Wednesday 19 August 2015

Swan Rescue

Another of our Yorkshire holiday trips was a visit to Lightwater Valley Theme Park, once again courtesy of Tesco Clubcard vouchers.

Two things made an impression on our arrival at the park – the lovely countryside setting and the amazing animatronic dinosaurs at the entrance.

On entering the park properly, the first area that we came to was filled with fairground rides, although we soon realised our favourite of these (the dodgems) was missing. What did grab our attention was the birds of prey centre, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Containing many species of owls and other birds, and even a small snake section, this made for interesting viewing and a change from the rides.

A wide selection of rides are on offer at the park, a good number that are suitable for younger children, as well as some more daring thrill rides. The park setting is great for picnics and the little train that runs round the park is a good way to view what’s on offer.

The Lightwater swan rescue begins!
One of the more traditional attractions available is the pedalo ride, little boats in the shape of swans. We fancied a relaxing trip across the lake, so we climbed aboard. The boats hold four people and are operated by a steering wheel as opposed to a tiller. This should have been straightforward, but unfortunately we were assigned a boat that malfunctioned.

A short way into our ride the steering would no longer allow for a right turn. “Never mind”, we thought, “We’ll just do a circuit bearing left.”

But no! It then refused to go in even a straight line (having jammed) and would only send us round in small circles. As we started to drift into the bank, we waved at the attendants on shore – who promptly ignored us!

For some time we debated how best to remedy our situation, until finally another family came along and offered to tow us in. This was not as easy as it sounds, as both boats kept drifting, but after a concerted effort, we made it back to dock – some 40 minutes after setting out!

The young girls managing the ride were still oblivious to our plight, and looked blankly when we tried to explain. However, we eventually managed to persuade them to contact maintenance and left it in their hands.

Looking back we found the situation slightly comical, but at the time it was extremely annoying!

Our saviours!
Apart from this blip, we quite enjoyed our day; Lightwater Valley is a bit different from other theme parks that we have visited.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

A Tale of Two Abbeys

On our recent holiday to North Yorkshire, we visited two sites of Abbey ruins, both managed by English Heritage. Clutching our new membership cards, acquired with Tesco Clubcard points, we were eager to make use of the benefits.

The majesty of Byland Abbey

Having visited the well-known Whitby Abbey on a previous occasion, we had planned to visit Rievaulx Abbey, having seen it on the BBC programme Secret Britain. However, before we got round to making that visit, we stumbled across a sign for Byland Abbey, which we had not heard or read about, but decided to explore.

The route took us along windy country lanes and we half expected to find a minor ruin at the end of it – a heap of stones or partial wall – but how wrong we were! As we rounded the final corner a stunning sight met our eyes!

The ruins are actually quite substantial, certainly ample enough to give you the feel of what the original abbey would have been like. There is also a small museum on site, housing a model of how the abbey would have looked in its heyday. The setting was quite something too, surrounded by peaceful countryside and overlooked by neighbouring hills, making it a very tranquil spot. Following this visit we knew that Rievaulx would have to go some to beat it.

The day arrived of our planned Rievaulx visit, so we packed up our picnic and followed the signs from Helmsley to the more publicised ruin (it’s given twice the space of Byland in the English Heritage handbook and has a large gift shop and café, whereas Byland just has a small kiosk). Our initial reaction was slight disappointment at the location – the abbey appeared to be shoehorned into quite a small area, whereas Byland enjoys more space. It’s true that a larger part of the original structure is intact, yet it somehow didn’t seem as impressive as we felt it should.
This also has a museum/exhibition that’s slightly larger than the one at Byland, but there was no model of the original abbey as we’d expected. We do know that the museum was about to close for refurbishment (strange at peak visitor time) so maybe it will undergo an improvement.

We still enjoyed our visit to Rievaulx, but felt it was a bit of an anti-climax after what we’d been lead to expect, whereas Byland was a surprising little gem.

Exploring Rievaulx

Thursday 30 July 2015

July’s Jaunts

Have been a bit quiet on the blog front of late, life has a habit of taking over, and I’ve recently returned from a holiday in Yorkshire. We stayed at the Tollerton Caravan Park, some 10 miles north of York, which proved to be a very peaceful place – well, except for the train line on its border!

Anyway, there will be lots to report on with regard to that trip, including visits to Lightwater Valley Theme Park (watch for the interesting tale of the swan pedalo rescue), Rievaulx and Byland Abbeys and The National Railway Museum (a bit of a sting in the ‘tale’ with this one, or more specifically a burn on the belly).

So that’s a taste of future posts, but in the meantime, before I leave the Yorkshire theme, a word of warning if you’re visiting Thirsk. The short stay car park in front of the Wetherspoon’s in the town square, states that parking is free for up to 60 minutes. However, what is not immediately apparent is that you still have to press for a ticket to record your time of arrival. We missed this bit and were almost presented with a parking ticket, but fortunately our mistake was pointed out to us by a friendly parking attendant (yes, they do exist) so that we could remedy the situation in the nick of time!

As with any holiday, we returned with bags full of washing, only for the washing machine to go into meltdown. There’s no doubt that appliances do tend to pick their moments to break down! However, following my favourable experience of buying a new fridge/freezer from Co-op Electrical online, I headed straight to the website in search of a new machine. I was thrilled to find a sleek silver Beko number, at an astounding £110 off, which boasted rave reviews, so I wasted no time in placing my order. This was on the Monday – by 9.00 am Wednesday morning the machine was here and raring to go! I’m extremely pleased with it, and will be looking at reviewing it in more detail in a future post.

Earlier in the month we returned to a favourite visitor attraction of ours – Dover Castle. Having rejoined English Heritage this year (courtesy of Tesco Clubcard vouchers) we were eager to make the, now free, trip. However, this meant journeying across Kent, a manoeuvre greatly hampered by the existence of Operation Stack, which is still in place as I write. The journey was a nightmare, with many other roads on route log-jammed as a result. We finally arrived at the castle over an hour later than we should have done, but fortunately went on to have a lovely visit.

For those of us living in Kent, Operation Stack is a nightmare, which needs to be remedied by creating decent lorry parks just off the motorway. Of course, the source of the problem is far more complex, with its origins in Calais, which also need to be addressed.

So with July coming to a close it’s been a busy, but interesting month, now I’m just waiting for the return of summer, which I hope is just round the corner!

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Goodbye Twitter!

Just to let you know, those of you have been following me on Twitter will no longer be able to do so.

Following another wrongful suspension from the social networking site (apparently I was wrongly suspended in a job lot accused of automated tweets) that took days to rectify, I’ve finally decided to give up in frustration. I’d also had a bit of an unpleasant Twitter experience recently, so decided all things considered, to close my account, although it may take a bit of time for my profile to ‘disappear’ completely!

You’ll still be able to keep up with me on this Blog and on and as well as visit my Google Plus page by clicking here

However, I would like to say thank you to all the wonderful people who I did meet on Twitter, with whom I enjoyed friendly chats and exchanged information. Thank you all.

Saturday 27 June 2015

June’s Japes

The warmer weather has seen a return to the family picnic. One of our favourite picnic spots is Reculver in Kent, where we recently enjoyed another lovely trip. For those of you not familiar with Reculver, it’s on the North Kent coast and is the site of a former Roman fort, still boasting the ruin of a 12th century church. The area is also a country park with small visitor centre and has a beach complete with rock pools. Car parking is a bargain, at 20p per hour or £1 for the day! However, the car park is not that big, sometimes resulting in queues. Despite that it’s a great place to visit.

Of course, a picnic isn’t complete without the food, for which I turn to the Tesco picnic range for additions to the usual home-filled rolls and healthy fruit. Their tubs of picnic goodies can be bought on a two for £3 deal, and include pasties, cheese onion rolls, pizza pockets and our new favourite, mini chicken kievs.

Until last year we owned a static caravan, which we kept on an independent site on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. However, following our rural move, we decided to sell up and just in the nick of time it now emerges! When we’d first bought our caravan we’d kept it on a Park Holidays site in Kent, but due to astronomic charges and appalling service, we moved to an independent site – Broadland Sands. Now I’ve heard this once lovely caravan park has been taken over by, you’ve guessed it, Park Holidays – a company that I do not recommend. If we hadn’t already removed our caravan from the site, we would now!

In light of that last revelation, you may like to read Static Caravans Can Move and Static Caravan Update

Finally, having had a couple of years break from English Heritage, we’ve just rejoined using Tesco vouchers. For £30 worth of vouchers, we’ve been able to take out a year’s joint membership (includes up to six children under 19 free), which is great value considering the number of places we can now visit at no extra cost. It’s a great use of Tesco Clubcard vouchers!

How did June work out for you?

Sunday 21 June 2015

The Controller Of The Bus

Buses remain a popular (perhaps by necessity), if somewhat frustrating, means of transport. There are various bus companies dotted around the country, with some performing far better than others.

My local area is served by Arriva, and sadly I have had some recent cause for complaint. Despite the fact that fares seem to increase every few months, services don’t always run as expected and communication with customers is rather lacking.

Living in a more rural area, we certainly seem to get a rough deal. With buses timetabled at varying intervals of between one and two hours, we suffer terribly when a certain bus fails to turn up, which seems to be happening more frequently. What makes this even more frustrating is that our complaints and comments fail to be met with any concern by Arriva.

Following a disastrous journey, when yet another bus failed to turn up as expected, meaning a two-hour gap between buses, I used the online complaints procedure operated by Arriva. The automated email response assured me that I would receive a reply within ten working days – over two weeks later I was still waiting!

Eventually, nearer three weeks after the event, I was called by an adviser, who although uttered an apology, did not make it heartfelt, nor were there any promises to endeavour to provide a better service in future. Despite the mechanical ‘sorry’, the tone of the whole conversation indicated more of a ‘hard luck’.

The missing bus was blamed on a breakdown, which I appreciate does happen, but my real gripe was lack of information. Considering I was boarding the bus at a major bus station to journey home, and had spoken to an inspector who had assured me that the bus was on its way, I was naturally frustrated that I was not told when it was discovered that the bus was taken out of service.

According to the adviser at the other end of the telephone, this was because the bus station had not been informed. But why ever not? Surely keeping passengers informed of such circumstances should be a priority. It should have been quite straightforward to notify someone at the bus station of the problem, with that person then passing on the message to waiting passengers. This should just be basic procedure.

However, it seems that bus operators can just do as they please, even if it involves leaving passengers stranded for hours, without much thought for their welfare. Communicating with the public seems totally beyond them and they really don’t seem bothered by this. The problem is, in many areas, there is no decent competition to make the bus companies try harder. There is no incentive to be more customer friendly.

There are, I believe, some bus companies that serve passengers better than others. On a trip visiting family in Dorset, it struck me how much cheaper and how more frequent services were than in my area. Indeed, I’ve heard that in some areas fares are very reasonable, but Arriva South East certainly run a more costly service that leaves much to be desired.

Indeed as I write this post I’ve heard of a reduction in services on certain routes, combining a current half-hourly service with a twenty-minute one, forming a hybrid of the two routes with buses running half-hourly. Yet their advert for this new service proclaims: “Buses more often”! Can’t work that out at all; Arriva obviously can’t do their maths.

What do you think of your local bus service?

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Foodie News

On a recent trip to a local Morrisons’ restaurant, I was disappointed to see a change in the presentation of their sandwiches. Formerly served on a little red and white checked tray, with a salad garnish and mini pack of crisps, the sandwiches are now being presented on their own on a brown bit of card! However, on closer inspection, it was revealed that each pack of sandwiches came with a free pack of Morrisons’ crisps, although salt and vinegar was the only flavour available. I miss the cheerful tray and salad garnish, and quite liked the fact that the mini crisp packs allowed for a little treat without overindulgence. The sandwiches themselves are still good, however, with my favourite being the selection featuring egg and cress, cheese and tomato, ham, cheese and pickle and prawn – one of each for £2.49.
Admittedly, I do like a bit of chocolate cake!

After my recent comments about food products that are sporting the word ‘joy’ in their name or slogan, I would like to draw your attention to Cadbury’s Mini Rolls. One of the many slogans currently printed on the wrappers states, “Mini roll, big joy”. Is this meant to be a statement about what will happen to me if I eat too many? I do like a bit of chocolate, but still...

What’s happened to Tesco Strawberry Milkshake Powder? It used to have such a lovely, authentic strawberry taste, containing what appeared to be strawberry pips, but now it’s just bland! The ingredients have obviously changed, though the packaging and price remain the same. It’s very disappointing and I will definitely not be buying the product again.

I do enjoy the odd Lotus Biscoff caramel biscuit, but I don’t’ think that I can bring myself to try the spread of the same name. I mean, can I really imagine having the flavour of the biscuit spread on my toast?

What are your latest foodie loves and hates?