Calendar watching can be dangerous, you know, when you see those huge gaps between holidays and you realise it’s a full 6 weeks till your next trip away in your wobble box aka ‘Pod’. So, what’s better than looking for a two night trip, one that’s not too far from home which means, hopefully, less travelling, less gear and no cooking.
Our next 7 day trip to York and Wensleydale was just too far away so the search began for something on our doorstep. Research began on the trusty ipad and within half an hour we found one that was no more than 45 minutes away, you may think us mad, but it was great to be able to hook Pod up, go on a mini adventure and hopefully discover a hidden gem somewhere along the way.
Royal Vale Caravan Site was the chosen site, reviews seemed great, a little bit more than we usually pay but claimed to have good facilities, wifi included and was an adult only site, all very positive. Straight on the phone and a 2 night mid week break in the Cheshire countryside was booked, during the telephone call we were told we could arrive anytime from 9am which was brilliant and meant we would have two full days to explore.
Not living a million miles away from the site we knew the area and had visited a few of the attractions in the past. Within half an hour of the site we earmarked Tatton Park a National Trust property and Jodrell Bank. Tatton Park because we’re members of the Trust and it seemed foolish not to avail ourselves of it, plus there was a possibility of seeing the deer during the rutting season. Jodrell Bank for the Lovell telescope and to calm the child in one of us who just loves to touch anything and everything on sight.
The day arrived, the sun was shining and with a bit of a giggle, off we went. Quite funny really, once we were on the road with Pod attached and following us quite faithfully, we were soon in holiday mode.
Roads were empty and by 10.30am we rolled up outside the site office. Access into and out of the site was gained with a pass card, deposit of £5.00 was required and money would be returned when handed back in at the end of our stay. Pitches were a little strange, well spaced but split in half, one half concrete and the other stones, only one car could be next to the ‘van, but had to go on the well manicured grass, seemed a shame, especially if it rained, but that was the set up.
Luckily the concrete wasn’t too wide so it would have been possible to peg the awing down, but we decided to go with the tarp on this trip and it worked out well, still possible to peg out in the stones and we managed to get 2/3rds of the car onto the stones. Thermal wrap went on too, great little invention of ours and it works so well, plus the folding chairs when not used would slide nicely under Pod whilst protected in their home made Khyam fabric covers, explanation of which is at the end.Facilities were also very nice, a row of showers with push button controls set along the back wall, toilets along another and a full size disabled toilet along the third side with open sinks along there too. Well lit and very clean.
Quick weather check was done and today seemed to be the better of our two away, so back into the car and off to Tatton Park we went. Only gripe with Tatton Park is the parking is managed by the council so £6.00 was paid to park. Not grumbling though, as its been £6.00 for as long as we can remember and that’s saying something.
Once on the estate we followed the road up to the house and the main car park, there were a few cars, but not too many, we decided it was one of the advantages of a mid-week break.
A short walk through the stables and past the shop brought us to the main entrance of the house. Membership cards were shown and we were given the obligatory information sheet and informed in which direction to go.
We slowly wound our way through the rooms, the card room, music room, dining room and library. Eventually we went up the wide portrait lined staircase and passed National Trust staff conducting restoration work on clothing which looked like elaborately decorated military uniforms.
From here we went down a stone staircase to the kitchen and cellars. Here we discovered the Housekeepers rooms, the kitchen and pantry. The corridor connecting them all was lined with a rail track which ran from the coal cellar to the end and had a very small turn-table for its return journey, really incredible, labour saving invention.
Weather was now a little overcast, but still dry, so we walked off in the direction of the open estate grounds in the hope of finding the deer and maybe a sighting of rutting in action, big ask for the latter but it was a good day for a stroll either way.
Didn’t take us long to find the deer, bit hard to miss if we’re honest as they were all grouped together with the odd stag hovering round the outskirts. With this in mind we decided to approach them from down wind, stealth mode was operated and with camera in hand off we went.
We got within 20 metres of them all and stood glued to the spot, within 10 minutes we found the grand daddy of them all, huge fella with a very impressive set of antlers. We watched as he cruised between the ladies of his harem and when they were approached by one of the younger males he made his presence known by his loud guttural roar and charging in the direction of the presumptuous youth. Once the upstart was seen off he returned to patrolling his ladies in waiting whilst a few of the very young stags had a bash at clobbering each other with their very small but prominent set of antlers.
Back to Pod we went and the time came to look for somewhere for dinner. Thanks to our Facebook page, kind people had left recommendations on local eateries and one which seemed most popular was The Bells of Peover, only a mile or so down the road so it was ideal. If we’d have gone earlier in the day we could probably of walked it, but as there wasn’t any street lighting or pavement it seemed a little perilous so we opted for the car.
Satnav came into play and within 10 minutes we arrived, a narrow cobbled road took us to the car park and within a few steps we were walking along a fairy light lined path to the front door.
We hadn’t booked but this didn’t seem to be an issue and we were shown to a table in the window, once seated drinks were ordered and we began to peruse the menu. Very select menu which always gave us good vibes, for us it meant food was all freshly prepared and cooked when needed.
All read very well and we decided on Vegetable Soup and Chorizo and black pudding/Pork Scotch Egg for starters to be followed with the Chateaubriand and Pan Fried Hake. Starters were excellent, the scotch egg was delicious as the egg inside was still runny, we saw this as an achievement in itself, the soup was equally scrummy, chunky and filling and more akin to a vegetable chowder.
Main courses arrived soon after, Steak cooked to perfection as was the Hake, both courses were of fair sized portions so we both felt very satisfied but we couldn’t resist a peek at the desert menu and fell for the Chocolate Fondant, who wouldn’t.
There were a few other couples dinning, with a steady flow of people coming and going, we didn’t feel rushed so relaxed over our drinks before leaving.
We were really pleased with this recommendation and would ourselves highly recommend it, service was great and the staff were knowledgeable and helpful, prices were reasonable too.
Back at the site Pod sat waiting, all lit up with the light under the tarp casting a lovely glow around her Once in, we collected our toiletries and went to test out the showers, we weren’t disappointed, spacious cubicles and hot.
Slept well as expected and woke to what looked like a dry day, although the weather forecast said something different.
We weren’t in any kind of a rush so while still snuggled up in bed we had a huge mug of hot tea and caught up on the news on our little tv. The thermal wrap had worked well too and condensation wasn’t even an issue.
En route we passed signs for even more local attractions; Imagination Tree and the Falconry Centre caught our attention, 20 minutes later we rolled into the carpark where huge signs were on display instructing all who enter to turn off their mobile devises as it could interfere with on going tests and experiments, awesome, normally not something we like to do but on this occasion we complied without any grumbling. The car park was fairly empty but there were quite a few coaches so we expected a big influx of children.
We paid our £8.00 each and in we went. Lots to see and read, but the best thing was being allowed to touch and play with many of the things on display. The thermal imager and the parabolic dishes were two of our faves, great time to be a kid again.
All played out we headed for the cafe, and once satisfied with a delicious meat pie, quiche and cream cakes we headed back in the direction of Pod and decided to hunt down the Imagination tree and we were so glad we did, got to play at being a kid.. again.
First off we spotted what looked like a home made large white sign, with its obligatory huge black arrow pointing in one direction off the main road and onto a narrow lane. This we followed as it wound its way along the hedge line road.
After what seemed like an age we considered turning round but on we went, bends and turns continued and on what appeared to be another twist in the road we came face to face with the trunk of a 12ft tree.
Fabulous, our faces lit up with big smiles at what on first sight was an elaborately decorated large tree stump on a small grassed area next to a small junction.
We pulled over and once out of the car we were all over the tree like ants at a food fair. Lots of little windows to peer in to which displayed tiny rooms with different settings. From tables and chairs to candles and books, shawls and shoes and tiny portraits.
Small hand written notes had been pushed in holes, along with silver coins rammed into the smallest of gaps and a wonderful wooden tiled roof was placed on top.
We scoured the tree from top to bottom and there wasn’t a mark on it, no cobwebs or creepy crawlies hiding anywhere, someone clearly tended to it on a regular basis, either that or the resident fairies took charge themselves.
Back in the car we went and headed back to Pod, the wind was picking up and rain was threatening us with the presence of dark clouds but Pod was as we’d left it and the tarp was doing a sterling job.
Research then began on somewhere to eat, there were quite a few to pick from but we decided on The Whipping Stocks, less than a mile away so perfect.
Looked impressive on the outside, almost like a new build dark brick, as we rolled onto the car park the heavens opened so we made a dash for the door.
The pub opened up into a large central bar area with smaller rooms leading off in different directions, we chose one at the front of the pub, mainly because it had a lovely log fire roaring away in the centre.
Food ordered and within minutes the starters arrived, soup and bread coated prawns with a dip. This was followed by a mixed grill and a vegetable wellington. All very good but missed something, maybe it was the presentation of the food or we’d just been spoilt by our previous night at the Bells of Peover.
We decided against staying for another drink or two and opted for a drink back at Pod. Tarp was still in situ but the wind was becoming a wee bit gusty and along with the near horizontal rain we decided to bunker down in Pod.
Bed called after showers, we soon fell asleep listening to the wind howling around us and on the odd occasion feeling Pod give a shudder as it protected us from the appalling weather outside.
Through the night the wind picked up, the flapping of the tarp had gotten worse but when checked on at 4am it was still stood where it was tethered. Decision was made to take it down then at least we wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the night.
MrB decided on doing it there and then, in nothing but his undies. So, out the door he went, LB’s only thought was, well, if he gets spotted at least he has his Calvin Klein’s on.
LB decided to get dressed to assist, but on sticking her head out of the door she was told it was all done at which point MrB turned and chased the now unprotected bin across the path.
Once in Pod the inside of the pop up roof was checked and it was bone dry, brilliant, all thanks to the thermal wrap. Back into bed we both went and soon fell asleep, didn’t wake till well past 8 but as we didn’t have to be off the site till 3pm we weren’t in any rush. Calm winds and blue sky greeted us as we opened Pods door, just as well, because we wanted to test out our home made, newly designed fly screen.
Now slightly off kilter here, but it needs to be explained. Our old Khyam awning was still loitering in the garden shed but neither of us could bare to just throw it away. True, its knuckles had gone but the fabric and all its fasteners must have a second life, so a week before this trip we set about up-cycling the awning.
First off, we de-boned it so to speak, then we made the decision to make chair/stool covers. These turned out well so next came covers for the water filler upper tubes, of which Mr.B had made 6 for those that wanted them at the Powwow (GoPod get together for those not in the know).
What next we thought, well, that was easily decided upon and that was a fly screen for the door. Pods design wasn’t going to make it easy, due to its curve it would take some crafty workwoman ship, but it was worth a go.
For this we used the fly netting from the one and only window in the awning and added the split zip as the edging down the both sides. Next came small tabs at the top for the poppers to be attached to and some black edging along the bottom which had a section of the awning bead slotted in to give it weight.
A small section near the bottom had to be cut out for the electrical cable than ran through the door but that was easily done and edged with black webbing. This, of course, also needed its own bag so one of them was whipped up too.
One part of the popper had been stuck to Pod prior to leaving home and the other had been sewn onto the fly net, all we had to do now was check that all the hard work sewing and trips back and forth from Pod to the sewing machine had paid off and it had.
Bringing you back to Royal Vale and the testing of the fly screen; we fastened it to Pod at the top of the door frame with the poppers and it slotted perfectly within the frame. It held its shape as it curved with the door, down to the bottom where the weighted edge kept it perfectly in place and the small insert for the cable slipped in nicely to be fasted back in place with a bit of Velcro. Perfect and just what we would need for our May 2018 trip along the NC 500. Grant you, it could only be used when Pods door was open, but when else would we need it.
We hit the road an hour later and within the same time frame we had landed at home. Turned out to be a great two day trip away and a site we would consider again should we feel the need to escape from our brick four walls.