities are situated in a wooden shed-like building and are as good as I would expect and hope for: clean toilets (two per sex); two superb showers for women (see photo below) and one for men; a fresh supply of drinking water (but only located at this block); dishwashing facilities; a laundry with sink and free washing machine (exceptional!); and chemical toilet disposal point. Hot water is plentiful.






The campsite owner Chris was on hand daily to provide tourist advice or to just have a chat with; he cleaned the facilities himself, which was nice to see (yet embarrassing when he came in the toilets when I was in them).





I don't think we'll come back to this site again though, because of the location (my husband hated how few shops there were nearby, and he wasn't keen on Louth). But if you're looking for a clean and cheap site (£19 per night for 2 adults, 2 kids, & electric hookup) in Lincolnshire, this one is recommended.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Setting up camp

If you read my overplanned camping list, you'll know that we take a lot of stuff when we go camping. Here's a photo to give you an idea!


We arrived at the campsite soon after 12pm, and after a short wait for the owner to let us in (the gate has a coded lock) we were told to pitch wherever we liked. I'm not keen on this strategy, I prefer allocated pitches, but we picked a spot next to reception and in sight of the loos and playground. Perfect.

Next step was to unload some junk before we could reach the tent! I retrieved the footprint groundsheet & pegged it out. This helps us decide how to position the tent to avoid slopes and bumps. Then, time to get the tent out. Hubs did battle with the poles and we soon had a tent-like structure.


When the outer tent is pitched, I can start to hook the inner "rooms" in. Once the carpet goes down, we start to feel more homely. We can get the electricity switched on and unpack the kitchen.


Next battle is with the beds, we both hate assembling campbeds, but the kids need to sleep on something! A few special accessories from home and they are happy.


It's time to crack open the first beer! We deserve it. Hang on, who are these cheeky visitors?!


They soon disappeared when the kids saw them! First meal was griddled steak, onion, and mushroom sarnies, yum yum.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 25 July 2010

My garden

Here are some photos of my garden, especially for Kati who requested them!


This one shows the main flower borders, the ornamental cherry tree is in the centre, bamboo hedge to the left, and on the right, kids toys! And some pretty cream daisies.


This photo shows the veg plot, potatoes on the far left, carrots and climbing beans next, sweetcorn, & last broccoli. In the border are raspberries, rhubarb (in front of the bamboo), and last my herb garden.

The round grey things are our solar lights. We're testing them to see if they still work!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, 23 July 2010

Out with the old...

My parents are staying with us at the moment, and it's lovely to be able to spend time in the garden with them. They've been great with the kids, dad's been playing cricket with my son and mum has looked after my daughter. The free babysitting has enabled me to give the garden a once over, cutting back dead growth, weeding, and planting some new purchases.

Today, I gave the veg plot a makeover. The peas and broad beans were at the end of their life, so I cut them all back to the ground (don't remove the roots yet because they will continue to fix nitrogen in the soil to make nitrates). Some of the onion stalks had dried and folded over, so I lifted them and left them to dry (you can leave them on the soil but I use my kids' trampoline!). Finally, I staked my broccoli plants to lift them off the ground, where they were looking a bit sad.

I then got my seed box out to see what I could sow to replace the crops I'd removed. I sowed some carrots (Nigel F1), salad leaves, beetroot (Boltardy), French beans, and Swiss chard, most of which I had said I wouldn't sow this year! I thought I might as well sow something, and since I am being much better at watering my beds this year, perhaps they will do OK. I am going to buy some swede and spring onion seeds tomorrow to fill in other gaps.

After sorting out the veg plot, I looked at my fruit bed. I cut back the raspberry canes that had fruited this year and were dying. New canes are already coming through for next year, and these I tied to bamboo canes for support. I had earlier bought a new rhubarb plant for next year (Fenton, a late variety) so I planted this near the raspberries.

In the new front garden, I planted a few perennials I'd picked up at Langdon Garden Centre earlier in the day: a yellow Geum, red Gaillardia, and two blue grasses (Festucas) my mum brought with her.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sog's over-planned camping list

My husband always rolls his eyes when he sees me sat down with a notepad because I am inevitably making another list. He hates planning things, likes to go with the flow. But if I don't make a list I am lost! And WILL forget something!

With a camping trip approaching, I thought I would post my over-planned camping list; it gets quite detailed but it shows---fellow campers and those thinking about camping---the sort of junk we take with us and simply can't do without! I've put links to most things we've bought; outlets we use the most are Cross Camping and Leisure (aka, thetentfactory.co.uk), Halfords & Argos. Small accessories can be bought cheaply at Homebase, Tesco, Home Bargains & Wilkos.

Essentials

  • Tent (we have a Vango Colorado 800 DLX)
  • Footprint groundsheet (helps with pitching, protects bottom of tent from stones, and affords extra security from damp)
  • Carpet (yes really! I was dubious but they just add a bit of warmth and make the tent feel so much more comfortable)
  • Double airbed for us and [EDIT] compressor to inflate it
  • Camping beds for kids
  • [EDIT] Pillows
  • Sleeping bags (proper professional bags, really make a difference)
  • Extra blankets (because it can get cold, and no one wants to be miserable)
  • Electric hookup (EHU), extension cable, and 4-gang extension (I usually forget the extensions!)
  • Picnic table and chairs
  • Lantern and electric light (so we can see...)
  • iPhones, iPads, & chargers (so we can blog and tweet!)
  • iPhone speakers
Cooking equipment
  • George Foreman grill and portable gas stoves
  • 12V coolbox and mains power adapter (so we can use it as a fridge)
  • Folding table to put cooking equipment on
  • [EDIT] Camp kitchen (new purchase!)
  • Water carrier
  • Kettle (we have a whistling kettle and an electric one)
  • Electric toaster (you can buy camping toasters but we always get EHU so we take a cheap toaster)
  • Cutlery, plates, mugs, pans, frying pan, chopping board, knife, utensils
  • Plastic box to wash up in
  • [EDIT] Always at the last minute I remember to pack condiments, ketchup, tea & coffee!
Non-essentials
  • Windbreak
  • Outdoor fairy lights
  • Citronella candles
  • Electric fan heater (for when you're camping in Norfolk in May)
  • Deckchairs (slight dig at hubs here, because I always forget the deckchairs...)
  • Picnic blanket
  • [EDIT]Portable potty (a good idea with young children who might not make a long walk across a field in the middle of the night)
We've also just bought a generator, mainly because we recently camped at Silverstone and had no EHU, and we weren't happy! It's not really an essential because we probably won't ever need it, but if we do, it'll be essential :s

And we do take clothes, I didn't forget those...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

2010 British GP at Silverstone

My husband and I decided after the 2009 British GP that we would treat ourselves to 3-day tickets next year, if the GP was at Silverstone. Of course, at this point, the British GP was due to be held at Donington Park, but the whole situation was a bit flaky to say the least!

But, in December, the news finally came through that the GP was saved and would be at Silverstone. Tickets went on sale immediately, and we made good on our promise to each other and bought 3-day tickets. We treated ourselves to Club Silverstone tickets because we liked the idea of having a reserved seat for all 3 days.

We were up early on Friday morning, raring to get to the circuit to have a look round and watch some free practice. First impressions: 1) lots of dust (my feet were a red/brown colour by the end of the day), 2) so many McLaren merchandise stalls.

We were delighted to find that we not only got a free programme and cap with our Club Silverstone tickets but also had our own private hospitality area, complete with posh loos, big screen, an array of food outlets, and cheap(er) bar. We settled down in the sunshine with our drinks and programmes to catch some big screen action.

When F1 free practice 1 was imminent we headed up to the grandstand to find our seats. What a shock to be in such cold windy conditions! Note for next year, take a jumper and wear trousers. We were so thrilled when the cars came out and started to buzz around the circuit. The noise was immense. We had a fabulous view, from Maggotts, though Becketts, Chapel, then down the Hangar Straight to Stowe, before catching the cars again as they entered the new Village section, losing sight of them down the Wellington Straight.
As FP1 neared its conclusion, we set off towards Copse, because we had arranged to meet some Twitter followers. At this point we realised how quiet the cars sound in the grandstand (as we hastily found our earplugs!). It's amazing to be on a level with an F1 car as it whizzes past, you can't describe it fully, the buzz you get in your chest, the suffocating noise that blocks out anything else for minutes afterwards. And the crowds of people, for a Friday, apparently 85 000 people were at the circuit for practice!

We arrived at Bridge Shop, and after several hasty tweets, we met @f1_girl, followed by @Dan_McLaren_Fan, @f1_photos, @timlumley, @sarahanngreen, @paulgray07, and @vickylygoef1. 

Later on in the day, as we were heading back to the campsite (the long way round, via Luffield), and despite a lack of charge in my phone, I was really pleased to receive a message from @jamieswb, and we finally managed to meet up at the Copse tunnel.

Saturday was absolutely BAKING. For some stupid reason, we decided to walk the long way to our seats (again!), past Abbey and Luffield, so we could see the whole circuit (again!). Man, my poor feet! We sat in Pits Straight for a bit to see the circuit from a different perspective (as @SRT40 had recommended to me on Twitter). From here we watched GP3 qualifying, and I took some photos of the pit garages and motorhomes in the paddock, which are immense! 
Before F1 qualifying, we were fortunate to meet two lovely blokes (grandson and grandfather) from New Zealand. We got chatting about motorsport and cricket, and found out the young lad raced V8s and Hondas in New Zealand, and his granddad was off to watch The Open at St Andrews the week after (some would say, lucky guy!). Back in the grandstands, we were disappointed to see Jenson Button qualify 14th, but since he'd gone out in Q2, we headed back to the hospitality area to retain our seats in the shade and continue our chat over cold beers, while watching Q3 on the big screen. Much was made of drinking a jug of Pimms on Sunday, but sadly we never met up again. 

On the way back to the campsite, I insisted on buying some merchandise to wear for Sunday (defences broken by subliminal McLaren messages), and chose a Rocket Red ladies McLaren top, which turned out to be a Lewis top! Yikes, what a mistake. Oh well, it looks GREAT on me ;)


Sunday dawned cold and drizzly, perfect weather for deconstructing a tent and related junk. We packed all our gear up and drove to the carpark at Club to save us walking too far at the end of the GP. We enjoyed the GP2 race from the grandstands, but the weather was making us cold :( so we walked to the E-Zone at Copse to warm up and peruse the merchandise stands. After watching too many crazy people jump off a cage dangling from a crane, we headed back to our seats for the drivers parade. Wow, the whole place just went crazy when the drivers came past, what an amazing experience. 
Before the GP, the Red Arrows display team performed overhead, almost directly over us it felt like (probably the same for everyone!). I caught some of the display on video.
YouTube clip


The build up to the GP was indescribable. So exciting, the crowd were buzzing with anticipation. As the cars filed past on the formation lap, everyone jumped up to cheer Lewis and Jenson (massive McLaren following), I was cheering for Karun Chandhok too, and Mark Webber because secretly I quite fancy him, but really, because of the Red Bull front wing controversy. Before I forget, here's my favourite picture of the weekend, of Karun in his HRT.
As the race got underway, we waiting with bated breath for the cars to swing round Maggotts into view. What a fabulous sight, Seb Vettel flying off track onto the runoff area directly in front of us, Lewis Hamilton passing him into 2nd, and Jenson Button in EIGHTH! What?! So excited! A huge cheer went up and continued for minutes as the cars came past us again on the Village loop. Poor Vettel hobbling past. He did get a lot of jeers from the McLaren fans (and others), but I'm sure they helped him make up the places later. 

We were shouting at our neighbours who had a radio, and they were shouting at us because my husband had his F1 app on his phone, to find out what was happening. So mentally intense to keep track of positions and pit stops; we couldn't quite see the big screen from our seats. And so soon it seemed, my neighbour held up her hand to say four laps left, then everyone was clapping and it was all over. And I suddenly felt so emotional to see all the drivers come past our stand so slowly, waving (and Lewis, who came off the track and drove right past us). I was so pleased Webber won, and delighted with the McLaren 2-4 finish.


We headed straight off to our car, stopping at another subliminal messaging stand to buy Jenson caps for our kids. Must buy McLaren things. And an hour later, guess what, we were HOME! Wow.

2010 British GP at Silverstone -- Woodlands campsite

2 weeks ago, me and my husband were excitedly packing our camping gear ready for the British GP. We had decided to head over to Silverstone Thursday afternoon after work "to beat the rush", or so we thought! We had been assured by the bloke on the campsite helpline that if we arrived Thursday evening we would be almost guaranteed to get a pitch with electric hookup.

So we rolled up to the Woodlands campsite at 6 pm on Thursday, to find an almost completely deserted site. Oh no, that was just a dream. There must have been thousands of motorhomes, caravans, and tents already pitched. We were both overwhelmed, we've never seen such closely packed tents before (and I've camped at several music festivals). Flags on massive fishing poles were dotted about the site, campfires were sending smoky plumes up, and the atmosphere was buzzing.

We headed to the family/quiet area, which was located to the far side of the site (we were in G area), through a little wooded area. It was actually located by Stowe corner if you know the circuit at all. We drove around searching for a pitch and finally found an empty piece of grass behind someone's tent. I wasn't sure we should pitch so close to someone else (I'm very polite!) but since we'd seen how close people were on the other campsite, we went ahead and got ourselves unpacked. Just as well we did because the site rapidly filled up and people were camping three rows deep in places. (In fact, by Friday evening, campers were being turned away the site was so packed.) Of course, we had no electric hookup, so we were reduced to slumming it with our gas stove and warm beer.

Later in the evening, we ventured over to the lively camping area to check out the facilities. We found what we thought was a large shower and toilet block (but which proved completely inadequate). There was a seating area with big screen, stage, several food outlets, and a large beer tent selling real ales and ciders. We had three fabulous evenings in this area, chilling out to live music (The Red Bullets on Friday night were excellent) and enjoying cold beers.
The circuit was about a 15 minute walk from our tent, down some very new but hard-to-walk-on gravel paths (most people chose to walk on the grass to the side of these paths). The BRDC are obviously working hard to improve facilities for the future, a purpose built shower and toilet block is planned for 2011. Part of the lively camping area is set out in regimented rows separated by gravel roads and with generators for electric hookups and water standpipes at regular locations. More of the site will probably be similarly arranged next year.

The main downside to Woodlands were the facilities. The showers had massive queues, in fact my husband had to abandon all hopes of a shower and make do with a bucket of cold water and kettleful of hot on Saturday night. On Saturday night at about 9 pm, we were rather bemused when campsite staff turned up in the family area with ten new portaloos and a generator-powered light, boosting our meagre facilities from six loos to 16. Only 3 days overdue for most campers. We were grateful for our posh loos in the Club Silverstone hospitality area!

The food outlets were totally overwhelmed; the three venues had queues that snaked through the entertainment zone, and portions of fish and chips that started large in the afternoon were half the size by the evening when stock was dwindling (but priced the same). We satisfied our hunger with pot noodles rather than the tasty-looking pies at Pieminister, such a shame.

Despite all the shortcomings, we thoroughly enjoyed our camping experience at Silverstone, and if we were to camp at the site again, we would be much better prepared for the rough lifestyle!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Anticipation

In 3 days' time my husband and I shall be packing our tent and sleeping bags and setting off for Silverstone for the British Grand Prix! We are both really excited, we've never been to watch an F1 race in the flesh before!

This year has been one of new motorsport experiences, for me at least. I went to watch BTCC at Rockingham in April, so I have some idea of the noise and smell of racing and the festival atmosphere that goes with it. But I can well imagine Silverstone is going to be something else, far bigger, noisier, and extravagant!

We are really lucky that my husband's parents are coming to stay at our house for the 3 days we're away, to look after our children. We couldn't afford to buy children's tickets (they are the same price as adult tickets!) Hopefully they will enjoy watching the race at home, trying to spot us in the crowd, and we'll bring them something 'wicked' back with us (to quote my son!)
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