Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Clumber Park Steam Rally

The male half of AvailablePitch.com loves traction engines and anything steam, so two or three times a year, we camp at Steam Rallies. This year, for the first time, Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire was the venue for the Clumber Steam Rally.

Clumber Park Caravan Club site is a favourite, and we return there each autumn when the park and woodland are at their colourful best.
We find a lot of Caravan Clubs site quite “samey” but Clumber is different. It’s a large site, very flat, with spacious pitches which are a good mix of hard standing and grass pitches, many backing on to wonderful pine woodland. This is a brilliant site for dogs as there is a perimeter walk right round the site, which takes about 20 minutes with Fido, and is easily accessible from all pitches.

Once home to the Dukes of Newcastle, the house was, sadly demolished in 1936 due to heavy taxation and economic decline.
Clumber Park is now owned by the National Trust and has over 3,800 acres of park, scrubland, woodland, formal walled kitchen garden and lake. It boasts the longest double-avenue of Lime Trees in Europe There are numerous walks around the estate, however, the best way to get around is by cycle, and as it is mainly flat, it is a comfortable ride for most. The Tea Room and Shop are at the heart of the estate with plenty of outdoor tables if you take your own picnic.

We were very doubtful as to whether the Steam Rally would go ahead, as there had been a fortnight of heavy rain, however, the Wardens assured us both the grass and hardstands were fine, and the site had coped very well with the downpours.

As Steam Rallies go, this was the usual mix of arena events, craft and trade stalls, fast food venues and display of traction engines of all sizes. Due to the mud, the engines remained in place throughout the weekend, so there were no tug of war games or ploughing demonstrations (with the exception of the Shire Horses, the original four wheel drives).

The atmosphere was not dampened by the rain, however, visitor numbers were low, which was a huge pity, given the huge amount of effort needed to organise rallies like this.

Hopefully next year’s event will see the return of some sunshine!

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Sunday, 8 July 2007

Lickpenny Caravan Park, Matlock, Derbyshire

The wettest weekend of the season found us aquagliding in our motorhome to Lickpenny Caravan Park, a family-owned and run Park near Matlock, Derbyshire. On the day that the whole of June’s rainfall fell in a few hours, it took us 2.5 hours to do 20 miles and we were well frazzled when we arrived. A quick call ahead assured us there was no problem at Lickpenny – all the pitches are well-drained, hardstanding, so once we got there we’d be home and dry – well – home and extremely wet actually.

There are two outstanding things about this site – it’s location, and it’s Wardens, Val and Brian. Lickpenny is situated on the edge of the Peak District, with Bakewell, Buxton and Chatsworth House, all within easy driving distance. The site is built on former nursery land and the landscaping is delightful for a relatively new site. The pitches are huge, laid out in tiers, and many of them are individual, with some doubles – brilliant for friends camping together, and all are surrounded by mature trees, shrubs and hedgerows, not spindly twigs masquerading as trees separating the pitches like on some sites.

As regards the Wardens - Val and Brian are just the best we have ever met. We knew them when they worked at Shardaroba, (now Camping and Caravanning Club Teversal site) and were delighted when we heard they were resident at Lickpenny. In between working extremely hard to keep the site and facilities pristine (you should see the toilet and shower blocks) they always have time for a chat, a cheery wave or a good roll-your sleeves-up gossip. And they can tell you where to get the very best fish and chips in the area.

This is a large site with around 120 pitches with hook-up for caravans and motorhomes. Tents are not accepted but children and dogs are made very welcome. There is a bus-stop a short walk down the lane but if you want to take the car or motorhome out, we found a huge car park clearly signposted just before Bakewell, with no height barriers.

The best pitches? Well – it’s a matter of opinion, but we loved the pitches right at the top of the site. Once the storm clouds cleared, we had sweeping distant views over the Derbyshire countryside towards Riber Castle. We were however very taken with Pitch 45, self-contained on its own in a halfway up the site with great views – a real “honeymoon” pitch, but it was sadly already occupied. Maybe we’ll put in a special request next time………..

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