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Somers Wood Review

This site review is based on our visit in October 2016 when we stayed for eights nights over half-term week. Somers Wood is a member of the Tranquil Parks group of sites and is just for grown ups.

Firstly – access. Easy. Just 6 miles from J6 of the M42 via the A45. The directions provided by the site were good and there were no narrow country lanes to worry about. See below for our Site Arrival video.

There was a friendly welcome on arrival and we happily accepted a free upgrade to a fully serviced pitch. The site totals 48 pitches divided roughly in to two areas with the facilities block in the centre which was kept very clean and tidy throughout our stay. The site was around three-quarters full for a significant portion of the week but we never had to queue for the showers.

Trees surround the park giving it a nice cosy feel with out being too enclosed. There is a separate information hut which is packed with leaflets, walking guides, restaurant menus and details of local mobile service engineers and dealers should the need arise.

For your four legged friends there is a dog walk on site and there are five water points too although of course we didn’t need them!

TV reception was fine and we didn’t need the booster which was just as well as it went wrong ages ago. Connection points are available for those who wish to bring their own satellite receiver and cables are available to purchase in reception.

WiFi was available provided by Caraweb at a cost of tenner for the week although there is a 2Gb cap on usage. I didn’t check the speed but it was certainly ok for general browsing as was both the Three and EE mobile networks using a mobile WiFi dongle. We didn’t get to try the other networks.

Out & About

Adjacent is the Stonebridge Golf Centre and there is a short walk to it direct from the site. The club’s bar and restaurant is open to campers.  Anglers will be able to fish just a few minutes walk away at the Packington Estate.

The village of Meriden is about a mile away – so easily walkable for many. On the village green there is a Sandstone monument that is said to mark the very centre of England – now much disputed. Also on the green is a memorial to all cyclists who died in the service of their country and the village is a popular stopping off point for cyclists from all directions. Meriden can also boast of being the home of Triumph motorcycles for over forty years. From a practical point of view, the  Spar and Co-Op there should be able to take care of most of your grocery requirements. You’ll also find a pharmacy, chippy and Post Office. Oh and some pubs. The Bulls Head was the only one in the village that we ate in but was very enjoyable – and very popular.

A little further afield but all within ten minutes drive of the site there plenty more pubs to choose from. We tried: The White Lion at Hampton-in-Arden, The Red Lion in Corely Moor and The Brickmakers Arms in Berkswell. I’d happily recommend them all for both grog and grub.

There’s no shortage of attractions and things to do that don’t involve eating and drinking.  The Coventry Transport Museum is an excellent – and free way – to spend a few hours. Following the trail around the museum takes you through a timeline of Coventry’s motor manufacturing history charting it’s rise – and fall. There is plenty to look at, from the earliest cycles to the latest concept cars including a gas turbine powered Jaguar. The best – or certainly the fastest – is kept for last. As you round a corner you are greeted by the stunning sight of first the Thrust 2, then Thrust SSC, the latter holding the current land speed record of a bowel emptying 763 miles per hour. In the flesh – or metal – they look absolutely awesome. There is a pay and display car park close by too.

As many will know, Coventry took one hell of a pounding during the Second World War and a lot of it was completely flattened. Some of the original city did survive including St Mary’s Guildhall which we were reliably informed was worth a look around. Sadly a private function barred our entry, however Godiva’s Cafe in the undercroft though provided an opportunity to replenish caffeine levels. And very nice it was too.

Less lucky was Coventry’s original cathedral as but a shell remains. It provides an interesting contrast to it’s more modern neighbour completed in 1962.

Also worth a quick look was the Coventry Canal Basin, which marks the end of the Coventry Canal. A statue of 18th century canal engineer James Brindley overlooks.

Away from Coventry you will find Hatton Locks. Comprising 21 locks over a stretch of less than 2 miles the locks raise (& lower) the Grand Union Canal by 45 metres or 148 feet. It’s an impressive sight and in the distance you can just see St Mary’s Church in Warwick.

Equally impressive was the little café that sits by the second lock from the top, and just a few minutes walk from the car park. A lovely toastie was washed down by an equally enjoyable cuppa.  Reasonably priced and friendly service too.

If you want to continue the motoring theme the British Motor Museum at Gaydon is worth a look too, although far from free. The collection comprises over 300 cars and there are some great examples of the British car industry’s finest – and not so finest – achievements. The collections centre in a separate building opened in November 2015 allows the public to see the reserve cars – those that they do not have space for in the museum, and the workshop where the cars are restored. There were some great finds here too – the last ever traditional – some say proper – Mini to be made and the last ever car to bear the Morris name – The Marina’s unloved successor the Ital. Downstairs you will find Jaguars – lots of them, with examples all the way through the company’s history including concept and super cars.

Birmingham is an obvious destination and the city centre is easily reached by train from either Birmingham International at the NEC or less frequently – but with free car parking – from Hampton-in-Arden. Pubs featured in both our visits – as they often do – and real ale fans will not be disappointed but it’s a great city just to walk around too – and one that most certainly will get a return visit from us.

Site Arrival

Site Slideshow

9 destination ideas for Christmas markets

Almost before we’ve fully recovered our waistlines from last year’s excesses, Christmas is on the horizon again!

While it’s now fashionable to decry the commercialisation of the festival, most of us will probably admit to enjoying a bit of immersion in the spirit of things. Christmas markets can play a big part in that.

What are Christmas markets?

For reasons that are not clear (though Oliver Cromwell is often blamed), after some centuries, these markets fell out of fashion in the UK and virtually disappeared. The tradition was preserved though in central and eastern Europe, in countries such as Germany, Denmark, Poland and so on.

Over recent decades, they have been re-introduced with enthusiasm in the UK and they’re a welcome addition to the Christmas season.

They’re now once again a big attraction and that ties in nicely with the increasing interest in short Christmas caravanning breaks.

Where to find the Christmas markets

Of course, few of us perhaps relish the prospect of lots of long driving over the Christmas break to get to a site.

Fortunately, these markets now are spread all over the country so there’s bound to be one not that far from you. Here are a few ideas for specific destinations:

  • Bath (Somerset). This is an incredibly beautiful town at any time but it really is especially attractive as a backdrop for the Christmas market. Not only is the market itself worth a visit but there are a host of other attractions to see when out and about;
  • Leeds (West Yorkshire) “Christkindelmarkt”. In the centre of this great city, as the name suggests, this is a market with a very German flavour. Very large and with absolutely tons of goodies on offer;
  • Bury St. Edmonds (Suffolk). Although set in a relatively small town in East Anglia, this is a very large and very popular market;
  • A large market is held here every year and the city has a wealth of other sights to take in too;
  • This boasts one of the UK’s largest (arguably the largest) Christmas markets with venues in over 10 different city locations;
  • A fantastic market that specialises in a multi-national dimension, with stalls from many different European countries;
  • Newcastle Upon Tyne (Tyne and Wear). This is a great location for a Christmas market and the Geordies typically love it. Nice countryside and coast nearby too;
  • Scotland’s largest and most fashionable city, nothing’s spared when it comes to the vast Christmas market;
  • Known for its architectural beauty and history, the capital of Scotland knows how to put on a show and demonstrates that again at the annual market.

There are plenty of other destinations too, should you be looking for one that’s really close.

Top tips

If you’re thinking of visiting a market as part of a Christmas caravanning break, don’t forget:

  • make sure your caravan insurance is up to date;
  • check that your planned site is fully open and available. If your caravan insurance has conditions relating to on-site security, make sure that will be fully operational over the holiday;
  • bring plenty of warm clothes;
  • take especial care with your valuables on your person when in the markets. Though not usually a major problem, pickpockets love crowds.

Above all – enjoy yourself!

Do you need caravan insurance?

Have you ever asked “do I really need caravan insurance?”

It’s a perfectly legitimate question, so let’s examine the issues.

The value of your caravan

For most people, their caravan represents a very significant sum in terms of their overall personal wealth. As a result, anything that puts their caravan at risk is also going to put the capital that’s tied up in it, at risk too.

Ultimately, this boils down to a question of your finances. If your caravan suffered a major disaster, would you be happy to take the write-off against your own bank account or would you prefer to have the financial assistance that comes with touring caravan insurance to help cushion the blow?

If you’re in the latter category, then you may consider touring caravan insurance to be a must.

The car insurance myth

An important clarification is required here due to the sentiment that’s sometimes heard that “my car insurance covers my caravan”.

Typically, this is incorrect or perhaps more accurately, only a partial understanding of the facts.

As a general rule, your standard car policy may cover your car plus whatever you’re towing. It would be advisable to validate that by reading your car’s insurance cover.

Assuming that’s the case, it’s worth noting that you may find that such cover only applies to your touring caravan:

  • while it’s hitched to your car. The moment you un-hitch, the cover may cease;
  • while your caravan is under tow on a public highway. Once you take it off the public road, such as onto a site, the cover may again cease;
  • your caravan even when meeting other conditions, is only covered for third party liability risks.

To give two practical illustrations:

  • typically, if you reverse your caravan into another vehicle on the public road, your car’s insurance might (but do verify that) cover your third-party liability. Any damage caused to your caravan might not be covered;
  • typically, if you caravan is unhitched and on site, should it be destroyed by a flash flood your car insurance typically won’t help.

The legal dimension

The site owners may have a legal right and very possibly a regulatory obligation, to ensure that caravans using their facilities have full third-party liability insurance cover as a minimum. They may be entitled to inspect yours and refuse you entry if you were unable to produce evidence of adequate cover.

Summary

The law itself does not explicitly require you to have unique touring caravan insurance per se. It does require your caravan to be covered for third party liability while on the pubic road.

However, in terms of protecting your own finances and respecting the requirements of many sites, it only makes sense to put such cover into place. Given the relatively modest cost of many forms of touring caravan insurance, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious justification for not doing so.

If you’d like to know more of why such caravan insurance cover might be exceptionally important to you, just contact an established expert provider of caravan insurance. They’ll welcome your enquiry.