Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Pitched up in North Warnborough and walking the Basingstoke Canal

Albion Farm Caravan Club CL 
As you might have seen on yesterday's blog post, we spent this weekend just gone in the Hampshire village of North Warnborough. We stayed at a Caravan Club CL on Albion Farm which was a lush green field with a small allotment area in the corner. Sadly, we were far too early to scrump any runner beans! It was not the most peaceful of CLs as there were military helicopters regularly flying overhead, but Albion Farm has the great advantage of being within a couple of minutes walk of the Basingstoke Canal so we took advantage of this to go walking on two days - one day out-and-back in each direction. This weekend marked the first time we had ever done more than a single night without an electric hookup. Albion Farm CL doesn't have electricity - just waste disposal and fresh water - which we did know when booking but had, of course, completely forgotten about by the time we turned up so there was a brief panic when we realised neither of our phones were charged up! Fortunately our friends Chris and Marta were already on the site too and lent us their USB in-car charger to save the day. We've now got a couple of our own - from Poundland! No electricity means cheaper pitch prices and Albion Farm is a very reasonable £10 a night or an even better £50 for a week.

Odiham Castle 
Our first canalside walk took us to Odiham Castle, now a ruin, but once an important British historical site. King John had the castle built with construction beginning in 1207 and it was from here that he set out to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 - the very same Magna Carta we saw in Lincoln Cathedral last year. Having grown up in Lewes, Sussex, I know the De Montfort name well and Eleanor De Montfort, daughter of King John, was granted Odiham Castle by her brother, Henry III, in 1238 making it one of the most powerful households in the country. Odiham was ruined by the early 1600s and these days only part of the keep remains visible.

Newlyns Farm Shop 
Also easily walkable from Albion Farm is the fabulous (and dangerous to wallets) Newlyns Farm Shop. I didn't know anything about this place prior to my visit so just wandered along in the hope of getting a few decent apples. I must have spent twenty minutes wandering around the displays of fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and cheeses, jams and chutneys, cakes and biscuits, ... I could see why customers need to take a break in the cafe! In the end I bought an interesting Good Taste Bakery Lardy Cake because I had never tried it before. Not sure I would again either because, although it had a good flavour, it was very greasy. I guess the clue is in the name! The Isle Of Wight Biscuit Company's Cinnamon Shortbread was excellent - very short and with a delicate cinnamon taste that complemented coffee perfectly. I am also pleased with the Compost Heap card I bought but can't say too much about it here because it's for Dave for our anniversary tomorrow - thirteen years together. Yay us! Instead I'll plug the Yorkshire Mix boiled sweets from Bonbons which are probably my favourite travel sweets for the car, and the Wooden Spoon Company Damson Jam which we haven't opened just yet, but which I am looking forward to because we have eaten their jams before. With all that shopping, it took a lot more effort walking back to our campsite than it did walking out!

The Basingstoke Canal, which was completed in 1794, cuts through the former site of Odiham Castle bailey on its route. In total it runs for 37 miles from West Byfleet in Surrey to Basingstoke although, since a tunnel collapse in the 1930s it is now only navigable as far as Greywell. The Basingstoke Canal Society has lots of information and history on their website and they also run John Pinkerton Cruises to help finance the canal's upkeep. John Pinkerton owned the company which originally constructed the canal. For less mobile people, canal trips are available via Accessible Boating, a great initiative which provides two boats that are specially designed and equipped to cater for those with disabilities or reduced mobility.

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