Three Towns and a Festival

We collected Absinthe in August 2011, so amazingly, it’s time for her first MOT. We’d booked a service at the same time and had fitted it all in ahead of the Larmer Tree Festival on the Wiltshire/Dorset border.

So, it was first stop Somerset, as we travelled down on Sunday to Bitton, mid-way between Bath and Bristol. It had been a difficult couple of weeks as we’d had to change plans to accommodate Gabrielle’s exam in Gloucester and our dog care arrangements had not worked out how we’d planned either.  In the end, we got to the site on Sunday around 5pm and set up in the small field with a couple of other vans/caravans.

If you’ve come to this Blog from the Brazilian VWBay Forum then I can thoroughly recommend Knights Folly Campsite as a useful stopover when you’re taking your van to Danbury for a service. It’s about 20 minutes drive from Yate through winding country roads. The owners are very friendly and the site is small but very well kept with one toilet and a shower which is enough for the number of vans they can take. Julie, the owner, will sell you home made cakes if you order them from her – we didn’t manage to fit one in but the comments in the visitors book spoke highly of them.
On Sunday night we walked to the nearest pub that served food – The Swan. The food was fine but we only just made it before they stopped taking orders at 8pm. The barman was a trifle too obsequious though, trying just a bit too hard. After a few pints and a bottle of Prosecco we were nicely chilled to start our week’s break.



We were up early on Monday to take Absinthe in to Danbury. After checking her in, Andy gave us a lift to Yate station where we caught the train into Bath. Bath is a lovely city and we spent the day pottering around, having coffee and checking out the shops, before catching the train back.

An Armadillo on a a Skateboard? Why?
The Salamander Pub – in the same chain as the Swan

Unfortunately, all the trains leaving Bath were running late and it was nearly 4.30 by the time we got back to Yate, so we quickly walked round to Danbury. Absinthe had failed the MOT initially, but only needed some minor work to get her through, so that’s us sorted for another 12 months. Phew…

They had two lovely Kombis in the showroom and workshop, belonging to the business owners. I wouldn’t swap Absinthe (but I’d have one of these as well…)


On Tuesday we drove into Wells, a town we’d never visited before, but which had been recommended as a place of quirky shops, with the bonus of a great Cathedral.  We’d been told that Allison would love the Wells Trading Post, a old water mill converted into a retail space with an eclectic mix of vintage clothing, household items and other ephemera. If you’re from Lancashire, think Bygone Times on a slightly smaller scale, but with similar but better stock.

We spent quite a while browsing but didn’t actually buy anything – unusual for Mrs B, although she did buy two pairs of sandals in Bath on Monday.
We had some lunch then walked up towards the Cathedral. One of the quirky things about the town is the way that there is water running in channels beside the main street. I think they date back to the reason the town is called Wells – the natural spring waters coming from the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace.

We discovered the Palace as we approached the Cathedral and we were pleased that we had. The grounds were beautiful and on such a hot sunny day, we could have been in the gardens of a chateau in France. The whole place was idyllic and we sat on a bench under a mulberry tree just watching the world  pass by. Bliss.

We walked round the corner to the Cathedral, where a production company were filming a historical costume drama. The actors and extras must have been suffering in their heavy costumes on a day like this but, hey, it beats working in a shipyard, I reckon.

We finished the trip with tea and cakes outside a little vintage tea shop, people watching and enjoying the sunshine. The only down side was that, for a small town, Wells had no Vodaphone signal at all and no sign of any 3G – frustrating to someone who likes to update Facebook as often as me. #firstworldproblems
There was another VW Campervan on the campsite, a High Top, recently acquired by Julie and Suzie. They’re from Suffolk and were in the area to have power steering fitted to Madge. They popped round with a drink to have a look at Absinthe and we reciprocated by admiring the amount of storage in their VW. Nice people with a lovely van.


“You want a place with quaint shops, with vintage clothing and antiques?”, “then go to Frome”, we were told, and they were right. Built on a steep hill, Frome, is a small town with a Bohemian feel. A little like Hebden Bridge, but with fewer lesbians…
I’d give the weekly “collectors fayre” in the Cheese & Grain Centre a miss, though, unless tat is your thing!

I was starting to worry about Alison by now as she still wasn’t buying things, apart from a couple of tea light holders for the sun shelter table. Saving herself for the Festival stands, I guess…
As an aside, we told a chap we got chatting to at the Festival that we’d been to Frome – he held six fingers up and hinted that there was only one family tree in the town, with no branches…

Larmer Tree Festival – Wednesday

We stocked up on food and drink at Asda on the outskirts of Frome, before driving the 25 miles to the Larmer Tree Gardens. Gates opened at 2pm and we arrived about an hour later in glorious sunshine. We’d deliberately travelled light with no awning nor event shelter, so we soon had the storage tent and wind break up, to form Absinthe’s Camp, with Alison’s hand crafted sunshade above us.

Still plenty of room in the Van field

This was our second time at the Larmer Tree Festival and we love it. There’s a great choice of food, the atmosphere is great and there are even quite a few VWs to keep me happy.

Some of the Campervans on site


Wellies on show after it rained


A great choice of food

The highlight of Wednesday’s show was Sir Tom Jones and he didn’t disappoint – all the hits were there, plus a handful of songs from his upcoming new album. There’s no doubt his voice isn’t as strong as it once was, but he’s still got it.

At 74, he’s still got it

A great way too start the Festival, with lots more to come.

Thursday, Highlights:

  • FB Pocket Orchestra
  • The Dixie Strollers
  • The Heavy
  • Squeeze, headlining
  • The Selector
The FB Pocket Orchestra were great – playing 20s and 30s Jazz – a fantastic start to the day.

Squeeze were headlining and whilst they played all the old favourites and a few songs from a new album they’re working on, I thought they were going through the motions a bit – good to have seen them though and to dance along to Cool for Cats…

Tilbrook, Difford and some other bloke
The Festival balloons appeared during Squeeze’s set

As we walked back there was a crack of thunder and sheets of lightning – the prelude to a fantastic storm that threatened to blow the fixed awning off the van next to us. Fortunately, they managed to wind it in eventually, with no damage done. One caravan owner had already lost his earlier in the day, as it blew up and onto his caravan roof. Sleeping was difficult as the storm raged on and we worried about Alison’s sunshade surviving the night. As it turned out, it was fine although not as waterproof as she’d hoped!

Even though the thunder and lightning continued most of the night there wasn’t a lot of rain, so the fields were fine in the morning.

Friday, Highlights:

  • Stornaway
  • Cardboard Fox
Friday morning was showery but soon cleared up to give a sunny but breezy day. We chilled in the morning and afternoon before walking down to the festival area. After some food we caught Stornaway on the main stage and sang along to Zorbing, a great song that’s been on my iPod for some time now.

Later, in the Arc we saw Cardboard Fox – four very talented young individuals, including the Carrivick sisters, who play bluegrass inspired folk.

Cardboard Fox

Saturday, Highlights:

  • Hat, Fitz & Cara
  • Lachiva Gantiva
  • Ade Edmonson & the Bad Shepherds
  • Public Service Broadcasting
  • Still Moving DJs
  • Rusty Shackle
We had another heavy thunder storm on Saturday morning with torrential rain that lasted until lunch time. The fields were starting to cut up as vehicles moved about and the festival area was thick mud by the time we went down in the afternoon. The weather turned though and the afternoon and evening brought perfect festival sunshine.
We had a ball on Saturday with some great acts and a brilliant atmosphere. We missed Ade Edmsonson when he played Dent Folk Festival a couple of years ago but caught him today on the garden bandstand stage. The band play acoustic covers of punk songs using an electric mandolin, Northumbria Pipes and a double bass and they create a real party vibe. Mrs B was in her element as they covered Jam and The Clash songs and scores of middle aged folk sang along and danced.

Ade Edmonson and The Bad Shepherds

After a short break (time for more Orchard Pig cider) the main stage was taken over by Public Service Broadcasting who play techno stuff over old PBS films – hard to explain but until you’ve danced to a band playing to a back drop of a Dutch film on ice skating then you won’t understand! These guys are one of the most innovative bands I’ve ever seen and heard and I’d love to see them live again.

Public Service Broadcasting
As PBS finished their set, the Still Moving DJ’s took over on the Bandstand, playing electro swing and getting scores of people of all ages on their feet grooving – including a certain rhythmically challenged, elderly Yorkshire chap, throwing his best shapes.

Still-Moving DJs

We finished the evening off with more cider and a trip to the Social to listen to Rusty Shackle, a young Welsh band who had the whole place dancing – good stuff.

Saturday was as good a night as I’ve had for a long time (and I’ve had a few) although it did make me think about the passing of time and my lost youth. A generation of Baby Boomers is entering the last stages of life – we’re a blessed generation and we should be trying to change things for the better for those following on, not accepting the blandness of our leaders. Where did the passion go?  A la recherche du temps perdu

Sunday, Highlights

  • Steve Knightley and the Happy Campers
  • The Perch Creek Family Jug Band

Sunday was a quiet day – we had some breakfast, drank some prosecco and entertained a couple we’d met last year, Mick and Barbara from Nuneaton, before walking down to the gardens to catch a couple of bands and to have some food.

I really enjoyed Steve Knightley – he’s a bit folky for Mrs B but he reminded me of my teenage years at Redcar Folk Club.

We saw the start of Tom Odell’s set but it’s not really our thing so we headed back to the van for a glass of red and an early night – very rock and roll!

Monday brought sunshine and packing up and we were away by 9,.30 to start the long trip home. We stopped at the new services on the M5. They’re owned and operated by the same team that have the Tebay Services on the M6 and their standards are just as high. Why can’t all motorway services be like this?

Inside Gloucester Services on the M5 northbound

So that’s the Festival over for another 12 months – we’ve thought about trying another one in 2015 – maybe Festival No 6 at Portmeirion – but I’m not sure it will beat Larmer Tree and we might be disappointed – time will tell…

There’s a full set of photos here: Flickr

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