On the Sunday and Monday of the English public holiday weekend (25th-27th August) the English Civil War Society mounted a battle display at Hylton Castle, Sunderland.
Since the camp site was available from Thursday 23rd to Wednesday 29th we decided to make it a holiday and see the sights. After all, the weather was wonderful and it is an area we have not previously explored.
And so we planned to set off from Hampshire early on Thursday 23rd and make a leisurely progress northwards, returning in the same way on Wednesday 29th.
Alas, Chrissy’s first day of holiday, planned for packing and preparation of the caravan, was annulled due to a subordinate’s illness, requiring her to go to the office to run the monthly payroll. Naturally, being in the office meant that she made herself available for every other work assignment and packing did not happen as planned.
We packed the caravan and started off around two hours later than planned. All went well until we stopped for what passes for a meal at a motorway service area near Nottingham. Returning to the car we found one tyre flat.
We used the HGV facilities to pump it up and stopped at every second or third petrol station over the next 150 miles to check the tyre, which held up.
Arriving about three hours later than planned, we found that the campsite water supply had not yet been provided. An empty bowser was parked around 500m from the camp site. Plans were in hand to get it filled. The contract with the council was for a mains supply with three taps, but it was clearly lost in translation.
Our friends had saved us some “Spag-Bol” for dinner, after which we fought the caravan awning in the high westerly wind until it was erected. Then we returned to the water point for our supply, connected the barrels to the caravan and fell into bed, exhausted.
As expected, the car tyre was flat again. We summoned the AA via their mobile phone app. About an hour later the mechanic called to say he was 200 yards away and needed talking into our temporary campsite. The app showed he was around 20 miles away at the time!
After we described the problem, he re-inflated the tyre and sent us off to Kwik-Fit tyre services around 15 minutes away. They found two small cuts in the tyre, either side of a previous repair. The tyre had to be scrapped. Unfortunately Kwik-Fit could only source a replacement about a week later and at a cost of around £200.
They sent us across the road where another garage was able to source a tyre immediately and fit it within 90 minutes at little over half the cost.
So with half the day wasted we did some shopping and returned to camp.
We made a trip north across the Tyne to a couple of camping shops in a vain attempt to source better and/or additional camping equipment, after which we stopped off for fish and chips (and a sausage for the dog) at the seaside.
Returning to camp we were told that our horses had arrived at the battle site four miles away.
Four of us drove to the site to find this was a false alarm, but also that an inadequate area had been fenced off for the horses, and we had to re-arrange and extend the 6ft x 6ft metal fence panels, before setting up an electric fence to keep the horses from different stables separated.
No water supply had been provided for the horses, so alternative arrangements were put in place involving ferrying 25 litre containers from the nearest tap around 500m away. This continued throughout the weekend.
Our caravan battery was registering low voltage, so I fired up the petrol generator (brought “just in case”) to top it up.
I played and supervised a few wargames played with my game designed to keep the kids amused, but which has grabbed the attention of some of the adults in our group. I lost at three of the four games I played.
The re-enactment battle started at 2:30 pm, and despite the driving rain proved to be a cracker from the cavalry point of view. The enemy cavalry, some of whom were drawn from a Scottish display team “Riders of the Storm”, were highly interactive and a good time was had by all. Our sponsors, Sunderland town council, were delighted.
After the battle, returning to camp we found that our caravan was without power, the newly charged battery now registering 0v. I installed the spare battery and all seemed well – so far.
In the evening a ceilidh band played at the beer tent until late.
Off with the dead battery to Halfords, where we bought a solar panel charger for the caravan, and eventually had the dead battery checked, only to find it was registering a full charge.
Back to camp to get into C17th clothes for a cavalry drill and skill at arms display, for which I was providing the commentary. Not only did I have little clue about the planned display sequence but parts of it were carried out behind, from my commentator’s viewpoint, a large bush. It all went reasonably well, considering.
The afternoon battle was even better than Sunday’s version. Our biggest problem was crowd management. Thousands turned up and overflowed the designated viewing area.
Returning to camp some of our number had to depart for home almost immediately. Others prepared for an early departure on Tuesday, and then we sat and chatted around the camp fire.
We awoke to reports of several thefts around the campsite. Our group’s gas range, a mountain bike, the beer pumps from the beer tent, and several other items had been taken. The police were called.
All except us from our group packed and left during the morning. We prepared to spend the afternoon at Beamish museum. Then we found that due to mis-communication most of the facilities had been or were being removed from site, and so with this and the security issues (our caravan now standing alone near the far edge of the field) we decided to go home.
So our leisurely drive home on Wednesday turned into an 8 hour slog home on Tuesday, arriving home around 10:30 pm. We transferred the food from the fridge and collapsed into bed.
A day spent unloading, cleaning and preparing the caravan for our next trip to Blenheim Palace Horse Trials in a couple of weeks, where we will have real 240v electricity instead of gas and batteries.
We never really got to see the sights, but despite wind and rain and our technical issues we had a good break with good friends. Roll on next summer.