The Orwell Bridge on a fine November morning.

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Today I attended the AGM of the Anglia Region of the Caravan and Motorhome Club in Ipswich – or more specifically on the Nacton Road in Ipswich.

I was brought up here as a child and the River Orwell played a big part during my early school years. Not least because we had to go into the centre of Ipswich where the river was narrow and there was the only bridge to get across it. Many many years later the Orwell Bridge was built enabling Felixstowe to become the hugely successful container port that it now is. And Ipswich was largely bypassed.

Consequently, I felt today a small diversion was justified on my way home to spend a bit of time by the river and as always marvel at the bridge. It serves to remind me that good infrastructure makes things happen and generates growth.

Christopher Macgowan

@motorhomenews

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@camc

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White Water Park, Stockton-on-Tees, is a must to visit.

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The Caravan and Motorhome Club has given this site a huge upgrade and makeover in the last twelve month. To say it is impressive is an understatement.

In the shorthand that we all use it is 15 acres, Open All Year, 100 touring pitches, Late Night Arrivals Area, Security barrier, TV Room, Games Room, latest Easy Empty grey water point for motorhomes and a Beefeater restaurant within 100 metres.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and on leaving the site could not resist a ride across the Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough. Anyone who loved “The Black Stuff” about a group of Liverpudlian tarmac layers on a job near Middlesbrough and the sequel “Boys from the Blackstuff” will know why.

Christopher Macgowan

@motorhomenews

AA Caravan and Camping awards 2018 announced.

AA Caravan and Camping Awards 2018

Britain’s best campsites – revealed

The very best spots for caravanning and camping have been revealed today as the AA announce the winners of the AA Caravan and Camping Awards 2018.
Awards winners – the best sites

Amongst those celebrating is The Old Oaks Touring Park in Glastonbury, Somerset, winners of AA Campsite of the Year for England 2018 and Overall winner.

Brexit and the fall in the value of the pound has helped contribute to the rise of glamping and luxury options available, helping to ensure these camping and caravanning sites remain firm family favourites for holiday destinations. More and more sites now provide the likes of luxury yurts and huts in addition to the more traditional family holiday options.

Brand new guide

All winners will feature in the 50th anniversary edition of the AA Caravan & Camping Guide. Each of the 800 sites included in the guide have been visited by one of the AA’s experienced Campsite Inspectors, grading sites from one to five Pennants, based on their facilities and hospitality. Only the parks of the very highest standard are awarded the coveted Gold Pennant award. Each entry within the guide includes location, ratings, contact details, directions, prices, opening times, facilities and a description to help select the right site for your needs.

The winners of the 2018 AA Caravan and Camping Awards are:

AA CAMPSITES OF THE YEAR 2018

ENGLAND AND OVERALL WINNER: Old Oaks Touring Park, Glastonbury, Somerset

SCOTLAND: Trossachs Holiday Park, Aberfoyle, Stirling

WALES: Red Kite Touring Park, Llanidloes, Powys

AA REGIONAL CAMPSITES OF THE YEAR 2018

SOUTH WEST: Trevalgan Touring Park, St Ives, Cornwall

SOUTH EAST: Whitefield Forest Touring Park, Ryde, Isle of Wight

HEART OF ENGLAND: Cakes & Ale, Leiston, Suffolk

NORTH WEST: Skelwith Fold Caravan Park, Ambleside, Cumbria

NORTH EAST: Herding Hill Farm, Haltwhistle, Northumberland

HOLIDAY CENTRE OF THE YEAR 2018

Woodside Bay Lodge Retreat, Wooton Bridge, Isle of Wight

MOST IMPROVED CAMPSITE OF THE YEAR 2018

Wheathill Touring Park, Wheathill, Shropshire

SMALL CAMPSITE OF THE YEAR

Seal Shore Camping & Touring Site, Kildonan, Isle of Arran

GLAMPING SITE OF THE YEAR

Runach Arainn Glamping, Kilmory, Isle of Arran

Buy the 50th edition of The Caravan and Camping Guide
Christopher Macgowan 

@motorhomenews 

Moreton-in-Marsh, Caravan & Motorhome Club Site – Review

inpursuitofadream.com

The Caravan and Motorhome Club Site is set within walking distance of the picturesque market town of Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire. Known locally for its market on a Tuesday and plentiful pubs and restaurants. Buses run from just outside the site to Stratford-upon-Avon and other bus stops a short walk away in the town take you further afield. The town is serviced by Budgens, Co-op, Tesco and a newly opened (Oct 2017) Aldi.
The site has a late night arrivals area within the car park at the entrance.

Arthur and Martha are on hand to greet you outside reception when you arrive. The site has an array of quirky pieces at the entrance including a bug house and a small kennel for Sox.

An extremely well stocked information office stands to the side of the reception building. With the site being in the beautiful Cotswolds there is plenty to see…

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CAMC CL WINNER OF THE YEAR

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The Caravan and Motorhome Club is delighted to announce the winner of its Certificated Location of the Year Award is Low Moor Head Farm situated in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside. Close runners up are Meadow Bank Farm on the edge of the New Forest and Welltrough Farm in the rolling Cheshire countryside.

Certificated Locations (CLs) are privately-owned, maximum five-van sites found across the UK, open exclusively to Caravan and Motorhome Club members. Many CLs are found in idyllic and remote locations such as farms, country estates and beside inns, and they can provide a valuable, additional income stream for local communities. The CL of the Year Awards are voted for by Club members, recognising the very best sites and rewarding hard-working owners who pull out all the stops for guests. The awards are presented at the House of Commons in recognition of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act (1960) which enables the Caravan and Motorhome Club to grant certificates to landowners to operate CLs.

Harvey Alexander, Director of Marketing at the Caravan and Motorhome Club said: “We are proud to recognise the important part CLs play in both our members’ experiences and as a sustainable form of tourism. Visitors to CLs across the country help contribute towards the local economy by bringing income to the area; many owners have diversified into operating CLs as a means of generating additional revenue. The awards recognise those owners who really go the extra mile for members and provide them with a truly memorable experience. My congratulations go out to all this year’s winners.”

Winner – Low Moor Head

Low Moor Head Farm Certificated Location was opened in October 2005, a tranquil site, set on a working beef and sheep farm with land running from the Duddon Estuary to Kirkby Moor just six miles from the city of Carlisle. The site is exclusively for adults and offers the perfect location for visiting many historic attractions both in England and Scotland, being between two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Northumbria ‘Hadrian’s Wall & the Lake District National park. Guests come from as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and Holland.

The Site offers five hard standing spacious pitches, set within one acre. It is open all year round and encourages visitors to get out and visit surrounding areas, helping sustain the local economy. There is very good vehicular access with a parking area for both guests and visitors; excellent digital TV reception and free organic free range eggs. Facilities also include heated toilet/ shower and disabled facilities, cycle racks and recycling point.

Low Moor Head Farm also has available an adult only ‘Pheasant Lodge’ luxurious ‘5 star, self-catering accommodation complete with hot tub, for friends! No stranger to winning awards, Low Moor Head was voted second place in the National Award in 2013 and winner of the Regional Awards in 2009, 2010, 2015.

Alexander continued: “Low Moor Head Farm consistently goes that extra mile for visitors with the provision of free range eggs, lots of local information and faultless facilities. Owners Owen and Adele have really strived to provide everything guests could possibly want and that includes a very warm welcome – this is a very well deserved win for an incredibly well run site.”

Joint runners up – Welltrough Farm and Meadow Bank Farm

Welltrough Farm Certificated Location opened in 2016 as a diversification project and has become a firm favourite with Caravan and Motorhome Club members. The tranquil adult only site is situated just outside the village of Lower Withington in the beautiful Cheshire countryside with stunning views. All the pitches are hard standing, spacious, generally flat and fully serviced; the site has toilets, a shower, free wifi and a well -stocked information shed complete with washing machine and tumble dryer.

There is a 3km walk round the farm with the unique facility of a warm dog shower and when the walking is done, there are plenty of local pubs in the area. Tourist attractions include Jodrell Bank radio telescope, Tatton Park, Arley Hall and Gardens plus numerous walks.

Alexander said: “With fantastic, well maintained facilities and plenty of local information the site is a welcome new addition to the network and well deserved runner up – congratulations!”

Meadow Bank Farm Certificated Location situated on the edge of the New Forest but within striking distance of Southampton, is another worthy runner up. The site was re-opened in July 2015 with the benefits of a refurbished toilet, shower and washing machine facility.

Meadow Bank Farm is located on a five acre plot in a very tranquil location with walks directly from the site; it is also just 30 minutes’ from the nearest beach and walking distance from a local pub. The owners firmly believe in making people feel welcome and always try to greet guests on arrival and see them during their stay. Added to this, there is a therapy room on site, available for members to enjoy treatments such as massage, nutritional information and other holistic therapies.

“Every CL is different and it is a real bonus that Meadow Bank Farm offers its therapy room to guests, offering optimum opportunity for re-charging the batteries. The warm welcome offered to guests really stood out and I offer my congratulations to this worthy runner up,” Alexander added.

Christopher Macgowan

@motorhomenews

Watch out for Tim Hortons coffee chain.

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Motorhomenews tries not to do advertising but I do like to keep an eye on trends and new ideas. 

Like so many motorhomers I am continually looking for places to park and my latest successes have been around Starbucks outlets – mostly their drive through outlets which understandably have extra parking. Needless to say the drive through bit is no good but the rest is fine.

On the subject of coffee outlets (not parking!) keep an eye on Tim Hortons. It is Canada’s – I used to live in Canada so have a soft spot for that wonderful country – most successful coffee chain and it has started opening outlets in the UK. Well worth a try.

Tim Hortons was founded by its namesake, a top professional ice hockey player, who wanted to create a space where everyone would feel at home. Now one of Canada’s most iconic brands, nearly eight out of 10 cups of coffee sold across Canada are served at Tim Hortons and more than 5.3 million Canadians – approximately 15 per cent of the population – visit the café daily.

On the subject of parking (not coffee!) I find the majority of garden centres welcome me – and these days most of them have a café offering Andrew J Ditton style outrageous cakes and things I should resist.

Christopher Macgowan
@motorhomenews

What it’s like visiting a CL which won “CL of the Year” 

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Ten years ago Birch Hill Farm CL won the Caravan Club’s (as the Club was called then) “CL of the Year” and I thought it would be interesting to stay on site and see how things were going ten years on. Success has continued as it won Practical Caravan’s “Best Small Site” award in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Club has around 2500 CL owners under the scheme – in an over simplistic nutshell these are sites allowed to take up to five outfits, only Club members can use them, maximum stay 28 consecutive days and the site has to comply with a small but important range of standards such as safe water and so on. By their very nature and a key part of their attraction is the wide variety of types on the network. The Club’s Sites Directory is at pains to describe each one; open all year or not, hardstandings or not and so on – so the member can choose what suits their needs and, typically, members get to know what suits them best and therefore develope a list of favourites. Some Club members so prefer the CL network they rarely make an appearance at any of the 200 Club sites.

When you stay at Birch Hill you can see almost immediately why it won in 2007 but more importantly it becomes obvious that far from resting on their laurels, owners Ian and Janet Kelly have continued to maintain a seemingly impossibly high standard and make further improvements. WiFi boosters for the free WiFi, a combined online booking and personal telephone system, a bespoke dog tag with the site’s details, masses of tourist information and a functional website that might put some larger sites to shame. One of the reasons it is easy to get to is because there is an arrival video of the website which makes life so much easier – on this occasion I was a solo motorhomer and believe me an arrival video is invaluable!

So I salute the policy of continuous improvement which is very much in evidence here and, when all is said and done, deepest Shropshire near the town of Ellesmere is not a bad spot to find yourself in at the beginning of November. Oh, and of course it’s open all year which is important to me as an all year round active motorhomer.

Quick link to website is HERE

Christopher Macgowan

@motorhomenews

Huntingdon Boathaven and Caravan Park

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This commercial site is on the Ouse between the adjacent towns of Huntingdon and Godmanchester. It’s a five minute walk to the famous Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon which itself is always worth a visit and for a long leisurely lunch with old friends – which is exactly what I did! Turn right out of the site and you are in Godmanchester which is much smaller but has pubs and restaurants on offer. 

The location is everything – I enjoy marina sites – although some of my friends who live in the back of beyond and find just one car going by freaks them out would certainly find noise from the A14 unacceptable. However, you cannot have the location without the A14 so it’s a judgement call as are most sites. 

More details HERE

Christopher Macgowan

@motorhomenews

Poolsbrook Country Park

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I am grateful to The Wobbly Box for this independent report on Poolsbrook Country Park from last year. The full report, of which this is a small extract, can be found on their website.

“One of the best sites we have been to this year. Well laid out, clean and tidy. Its location made it a real winner in terms of the extras you get from the Country Park and the showers were the best we have seen on a campsite. We thouroughly enjoyed the site, so much so that we have moved our Christmas stay from another site to come back! Positives: lots to do in the area, great facilities (not all onsite but very close), great pitches, friendly wardens, accessible, great showers. Needs Work: ;Dog facilities, closeness of pitches

SITE NAME: POOLSBROOK COUNTRY PARK CARAVAN CLUB SITE

LOCATION: STAVELY, DERBYSHIRE, S433WL

DATES VISITED: OCTOBER 28TH- 31ST 2016

On our second visit to Derbyshire we took up residence at Poolsbrook Country Park Caravan Club site in Staveley, just down the road from Chesterfield. See what we thought of the Site and everything about it below:

Unlike our previous visit to the area when we stayed at Rivendale near Ashbourne, which took us out into the more remote areas of the Peak District National Park, Poolsbrook Country Park Caravan Club site is located conveniently about 5 minutes off Junction 29A of the M1 motorway. Whilst this does lead to a somewhat lesser scenic route on your drive to the campsite, including driving past what looks to be a small industrial site to get to the site, what is gives you in buckets is accessibility and proximity to pretty much everything. A 5 minute drive, or 20 minute walk takes you into the nearest town of Staveley which has all the basics you need including a pub and a large Morrisons store to name a few. Chesterfield is only about 10-15 minutes by car and has a multitude of things to see and do as well as an abundance of shops. The site itself is situated on the egde of the Poolsbrook Country Park, featuring a beautiful fishing lake surrounded by nature walks, a kids play area and a daytime Cafe. The site doesn’t suffer from much external noise so overall, whilst its not the prettiest location you will find in the area, it more than makes up for it in terms of practicality.”

Christopher Macgowan

@motorhomenews

Bruges is Best.

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Faye and I are spending the weekend in Bruges; it continues to be one of our favourites.

The “No Motorhomes” sign on a central car park is a bit academic as you’d be bonkers to attempt a coach built on these narrow twisting streets. The taxis are mostly Mercedes Vitos so a small van conversion might be possible but we prefer the excellent barrier controlled aire at the main bus station. A ten minute top whack stroll and you are in the middle of the town.

Christopher Macgowan

@motorhomenews