Monthly Archives: July 2013

Day 5 #grandtour13 – A Trip Down Memory Lane!

Yesterday, the “Other Half” prepared for me a small knapsack with sandwiches, a bottle of pop, my camera and a notebook and pencil.  She then gave me a kiss on the cheek, a pat on the head and packed me off to the  Army Tank Museum at Bovington, which is a short walk from the Ponciau Royal Family’s summer residence here in Dorset.

The reason for my visit was to view an old friend who resides in an area of the museum not currently on view to the general public….

“The Manned Moving Target Tank”:

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Now as the name would suggest, this is a tank, that acts as a moving target, thats “Manned“, which is where I fit into the story.  I for a few short, but pant-wetting months back in the early 80’s, used to drive one of these bad boys for a living! Only three of these vehicles were ever produced. The tank was basically a Mk3 Centurian Tank, that had all the apertures and gaps (supposedly) sealed up, some extra armour added and weighed in at 70 tons.

A crew of two would then drive the tank on ranges at Otterburn and Salisbury Plain, whilst being fired  at with various anti-tank missiles and rockets including  Swingfire, Milan, Carl Gustav and LAW. The missiles were inert (i.e. no explosive warhead), but in particular the Swingfire impact was pretty unpleasant, as the rocket had a ballast weight which would inflict damage on softer part of the tanks body, the resulting impact would also cause cordite and flash flames to enter the inside of the turret and drivers compartment, through any gaps. I get the feeling that the boffins who developed this tank, never actually had to use it!

The first time I drove it was in 1982 at Otterburn….The vehicle was low loaded from Warminster, Wiltshire all the way up to Northumberland. It took the movers 48hrs to complete the journey, they even managed to get bogged in the peat as they moved their huge truck across the Otterburn Range road. The move must have cost a bloody fortune!

Once the tank was set up, we would spend 10 days, driving the vehicle on the range, whilst a Swingfire regiment fired their annual allocation of missiles at us from a firing platform 2km’s away. Only one small problem….Me and my buddy had forgot to pack the turret periscopes…oops! This meant two things. Firstly we wouldn’t be able to see when the missile had been launched(pre-warned is always better). Secondly and more importantly, it meant we had two holes on top of the turret, where the periscopes would normally fit, which would allow the nasty explosive bits into our little chamber of safety!…..So lets recap:

1. We’re two lowly squaddies.

2. The army has spent literally £1000’s moving our vehicle from one end of England to the other.

3. 650 men had also been moved to Otterburn and were now eagerly waiting to fire their missiles.

4. We now had two holes in our turret! Where rocket thingys could sneak in.

5. Our bosses reaction if they found out our error and had to cancel the shoot, was likely to be more painful than any Swingfire Missile.

So in the finest tradition of the British Squaddie, we decided not to say anything to anyone and take our chances with the Swingfire missiles….Ex military types will sympathise with our crazy-arsed decision, the army can be a scary parent when pushed. I couldn’t see them being all nice, warm and cosy, when our army bosses found our we’d cocked up a whole regiments life firing package……. Shit rolls downhill or Life’s a game of chance! Or it is when your 21yrs old.

Anyway, sure enough that 10 days was a bundle of laughs and side splitting fun….I drove and my mate commanded the vehicle…Well when I say commanded, he was supposed to be in the tank turret all “commandering-like” similar to  Field Marshall Montgomery, but in reality he spent the 10 days hunkered down behind my drivers seat in the bottom of the tank, as we careered down the range, eyes tightly shut, screaming our lungs out, waiting for the impact and inevitable flash and smoke entering the turret. Each missile run was like a scene from a Laurel & Hardy movie, driving a 70 ton tank with my eyes closed, whilst my mate hugged me for mutual comfort and safety! I want my mum!

In all they fired about 40 missiles, by the end of the 10 days the tank was in a pretty sorry state,  but we didn’t care. We were just relieved we had got away with our packing error…….In the words of that other great Tank Driver; Mr Oliver Hardy “Stanley! No-one will ever need to know,  tee-hee (flicks tie). ”

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Day 4 #grandtour13 – The Jurassic Coast

Today we visited the area around Lulworth Cove in Dorset. I was stationed in this part of the world for a few long winter months back in the late 1980’s. The area has certainly changed. Today the Cove and the surrounding coastline were literally heaving with hordes of tourists visiting the attractions. When I was last here it was just a few hardy divers and the odd college lecturer types checking out the fossils, complete with tweed jackets, pipes and leather elbow patches. Jurassic Park changed all that!

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Lulworth Cove, taken from the footpath leading to Durdle Door

£4 to park! then we followed the mass of people up the well-worn track to see the classic Dorset view of Durdle Door. Nice…but honestly, come back in the off-season, I would imagine it would be a lot more enjoyable. Still a very impressive place though.

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Durdle Door, with Portland Bill in the distance

I particularly liked the view along to the west of the coastline.

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Looking west along the Jurassic Coast

We also paid a visit to Tyneham Village, which was evacuated in WW2, to allow troops to conduct live fire training. Unfortunately at the end of the war, the locals were prevented from returning and the village remains to this day under ownership of the MOD. For many years, no-one was allowed access, but by a concerted public campaign, the MOD relented and now allow public access to this fascinating step back in time, when live-firing is not taking place:

http://www.isleofpurbeck.com/tyneham.html

In a perverse way the army’s use of the area since WW2, has helped preserve Tyneham and the surrounding land from development, this is obvious as you drive around the area. Its very popular with local people and a magnet for walkers.

We also visited the nearby village of Steeple, where some of my ancestors were living in the mid 1800’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steeple,_Dorset

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Steeple Church

The village has links to George Washington. His coat of arms hangs in the church, its noted within my family that one of our ancestors was actually baptised with the forenames “George Washington…..” ….So quite nice to see the church up close.

Tomorrow, we intend to visit Poole, before moving on to Somerset.

That is all.

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Day 2: #grandtour13 – Gloucester – Sharpness Canal

After a good nights sleep, followed by a hearty breakfast, we were off on foot to explore the nearby Gloucester-Sharpness Canal. Firstly heading a mile into the village of Frampton on Severn. A beautiful canal side village, I would imagine property prices are a little on the high side here, only 10 mins from the M5, but you’d never know it. A  stunning location to live.

If you fancy reading about life in this part of the world, before mechanisation, motorways and other modern support systems, have a read of “Cider With Rosie” by Laurie Lee. Based on his life as a child growing up in a small village east of Stroud, called Slad. It covers the period immediately after the First World War, up until the point that he leaves home in the early 1930’s. 

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The church in Frampton dates back to 1315.

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Stockbroker belt! Very smart.

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As with almost every village in the UK, a memorial to the Great War and the villagers who died taking part.

The village has a couple of pubs that also serve food. In the centre of the village green is the cricket pitch, which is a focal point for village life in the summer. You can actually watch the match from the one pub….in fact your so close, you could act as a fielder and still have a pint!

After browsing through the village, we crossed on of the innumerable swing-bridges that cover this stretch of the canal and proceeded to follow the towpath towards the Cam Bridge for a few miles. Lots of boat traffic, mostly narrow boats, with the odd river cruiser. The sun was shining, the swans and cygnets were very visible, the dog was happy chasing the butterflies. A very enjoyable few hours.

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Gloucester – Sharpness Canal

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The wetlands supporting this area were developed with oversight by Sir Peter Scott in the 1940’s.

So a really great start to #grandtour13. (We love this place, I might remove the map and site details so nobody else finds it) Tomorrow we point the chucklebus in the direction of  Dorset, staying with friends for a few days, before we head up into North Devon and the delights of Exmoor. That is all.

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Day 1: #grandtour13 – Tanhouse Farm CL. Frampton on Severn – Score 5/5

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Today the Motorhomedreamer Clan commenced the “Grand Tour 2013”. In this, the tours inaugural year, we’ll be taking in the delights of Gloucestershire, Dorset, Devon and possibly Cornwall…..Dependent on the stress levels after a couple of weeks holed up together in the chucklebus in temperatures in the mid to late 20’s!!

We’re currently parked up on an isolated site alongside the “The Gloucester – Sharpness Canal”. just south of the riverside village of Frampton on Severn. The area is flat, heavily wooded with an abundance of wildlife, it reminds me a little of some of the areas in Norfolk. The site was easy to get to, just a 10min drive from Junction 13 of the M5. Basic facilities, grass pitch, but with EHU, this is a really good location, for us a perfect campsite, (Bertie, m’Julie; you would love it).  We’re quite happy to spend a couple of days here before moving south into Dorset to the summer residence of the Ponciau Royal Family(See prev blog). Fairly cheap as well, £26 for 2 nights…Thaaaankyou very much. Image

Tomorrows plan is to walk the canal path for  a few miles and see what occurs.

That is all!

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Peak District – Longnor Area – Score 5/5

So we survived the weekend with the Ponciau Royal Family!  Very few foh-pahs, in fact all went remarkably well. Firstly the site at Longnor Wood Holiday Park…Adult Only, so no kids  http://www.longnorwood.co.uk  What a difference, the campsite was nearly at full capacity when we pulled up on a very hot Friday afternoon. But all you could hear was …nothing! zilch, silence or near enough. That remained the case throughout the weekend, other than when the Royal Klampitts were calling in their dog …FFFFFFFFFIOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNN! in the Ponciau Princess’s “Janice Battersby” style voice.

The site is located a mile or so from the village of Longnor, which is well equipped with 3 pubs, several coffee shops and a general store. A nice village and worth a short stop to re-stock.

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The site staff are very helpful, its not an oppressive regime, everyone just respects each others peace and tranquility. Although Per-Witch(The Royal Consort) unaware of the standard, well established “2 Metre Leash Rule” placed his mutt on a 40metre leash, which ensured the lovely Fi had full access to the entire campsite and left a trail of battered and broken pensioners in her wake! As the Princess later remarked drily “They can jump can’t they?”

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Ffion waiting for another pensioner victim

It really is a nice site, with an excellent dog exercise area and a well stocked camp shop. The shower facilities are first class and as the Princess was eager to point out, they have a communal microwave, ice freezing facilities and a washing machine….My life is complete!

On the Saturday, we travelled a few miles to a trail of hill top gritstone crags called The Roaches. Popular with trail walkers and climbers alike, this is a great place to stretch the legs and let the dogs off. On arrival we could see lots of climbers, mainly schools etc, climbing the local stone and also practising techniques on some of the large boulders that abound. I noticed one large rock, that had hand holes chiselled into it, so of course the “Alpha Male” gene that lies dormant in most men, suddenly fired up in me (first time in 20yrs) and before I knew it, I was on my way up to the top:

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Of course that was the easy bit, and I was for a very brief moment; King of the Castle.

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Look at me Mum!

However in my eagerness to show off, what I’d failed to factor in was the convex curve of the rock divided by the length of my short legs = Potential Disaster

Anyway, I was eventually coaxed down by the Ponciau Princess shouting “JUMP”, whilst the Other Half concentrated on focusing the camera in case of any potential “LOOK he’s falling” shots. I basically slid down like Wiley E Coyote, with the sound of my finger nails being scraped across the rock, like chalk to a blackboard.

The walk across the top of the crags was really enjoyable, its a steep climb up the steps to get onto the summit, but worthwhile once you’re up there, on a good day the views are excellent. You can then walk a few kilometres’s along the peak, passing the .506 trig point, heading towards Lud’s Church.

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The view from The Roaches

More info on the Roaches can be found here:  http://www.roaches.org.uk/index.html

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Ffion and Muttley take a break!

The only other incident of note was at the end of the Roaches, in the middle of nowhere, was parked a solitary ice-cream van(if you’ve seen the film Twin-Towns, you’ll know where i’m going with this?) So I strolled up to the van and asked the young girl serving for “4 ninety nines and a bag of heroin please love”!  She gave me a look that suggested she’d not seen that particular movie #awkward…I was promptly admonished by the Ponciau Princess, in that special voice that she reserves for when she’s dealing with diversity issues…“That was not an appropriate comment, what happens if she uses!” ….So suitably admonished I skulked off with my 99 and a wallet that was £8 lighter 😦

After that brief stop we headed down from the crags into an area called Lud’s Church. This is a deep chasm formed within the gritstone. Over 100m’s long it conjures up connotations of pagan rituals, King Arthur etc.  Getting into the vibe, Muttley our family pooch decided to recreate  “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as evidenced below:

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Hooooooooooowwwwwwwllllllllllll……….

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Impressive location. Lud’s Church

Next day, after a 2nd night of wine & beer, we headed to the village of Tissington, which has been in the ownership of the Fitzherbert family for over 500 years  http://www.tissingtonhall.co.uk/the-hall/history/

The village is dominated by the manorial hall, where the current owner Sir Richard lives. The village has flourishing artisan businesses doted around the village and a really nice restaurant and cafe called “The Old Coach House Tearooms”. Whilst we were there a school jazz band were playing outside…The Royal Consort(Himself a talented trombonist) was very impressed with the youngsters ability. They really were very good and on a sunny afternoon, it was very pleasant.

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Swing ya pants

Later we drove over to the village of Wetton and eventually stopped at The Royal Oak for lunch. The pub serves great beer and the food is good and plentiful. The pub is also home to “The World Toe-Wrestling Championships”. The other half was gutted we’d missed it, she prides herself on her toe-wrestling techniques….Never mind, later that day she beat The Royal Consort 2-1 on the campsite badminton court. She spent the rest of the day boring anyone who would listen about her serving technique and backhand volley.

So that was the weekend pretty much covered. An excellent trip, great company, lots of laughs and brilliant weather. The Peak District is a beautiful area to visit, its actually closer to us than its big sister up at the Lake District, it also seemed less populated with visitors. Over the next 12 months we intend to return and explore it in more detail.

Finally to finish with “Loves young dream”. Muttley and Ffion….awwwwww

Mutts n Fi

All 4 feet on the floor please!

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Upcoming Weekend – The (Royal) Peak District

The weekends here, so we’re loading up the chucklebus with Sun Factor 50+, Co-op Squash, cheese sandwiches and a few bottles of Watneys Brown Ale. Sartorially I will be mostly wearing a knotted handkerchief, my best black long socks to match my 1970’s Kevin Keegan shorts, topped off with open toed sandals. You’ve guessed it, we’ve been time transported back to 1976 and we’re in the middle of a British heatwave….Yipppeeeee

So tomorrow our Esso Diesel powered British Leyland Van(no collectable football coins as England had failed to qualify for the 78 World Cup) will be taking us to a place called Longnor in the “Royal” Peak District. I say Royal because on this trip I’m proud to say we will be accompanied by local royalty, namely The Princess of Ponciau and her royal consort “Per-Witch”

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I don’t really know much about the camping site other than its “Adults Only” (does that mean keys in the ashtray?). But the ladies did get all excited and started chattering when the Ponciau Princess announced that the site facilities included a….wait for it…….communal microwave oven!!!! I could crush a grape.

The Royal Party will be accommodated in the Royal Tent, near to our commoner motorhome. The Ponciau Princess has already made it clear that our facilities are her facilities! So under instructions from the “Other Half”, I’ve spent the day sprucing up the van, plumping the cushions, straightening the ducks etc, in anticipation of a snap Royal Visit. Then later this afternoon, as expected the Royal Party arrived at our humble home and duly conducted a pre-trip van inspection:

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The urinal’s a bit high Dear?

Having confirmed she was generally satisfied with the van, I invited her to have a run out, which involved a short trip from our humble home to a local Sainsburys (She wouldn’t do Lidl), and a quick spin around the carpark waving at all the onlookers.

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How quaint! Yooo-Hooooo

So we’re all set to go. Best china’s packed, the dogs been briefed to be on his best behaviour, so have I!!!   Review to follow.

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Llanfendigaid CL Near Tywyn(Gwynedd) – Score 5/5

We’ve just had 2 glorious nights at an idyllic Caravan Club CL site within the Llanfendigaid Estate, a couple of miles north of Tywyn(Gwynedd). The site is located in large wooded paddock, opposite one of the estates imposing farmhouses and a row of converted cottages. It’s approximately a one mile easy walk from the site to the Cardigan Bay coastline. The site is quiet, rural and fairly isolated, however within less than 0.9 mile is the small railway station of Tonfanau. The regular passenger trains stopping here, allow you access to the cambrian coastline rail network. With Aberdovey to the south and Barmouth to the north, it’s a great way to explore this part of Mid Wales.

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Booking and availability checks for this site can all be conducted online through the owners website. You can even select the actual pitch you want, perhaps something that other CL owners should consider for their websites: http://www.llanfendigaid.co.uk/caravan-club-home.htm  They also rent out cottages.

Anyway, on arrival we parked up near to the old mill on our designated pitch. Nestled in the corner of the paddock, with the sun shining and no traffic noise, it was absolute heaven. The owner Will Garton-Jones came over to introduce himself, gave us a quick brief about the site and the immediate area and then left us to our own devices. Short and sweet, just what we wanted. The site is grassed, well laid out with 5 x individual pitches set around the paddock and the price of £14pn includes EHU. The location is well sheltered within a natural bowl, aided by trees and boundary walls. A pleasant spot.

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Our Pitch( The Mill), with the van sited in cover and the Anti-Aircraft Gun position on the van roof manned!

The site also has its own vegetable/fruit garden, items which can be purchased from the estates gardener.  For an extra  charge you can have access to the indoor heated swimming pool, which is also located within the paddock!

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The view of the remainder of the site looking towards the coast. A toilet hut is located in the trees on the left side.

The CL has a toilet hut and handbasin, it looks like an original victorian loo, but updated (basically a plumbed in “Long Drop”), Its basic but clean and probably quite cold and breezy in the winter!. When we arrived a birds nest inside inside the toilet hut was home to a swallow and her 3 x chicks, They fly in and out through the open loo window, as you enter/exit. There is also a coin operated shower available.

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The view through the toilet window….Rustic!

Communications from the Llanfendigaid site are poor. With no mobile phone signal in the immediate area, the nearest place to pick up a signal is about half a mile down the lane towards Tonfanau Railway Stn. No DAB either, however all’s not lost, the site owner has fitted WiFi satellite internet and for an additional charge you can make use of that. It’s not cheap at £3 per hour or £9 for the day, but if you’re there for a few days and really need email etc its probably a must.  The cost comes down for longer use. So a week will cost £18 total. We managed without it and actually quite enjoyed not being tied to the phone.

……..Confession Time. We realised about 30 mins after leaving our home location, that “we’d” forgotten my phone! Oh how I laughed. The “Other Half” is now briefed to carry out a 100% kit n equipment check of all personnel and equipment before we commence the Movement Phase of the operation. I of course will be “Kit-Check Checker” Monitor, as of course I never forget anything!

One of the big pluses of the site is the close proximity of the Cardigan Bay coastline. To reach the coast on foot, you have two options:

Option 1: Follow the very quiet lane, that runs alongside the CL to Tonfanau Railway Stn, go over the pedestrian crossing and continue to the pebble beach. As you walk along this lane you will see the remnants of an old army camp that closed in 1971. If your interested in its recent history, check out this site: http://www.aajlr.org/tonfanau/tonfanau_main.html     In the late 1950’s/early 60’s the army trained junior soldiers here. It would have been a very bleak place for those lads in the depths of winter, positioned right on the coast, living in nissan huts, heated by single pot bellied stoves…no double glazing, duvets, or central heating. Baltic!

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The army camp at Tonfanau as it was. The red circle indicates the rail crossing which is still in use today.

Option 2: Involves a cross-country walk, along a private path to the railway line, you then cross the railway line using a private crossing point and follow a cliff-edge bracken track. The track is not for the faint hearted, but there are ideal spots along it to stop for a picnic or a flask of tea and because the access point is private, you are unlikley to be disturbed by other walkers.

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Cross-Country path. The red marker indicates the private rail crossing point, and onto the cliff-edge trail

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Somewhere under the bracken is a dog and a cliff-edge path!

On reaching the cliff edge, the views looking North towards Barmouth are superb.

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The nettle stings were worth it!

As the weather was so great we decided it was time that the dog learnt to swim. With the outside temp touching 30 degrees, the sea water was clear and warm. Within a few short minutes the dog was going with his instinct and happily dog paddling around in the water. The pebble beach around Tonfanau was very quiet, which suited us.

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I wasn’t joking about the crystal clear water!

 So to conclude, if you can survive without your mobile being constantly available, crave rural peace and tranquility  then this site is definitely worth a visit. For us a combination of the weather and the stunning setting equals a very attractive place to spend a few days. We will be back.

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Muttleys First Swim

Muttleys First Swim

Muttley having his first ever swim in the unusually warm water of Cardigan Bay this weekend. A Red Letter Day!

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July 14, 2013 · 5:00 pm

The Mutts Summer Cut

The Mutts Summer Cut

He’s as Happy as Larry. Off in the van quite a bit over the next few weeks, so his holiday outfit is sorted. Wish the other half was as easy!

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July 10, 2013 · 12:49 pm

Upcoming Weekend – Llanfendigaid

This weekend Wallace, Gromit and Piella Bakewell will be packing up the chucklebus and heading for Llanfendigaid, which is about 1 miles walking distance from the beach. Hopefully the weather will hold on for a few more days. Review to follow:

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