Category Archives: Uk Travels

RAIN RAIN & MORE RAIN

Rain Rain and More Rain.

It’s been Three weeks since we arrived back in the UK and to be honest in one respect we wish we were back in the sunshine and warmth of Southern Spain. It just has not stopped raining. I think we have had a maximum of Five days where it has not rained. As a result of the daily deluge of water from above, the site has had to close all of the grass pitches as they are totally waterlogged with huge pools of standing water on anything that is not at near vertical. A lot of the vans have had to be towed on and even off the hard standing pitches with the tractor  to try to save the grass and it has been a bleak and miserable start to the season. Our awning and compound consequently has taken an age to shape up into anything resembling cozy, but finally it has come together and we can sit eat and cook in the awning in comfort. The constant fight to keep the detritus from muddy boots, dripping wet weather gear and one very boisterous bouncy and therefore muddy little brown dog called Molly is ongoing and even her enthusiasm is dampened by our need to dry her paws and tummy on her return every time she pops out for a wee or just a mooch around the compound. So having been awoken by torrential rain on the roof of the motorhome at 4am this morning I thought I would do a quick update (aka moan) on the blog. It’s 5.21am and the rain has finally subsided for a moment giving way to to a “hoot off” between the resident owls in the large oaks behind us who are obviously as pleased with the small respite as we are . I can’t help thinking back to last year when we had wall to wall sunshine at Theobalds and we spent every free moment lazing in the sun getting a tan . How fickle the UK weather is but I suppose it is also what I love about the uk weather. It truly makes you appreciate the good days when you have made it through the bad. Bring on the sunshine ….. PLEASE!

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Back in Blighty & “The Calm B4 the Storm”

The crossing was uneventful, we mainly caught up on the lost sleep from our last night in France. We had lunches planned with Angie’s Dad, Sister and Brother in law one day and then my Mum and Dad the next. Catori had her bits and bobs sorted in readiness for the season and then it was time to fill up with LPG Gas and get to Verwood. Unbeknown to us there is a nationwide gas shortage due to the fall out between the U.K and Russia following the Salisbury poisoning incident. Our usual fill up point was en-route to Verwood so made the ideal stop. Unfortunately the tank was being filled at the time and after waiting 20 mins after which they still couldn’t get it going again we decided to get gas at another station…… NOT! Despite checking every petrol station on the way none of them sold LPG. We arrived at Verwood Tired Late and Empty of Gas. The next day I ventured off to get a fill up which, after going to 4 stations who had all sold out of gas, resulted in me going all the way back to Titchfield, a 45 min drive to the only petrol station with gas available and hoping that they had been able to get the pump back on line – Success! Hey ho a morning wasted but we are settled now and have a weeks work under our belt preparing the site for its visitors. As the site is empty of happy holiday makers at the moment Molly gets to run around it chasing the rabbits and pheasants but is also very content in our very large pitch.

It really is the quiet before the storm. Easter is full and everyone is arriving on the two day lead up. Our pitch looks a tad bare at the moment but I am sure Angie and her green fingers will having it looking pretty in no time at all. So here we are, settled for the next six months. As last year the blog will revert to our fourtnighly weekend getaways in the V’ Dub (which incidentally started from her five month slumber over winter on the first turn of her key.)

We hope you will stick with us for the summer and join us as we explore the beautiful English countryside. 

A Trip Down Memory lane

 

 

 

After 2 weeks where we have not gone away we needed to getaway from the site so decided to pop down to Dorset and to visit The Verwood Camping and Caravaning Club Site, Lat 50.8876 Long -1.9033  the place that we did our shadowing weekend before we joined the club and the first expedition out in Catori.

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Richard and Angela the site managers had always made us feel extremely welcome and it was exactly the same this time. We instantly agreed to eat out with them and spent a lovely evening exchanging stories catching up on gossip and getting a wealth of knowledge and experience about the club from them. The next day we decided to visit the gorgeous village of Corfe Castle. We visited the castle ramparts and grounds before eating  yummy pasties and ice creams in the sunshine. A visit to stundland bay was an imperative as we used to visit the area regularly when we were courting ( wow that’s an old expression) 30 years ago. Then we braved the naturalist beach with our young firm and trim figures but this time we decided to just have a semi clad hour or so In the sun at the shell beech and I enjoyed the first swim in the sea for at least a year. The car ferry to sandbanks and Bournemouth finished the day with memories of years gone past.
On our virtual Sunday we decided to split the journey back with a stop over at Windsor mainly to try to avoid the guaranteed log jam on the M25 – it failed – but we did enjoy Windsor and the walk down the great park to the front of Windsor castle. A quick beer at the local pub and a return walk back finished the day and the virtual weekend only to end in M25 hell but we suppose that is what is expected when we reside a few hundred yards north of 12 o’clock on the M25! Maybe next year we will have a site away from motorway misery.

“The Wild West ” – Runton

 

Our “weekend” is here one again and we were able to shoot of a bit early for a two and a half hours drive to the North Norfolk coast.

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This was the area that we first ventured to for our first week away last September and was designed to get to know Catori  the Comanche and relax and unwind after the stresses of selling up and moving out.

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This time different reasons called us back. No 1 – was why not? It was within our 2.5 hr travel time distance that we had set for our weekends away and what’s more it is by the coast. No 2 – we had also selected this site as one of our five possibles for next year so we thought we should at least have a look at where we had asked to go, not that you get where you ask for mind. No 3 – Our Regional support Manager John Brown runs the site and gave us a glowing report of it and openly invited us to visit it at some point.
So here we are at the Camping and Caravaning Club site in West Runton. Lat 52.9299 Long 1.2555 
Last night started well with a great little spot allowing us to soak up the last of the rays until about 8.30. Before partaking in the wine and cheese I took Molly for a quick wander. A small gate from the site takes you straight out onto the Heath with the gorse in purple cobweb like full bloom and an elevated 180 degree view over the sea, the village of West Runton and the town of Cromer. Looking down to the sea over the golf course with the villages in the background it felt like we were in North Devon. Molly loved her evening walk before settling down for the night. And WHAT A NIGHT!!!! thunderstorm after thunderstorm and lightning flashes all around however we felt safe and secure in the Dub with is rubber tyres proving one of the safest places to be in a storm.


When we woke this morning the site looked as though it had a real battering one of the shower facilities had to be closed due to standing water. It was amazing however how quickly a miserable wild morning turned into a stunner. Out came the sun and with it the heat. We decided to take the Dub into Cromer and on to Overstrand as the beach had been recommended to us. We pulled into the small car park and descended the very Steep path to the beach which was a lovely sandy beech with waves crashing onto the shore. Teenagers were jumping the white horses and a few people were sunbathing making the most of their day in the sun. The beach was only mared by the necessary sea defences that resembled the WWII coastal defences but not to deter would be invaders but to try to halt or al least slow down the massive erosion of the sandy sea cliffs. Molly swam and I paddled as I was not in swim wear and we spent a lovely hour walking the beech.


Hunger tapped on our tummies and we decided to drive along the coastal road towards Hunstanton, a route that we did on the Granny bus ( we were the only ones not using a bus pass) in September but this time we had the ability to stop off and see all the things that passed by the windows of the bus back then. First stop a pub. The Dun Cow at Salthouse looked lovely with a great beer garden overlooking the sea but the menu was a bit posh for a lunch time snack with a price tag to match and as we only wanted a snack we decided to just have a drink and elected to venture on in search of another watering hole.

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Passing through a couple of hamlets and one that lay claim to having the winner of the Norfolk Pub of the year for 2016 (which we only saw on the return drive back to the site) we headed relentlessly towards Hunstanton and a diversion off of the road made me look down a side road to see The Kings Arms banner displayed in all its glory. We decided to explore turned the Dub round and stumbled on a quayside of summer activity. A quick Crab baguette for me and tuna sandwich for Angie plus a bowl  of chips on the side put a stop to the hunger and we walked down to the quayside of Blakeney to investigate why it was so popular.
Swarms of children huddled by the water with line and bait and a bucket of salt water filled with differing levels of crabs desperately trying to claw their way out. Small pleasure boats putted past and canoe and dinghy alike were being rowed with gusto. Coloured bunting was strung between the lampposts and a car par that sloped to the gravel beach side was crammed with cars. People were walking in every direction and the queues for the ice cream shop was five deep. We too joined the throngs just milling about in the sun and it was very pleasant and relaxing. Apart from the picturesque location we did not know why it was so busy but it certainly had a feel good factor and some pretty massive flood markings up the walls. The most recent and nearly the highest was in 2014 and a good 8ft above the road we stood on.


We returned back to the campsite and said a thank you to John and his wife for the invite.  Would we like to work on this site in 2018?  – yes we think so, a great site full of holiday makers in a nice spot with some amazing walks and scenery around. On Thursday we return to Theobalds but before we do that we needed to enjoy our last day away.

Now I’m not a Steam freak by any means but as the weather looked inclement we decided that we would drive to Sheringham and take the North Norfolk line to Holt for a spot of lunch and then back again. A very very slow diesel took us to our destination only to find that the station was 1.5 miles from the town centre. We were in shorts and t shirts as expected the town to be ‘AT’ the station. We missed the bus by a minute so decided to walk. It started to rain en-route and we were very pleased to find a pub just as we got to the town. After a late lunch we had a quick but damp look around the town before jumping on the bus back to the station and a steam train ride back to the Dub. The sun came out and very pleasant it was too. I have made a decision though-  that the station is the best part of the experience. The actual train ride could be on any train. It did however while away an afternoon and rounded off our visit to the North Norfolk coast.

Sizzling in St Neots.

We are in the delightfull riverside site and town of St Neots in Huntingdonshire Lat52.219826 Long -0.274599  (I didn’t even realise there was such a shire) Angie has not seen her cousin,Auntie and Uncle for 15 years and one of the delights of this transient lifestyle we lead is being able to be closer to people that we haven’t seen for a while get in touch to say hello and catch up. We had a greed to meet them for lunch on the Wednesday.
The first bit of catching up however was needed with Andy and Lorraine who were at the site in Verwood where we did our work experience to see if the job would fit us and Vica verca.
We got on we’ll then and have kept in touch via Facebook. They are now the holiday site assistants at St Neots and their Managers Simon and Keith are a great couple of guys who could not have made us more welcome.
The site is stunning as its right on the banks of the the river with pleasure craft and canal boats going past plus loads of waterfowl to keep you fascinated for hours. The facilities are, as always spotlessly clean but now very dated however the site is due for a major refit this winter with new roads and toilet/shower blocks planned so next year it should be amazing In every way.

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A riverside path runs through the site and in one direction there is a lock, weir and gorgeous waterside pub ( formerly a mill) in the other St Neots town with more lovely waterside pubs and parks. All of them are less than a mile walk and we partook in a few beverages from both.

Wednesday lunch was spent with the long lost rellies and after a false start at a recommended but not too good pub (no garden for the dogs) we ended up a the Old mill and spent a lovely couple of hours catching up on old times and walking along the canal side path and over the weir and lock. Molly swam at least six times to keep cool. After enough chatting to keep the girls happily ensconced in memory lane Good byes were said along with a vow to not leave it as long next time and we headed back to the site for some sun cheese and biscuits finally retiring indoors at 9pm to watch one of my favourite tv personalities Joanna Lumley extolling the sites and customs of India.

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Thursday we wandered into St Neots town centre, the Market and treated ourselves to a second lunch out in as many days. A very hot walk ( with the essential Molly swim) back to the site and Dub meant that a cold Doombar beer for me and G&T over ice for Angie was definitely in order. We needed to pack up and head back later so just the one Beer was allowed but we delight in the little allowances made for fellow assistants i.e no 12pm vacate pitch rule.

Two full days and two nights in stunning weather and on one of The nicest sites we have seen so far on the circuit. Definitely one for a return visit. As for the little drive away awning well it’s not perfect but it does the job. A bugger to saddle up to easily and get the position exactly right but then again things don’t have to be perfect to be good do they!

Gorgeous Graffham or otherwise known as “The Marmite site”

Monty Python said “And now for something completely different” and Love it or Loathe it, the camping and Caravaning club site at Graffham Lat 50.96 Long -0.6615 is completely different from any camping, Caravaning, tenting or holiday site I have ever been on and that is a lot.

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Personally we loved it. Definitely not for those who like soaking up the sun or who want a manicured plot with perfect grass, raked handstand and top of the range toilet facilities and definitely not easy for pushchair or wheelchair access but it is stunning camping at its most rural. 100 secluded individual plots for anything from a tent to the largest of caravans or motorhome are hidden away in a sun dappled and leaf covered woodland with twisty gravel roads creating a maze like feel surrounding a large wooded roundel hill and it’s easy to get lost. You feel that you have walked out of the site and are in the middle of the woods and up pops another plot with a caravan tucked away in it. Grass is not on the agenda and the peaty sandy soil does get everywhere but you really feel that you are truly camping as you should. The spotlessly clean and slightly dated toilet and shower blocks are warm and inviting despite needing to have a refit.

The Managers Sean and Mandy and the HSA’s were very welcoming and have really added their own touch with funky signs and personality everywhere you look and it’s a site that we will definitely go back to at some point.

We didn’t however just go to visit the site, Angie had always wanted to go to the stunning West Wittering beech if we ever got a V- Dub. Well now we have one so TICK – done. Angie text her previous work friend Karen who also has Wednesday off and she joined us on the grass just back from the sandy beach. On went the BBQ and burgers plus hot dogs were served up pretty pronto. A long windy walk along the sandy beach to work of the calories meant that Molly was able to run around like a banchie and as she loves to swim in the sea she was in her element. Thelate afternoon and evening allowed us to catch up with my Mum and Dad and spent the time educating them on the delights of Take away curry which was one of the best we have had for a while.

Thursday – we decided to pay a quick visit to Petworth which apart from lot and lots of antique shops a few tea rooms didn’t have much to offer unless you wished to visit the house and grounds that we had previously done a few years ago so we decided that one was enough and we made a leisurely return to Theobalds.

 

Canterbury Tales

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SATURDAY (sorry Wednesday. I keep forgetting that Wednesday is now our Saturday and Thursday is our Sunday)

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After a 1.5 hour drive we are now in Canterbury. A historical city famed for pilgrimage for over 900 years and of course the centre piece of Chaucer’s collection of 24 stories written between 1387 and 1400. The camping an Caravanning site is a cracker of a site Lat 51.277 Long 1.1128

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with two toilet blocks 9 staff and is set over a number of separate fields and grassy enclaves separated by mature hedges and trees and is only a 1 mile downhill walk to the city centre which we decided to do today as the weather looked a bit drab.

Apart from the obvious draw of the Cathedral which (at £36 for the two of us to visit and with limitations due to Molly being with us) we decided to ignore but there is a wealth of history and bundles of interesting buildings lining the now predestined centre. I took a few snaps mindful that I did not want to replicate the Chinese tourists that constantly get in the way and photograph anything and everything.

All the big shopping names are here as well as a myriad of smaller independent and one off shops and boutiques making this city a shoppers and sight seers delight. It certainly was throbbing for a Wednesday afternoon.
We found a suitable watering hole ‘The Millers Arms’ and I enjoyed a pint of local Kent ale and there was a tonic water for Angie who was feeling especially abstinent. We had a sandwich and chips each.
A short walk along the crystal clear river with near Florissant green under water plants. Punts full of Chinese blissfully not understanding a word that the punter punting was saying glided quietly on the surface.

 

It took us to the commercial heart of Canterbury and after wandering the pretty allies and cobbled streets and still slightly disappointed that the exorbitant charge to just go in the grounds of the cathedral had precluded that part of our pilgrimage we decided to walk back (uphill all the way now!) to the site which turned out to not be as strenuous or arduous as we were expecting and certainly a lot easier than those of the historical pilgrims that walked hundreds of miles bare foot to show their devotion to everything Holly. Our devotion (or lack of it) stoped at a two mile return walk and 32 quid.
The sun was out on our return and we felt that we had thoroughly earnt a drink so with Beer and Gin to the ready I sit here happily in the sun tapping away before we decide what to eat this evening.
option 1 BBQ
option 2 Cheese and biscuits
option 3 The Tipsy option, More Beer and some peanuts!

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As for the V-dub well after the last trip away we realised that Micro living in a camper had its issues – namely that everything you need is in the cupboards that you can’t get to when you are in bed. Answer a bit of Gids DIY and the roller wardrobe now has four shelves in it and a central divider so all the clothes are not just piled on top of each other but semi organised and the kitchen area has had as a stainless steel organiser added so everything is close to hand perfect for the early morning cuppa and in my opinion I think it looks pretty dam good too – and it doesn’t even rattle on the road we have even swapped the telly for the better one in the Autotrail so some quality  viewing is in order for later.

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Now what to do tomorrow?

Sunday (Thursday)

We decided to “go find the sea” and ended up heading to a Whitstable a beach side fishing port just north of Hearn Bay.  A walk along the promenade looking at the beech huts and taking in an ice cream abateing our longing to head to the sea. After this short tonic we headed back to Theobalds for another week.

 

Scorching Cambridge ~Beer festival

Our first trip away in the V-Dub takes us to Cambridge and the camping and Caravaning club site that is just a short cycle ride from the centre Lat 52.16459 Long 0.12334  We are catching up with Jim and Judy who we worked with for a few weeks in January and who we clicked with immediately.

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They are holiday site assistants here and Steve and Dawn who interviewed us are their managers. We started with no real plans but Jim (who loves a drink) was off to the beer festival and it would have been “rude” to not go with him wouldn’t it? Unfortunately my partaking of the beer was severely restricted due to the drunken evening before with them where we sat outside their van and exchanged stories until after midnight with a whiskey bottle far to close to hand. . (How we walked the 20 meters to the dub and managed to get the rock and roll bed down and the bedding on it I do not know.)

 

Cambridge is a lovely city and we saw most of its historic colleges in glorious sunshine on foot thanks to Jim’s excellent directions (NOT) on how to join him at the festival. Google maps to the rescue and we finally joined him in the last two hours of the afternoon event. Angie and Judy wanted to partake of the GIN and real ale festival in a nearby pub. I was parched and still nursing a hangover that had been brought back to life by the last pint of real ale earlier so I awkwardly asked for a cold lager ( we were amongst the hardened real ale folks who had converged on the same pub to while away the two hour gap before the evening festival started) the barman said “lager?” three times and the pub fell quiet. We found a table, sat and had a shouted conversion over the hubub of the place for an hour or so. To finish the day – another pub on route home, two ciders over ice and a pizza for me wine and soda and burger for Angie.

Yesterday was a more gentle affair with a walk to Grantchester for a cold larger shandy and lunch in a beer garden followed by a lovely wander along the Granchester meadows and river and walk back. We really know how mix it up. A fair well BBQ was cooked by Jim and Judy and at 7.30 we headed back to Theobalds Arrington back just before 9pm. All in all a very relaxing sunny and enjoyable break. We look forward to the next where we will be even more organised. No where shall we go?

Angie & Gids get trendy?

After a four hour drive to Leeds yesterday and an even longer return trip back we have finally added a ‘v-dubber’ to our fleet of life enhancing motors.

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We were happy that if it was not right, to turn tail and return back to Theobalds empty handed but the pictures on the web and the conversation with Steve over the phone paid off and we have landed ourselves a beauty.

Here she is …

Far to trendy for a pair of old gits like us I’m sure.

She now sits adjacent to our compound awaiting our first days off next Wednesday and Thursday and we have yet to decide where to take her on her maiden weekend away ( we call Wednesday and Thursday our weekends). Anywhere within a few hours drive is on the possibility list and because of our location just north of London that includes a lot of central and southern England.

The trip back from Leeds was wet but uneventful until 20 miles from Theobalds when I fiddled with the windscreen wipers only to find that they just stopped working. This wasn’t very handy on the A10 with it chucking it down. Hazards on and after 5 mins poking and prodding around in the fuses, and fearing being rear ended at speed from a truck we  slowly made our way to a quieter commercial park and tested all of the fuses. Each of them was not blown. We considered waiting for the rain to stop and sleep there the night – it is a fully functional camper van after all but no loo on board and no food or sleeping bags. Not the best way to spend our first night in the van. We could leave it there and come back the next morning, but I was only driving on a third party insurance basis as the number plate needs to be changed and I was not going to risk our new purchase being stollen, so we had no other option than to pay the hugely inflated RAC premium and get a call out.

I dispatched Angie off home in the smart car saying there was no need for both of us to wait and I would follow. Two hours later the RAC man turned up to check all the fuses and agreed that they were all ok. He then checked them again with his multi meter before organising a tow only to find that there was a fault with one of them – Bingo wipers work. £145 for a fuse – not the cheapest fuse I have ever purchased.

I got home 10 minutes after Angie whos sat nav had chosen a different route and got stuck in the traffic jam from hell.

Apart from that the dub is a gem. Totally loved inside and out buy the previous owner who had a “no expense spared” attitude and who did the conversion himself over seven months with great skill and attention to detail adding extras rarely found on a standard conversion or indeed some of the factory built models. Solar panels, two leisure batteries, 60 ltr on board water tank 45 ltr on board waste water tank, lights every where, fridge, cooker, sink, heating, T.V, dab radio, Audi head lights, 20″ Range Rover alloys, air con, cruse control the list goes on. He was really sad to see it go and we were really glad to relieve him of it. Wipers aside she is a stunner.

All three of our motors now provide an extra quality to our existence, Catori the Autotrail for the life and long distance travels she alows us to do. The smart car for the ability to pop in & out any where and we tow her behind us wherever we go,and now the v-dub for giving us U.K adventures whilst we are working and a sence of weekends away. The dub also provides transit van like transportation at the end and beginning of our work seasons for us to get all our “stuff” to and from our work location and storage garage.

We wouldnt do without any of them now – oh and they all colour match (silver black and white) as if it was planned which it definitely was not.

Just need to get some chattels and sleeping bags and we are itchy to ‘go explore’.

Carefree at Carefree

We are back to what we now consider to be our ‘go to home’ namely Carefree Nursery. It is so relaxed here and Frank and his daughter Kay who helps him out are lovely hosts.

 

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We are here until 24th and then off to our work placement for the summer which we are really looking forward to. With that in mind we have been able to test out and add our extension to the motorhome and put it up in the relative privacy of a five van site rather than in full view of a full campsite plus our work colleagues.

No planning permission needed, no Building regulations, just a pump, a mallet and an hour or two later we have more than doubled the size of our living space. Everything suddenly felt more ‘Holiday like’ as it brought back memories of our Caravaning holidays when Ryan was young and the awning that we always put up. A bit of tweaking (as the first time we couldn’t fully open the door back on to its retaining clip) moving it a foot or so forward, and now fully pegged it is soooo relaxing to sit in even when it’s cold outside. Designed for a caravan and not a motorhome we did a lot of checking it out before we took the plunge but are so glad we went BIG (and at 8M long by  3M deep it’s as big as they come) although we didn’t consider the placements of the roof poles so we’re lucky that it worked out right. It even totally unintentionally colour matches the Motorhome and the Smart car.

The aim is to effectively live in the awning throughout the Spring Summer and early Autumn creating a kitchen area in one end, a dining area in the middle and a sitting and T.V watching area at the other end. Our oil filled radiator and electric fan heater will keep us snug towards the end of the season if it turns chilly . We have yet to buy some flat packed rattan seating that we can take it apart again to store in our garage over the winter. We hope that the awning living  will reduce the wear and tear on the motorhome and being able to cook outside will more or less eliminate condensation.

When we met Trevor he took a nice photo of Angie and I outside the Motorhome and smart car. It’s the first photo we have had taken with both of us together and we love it. Thanks Trevor.

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