Some of the best village ramparts in France
Bertie is safely home after a long weekend in Norfolk with 25 other Hymers! We have been to our first rally with the Hymer Club International. We all met at the large carpark at the Thursford Collection in Norfolk late afternoon on Friday 4th December where we had a dedicated area to park in. Shortly afterwards we took our seats for the 2015 Thursford Christmas Spectacular – a pre-Christmas show that is put on for a couple of months every winter, performed on a large stage in amongst the steam engines of the Thursford Collection. Coaches bring visitors from all over the UK to see this famous show. Spectacular it certainly was with a top level show worthy of the West End and the most incredible and colourful decorations and lighting. We slept that night in our vans but had to be away by 09:30 the next morning when Thursford opened to the public once again – they also have a Christmas Shop and “Christmas Fantasy Land” during the day before the next show performance later in the afternoon.
We had Saturday 5th December to ourselves and chose to go to Blicking Hall (a National Trust property) as it was the first day of their Christmas Opening with the house decked out in 1930s style, with the rooms authentically decorated for a 1930s Christmas. It was a pleasant drive on minor roads to Blickling arriving shortly after the house opened to the public. The car park was busy and we were not the first motorhome to arrive. Before we went in to the house we stopped for a coffee in Bertie and watched the car park fill up. We had parked carefully, aware that the ground was not all as hard as it might be. I was happy that my front (driving) wheels were on firm ground but it was clear that our rear wheels had sunk about an inch into the gravel. We were told later that NT had only spread all this gravel on to the grass a few days previously as the car park was well known for being a bit soft in places! Anyway as we sat there an older Ford Autotrail drove in and tried to back in to the space beside us only to bog down in the gravel as it turned! Tim leapt out ready to assist and within a few moments our nice new traction mats (bought the previous week at Tamworth Camping) went in place under the Autotrail’s back wheels so it could be smoothly reversed on to hard ground! The mats work!
We were lightly disappointed by Blickling Hall as the house was really, really busy. We went round the house in a queue which meant that all rooms were full and that made it difficult to properly enjoy either the room or the decorations! As usual the volunteer room assistants were friendly and helpful and happily chatted about the house and the event. We heard one volunteer remark to another that timed tickets should have been issued, and yes this would have improved the visitor experience. After lunch in Bertie in the carpark we headed off to our rendezvous with our fellow Hymers at The Old Brick Kilns Campsite some 12 miles away. We had been asked to arrive between 14:30 and 15:30 as the access to the site was a very narrow lane and so an informal one-way system was in place to avoid meeting vehicles coming the other way.
Spot on 14:30 we got in to the line of Hymers assembled at the turning and made our way on site to be met by Caroline and Dave Hanson (Rally Organisers) and Janet and David Cook (Assistant Rally Organisers) who allocated us our site and helped us park up. It took the full hour to get all 26 vans parked. Being one of the first there we enjoyed watching later arrivals parading past, so many different sizes and styles of Hymer motorhomes. The Old Brick Kilns is an excellent site – we had a large gravelled pitch to ourselves with EHU and even our own water tap! It was a short walk to a service block with hot showers etc which meant we did not need to rely on Bertie’s facilities if we did not want to.
Bertie did not move a wheel – in fact his windywarmer stayed in place on his windscreen until it was time to leave on Tuesday morning, 8th. The Club looked after us well with local walks organised on both Sunday and Monday, a nice meal in the site restaurant on Sunday followed by a Christmas quiz (and we were lucky enough to be on the winning team!) and a dinner dance on the Monday evening as well. The best bit of course was meeting so many other Hymer owners who were without exception delightful people of all kinds. There were brand new super duper vans and older vans (two were even older than ours which was comforting). We made some new friends and we were amazed to hear about some of the trips that people had made. One couple told us about their 2015 trip to Iceland in their Hymer and several others told us about long trips to Spain. It seems many club members would be heading south soon after Christmas. One lovely retired couple from Lowestoft told us about their 2015 trip which took them outward through Greece and on to Turkey and back in a 14 year old Hymer Camp.
Several people inspected Bertie and declared him to be an excellent example of his period and in amazing condition – almost factory fresh was one comment! It seems that many club members are keen advocates of the older Hymers declaring that newer ones are all gimmicks and not built quite as well as the classic models. Certainly one owner of a 2014 model was very disappointed with the after sales support he had received and they had several issues on the motorhome that were still not properly fixed after 18months! We talked to another retired couple with a 1995 Hymer who spent most of the year in their motorhome travelling between their home in Bristol and their house in Hungary. They loved their Hymer and having looked at newer ones decided that their 20 year old van suited them better so have no plans to trade up. It was indeed interesting to see all these ‘Bertie cousins’ and hear their stories. The owners were all so friendly, and we were pleased to acquire some useful travel tips over the weekend as well as some secondhand motorhome bits and pieces.
On Tuesday morning, 8th December, we waved goodbye to all our new friends and headed for home. On a whim we diverted to Norwich to see the new IKEA store that has opened there. This proved to be a mistake as leaving there just after 3pm we were caught up in a major traffic jam on the ring road after a lorry overturned on a key roundabout. We were diverted through the city centre and it took over an hour to get clear.
Due to this delay and the short December days it was dark when we finally returned home so Bertie is now standing overnight on the small green near the house and tomorrow we will finish the unloading and get him ready for a few weeks snooze in the storage field – safely sitting on his new traction mats just in case! It was a very windy and showery long weekend but thoroughly enjoyable. We have now arranged a three-year membership of Hymer Club International, which says it all.
7th – 11th Nights on Bertie