Summer time rolled around again and it was time to pack up the van and head south. Had quite a trip planned with many museum visits to do and a some dancing to be done as well.
As luck would have it, 4 The Love Of Dance were running a salsa night at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom and it was on my way south so there was a night’s stop a the Blackpool South Caravan & Motorhome Club Site.
The sun was out as I hit the road and after a quick pit stop for supplies it was onto the A74(m) and M6 south. The camper van is really good when sitting on the motorway, in 6th gear at 70mph the engine is just ticking over and there is a smooth and comfortable ride just eating up the miles.
Three and a half hours later, I was at the campsite and pitched up. The weather was getting hotter and more humid and there were spots of rain. There had a been a purchase of shorts when I got the provisions and there was a quick change before I tried to get my head down for a couple of hours disco nap before the dancing. This didn’t really work due to the heat and the light so I got changed and got a taxi into town after dinner. I like to get a bit dressed up for these big nights out but I was thinking that my choice of suit was going to be something I regretted by the end of the night.
The dancing was a joy as usual. A couple of lessons to start with and then a few hours of social dancing with people from all over the country. There were a few folk that I recognised but by and large, this is a chance to meet and dance with people I don’t meet day to day. The Tower Ballroom is an iconic venue to go dancing in and everyone seems to be up for making it a good night. Something about the opulent surroundings makes the evening special.
Left about midnight at the point when my legs were falling off. As predicted, my choice of wearing a suit was not a good one in the heat.
Birmingham 30JUN – 2JUL
Despite all the dancing and getting to bed late ( for me anyway ), I was awake at stupid ‘o’ clock the next morning. With no prospect of getting any more sleep in the heat and with the sun getting ever higher in the sky, I was up, fed, showered and broke camp by 8am. My next port of call was Chapel Lane site in Birmingham but first there was a stop.
Just slightly out of my was was RAF Cosworth and the RAF museum there. This is one of the RAF’s two museums and I fancied a visit. I wasn’t disappointed, the museum has a fantastic collection. One hall is full of experimental aircraft including the only complete TSR-2 that I’ve ever seen alongside the prototype Eurofighter. The next hall was some WW2 aircraft but by far the biggest hall was their cold war exhibition. This contained all three of the V Bombers alongside other contemporary aircraft. There were displays containing information about the large events of the period including the Berlin Airlift with some of the transport on display. Very much worth a visit.
From there it was on to Birmingham. I arrived and got pitched up pretty quickly. I’m getting the hang of the new awning and can get it up in about 20 minutes though most of that is banging pegs into the hard standing.
The first full day at the site I got the bus into the city and found that I had lucked out. There was a 50 years of Black Sabbath on at the city museum. The story of Heavy Metal and Black Sabbath are intertwined with the city of Birmingham and this exhibition took you from the beginnings of the band through to when Ozzy left. Highlight was that they’d found quadraphonic mix of Paranoid and were playing it in a specially set up area. I have to see if I can find that on SACD or DVD-A. Plenty of other memorabilia on display including a large number of t-shirts.
Also in the city museum was the Staffordshire Hoard. This is a collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure that was found by a farmer in a field a few years ago and is one of the largest of its type. Again something that I thoroughly enjoyed. The curators had had local jewellers make replicas of the treasure found in the hoard and so it was possible to see how they would look.
Wool, Dorset 2JUL – 5JUL
It was on the move again the next day down the M5 ( after an argument with the Sat Nav ) to Wool in Dorset and the Whitemead caravan site. Lovely independent site though I ended up on a slightly sloping pitch.
The reason for going so far south was another museum visit. In this case the Tank Museum. And this did not disappoint. A huge collection of tanks split over two halls. The first tells the story from the very first though to modern day vehicles and explains how tactics evolved from their first use through the second world war and into the modern day. The second hall had a section set out as a WWI trench system with a Mark 1 tank “attacking”. Very atmospheric and contained a display called Warhorse to Horsepower showing the Cavalry’s move from horseback to tank.
The highlight of the second hall is the Tiger display. A whole section on the myth and reality of the Tigers alongside four of them with two vehicles they would have fought, a T-34 and a Sherman. The Sherman was the one from the movie Fury and was still dressed for the film looking very much like how a tank would have looked at the time.
The bulk of the second hall was WW2 vehicles including some unusual ones. There was a selection of Cold War tanks and a recreation of a forward operating base in Afghanistan. The visit ended with a seat inside the turret of a Chieftain.
Second full day in Dorset I was off the Bournemouth for a relaxing day. The sun was really out and the SPF50 was struggling in the heat and light. But I got a walk along the beach with the warm sand between my toes. And a visit to an art gallery resulted the purchase of a print that will look very nice on my wall.
Tewkesbury Abbey Caravan & Motorhome site 5JUL – 7JUL
On the road again on the Friday and it was turning north to wind my way home. But not before a visit to the Fleet Air Arm Museum. Small but again a well set out and interesting museum. Best section was the Carrier Experience. This was set out as the Ark Royal would have been in the 70s. A full display of a working flight deck using animatronics and video to show the launch and recovery of aircraft. Then a tour through the Island of a carrier to see how that would have worked. And to top it off a Concorde in another one of the halls.
From there it was up to Tewkesbury Abbey site and one of those sites that can flood so everything is on stilts. I got a grass pitch which I’m not so fond of but it makes putting in the pegs so much easier.
The Saturday was a full day in Tewkesbury so first visit was the Abbey and the a wander through the town. I was winding down from my holiday at this point so spent most of the day reading. There was also the first bad weather I’d encountered with some rain in the evening.
And home again 7JUL
Sunday it was up and away as soon as the gates were open. I’d taken down the awning the day before ( dry, yippee ) so there wasn’t much to do but drain the water tanks and hit the road. A clear run, with some road works, meant a relaxing and easy drive home.
A fantastic holiday with good weather and many museum visits. This is one I’ll remember for a while to come.