About Me

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Hi! I'm Eunice and I live in Bolton, Lancashire, with my two dogs Sophie and Sugar and an assortment of cats - well it used to be Sophie and Sugar, now it's Sophie and Poppie. I first began camping back in 1997 when my then partner took me to Anglesey for my birthday weekend. We slept in the back of the car - a hatchback - using the cushions off the settee at home as a mattress, and cooked and brewed up on a single burner camping stove. The site was good, the views were great, the weather fantastic and I was completely hooked. Following that weekend we got a two-man tent and some proper accessories and returned to Anglesey two weeks later, then over time we progressed to a three-man tent followed by an old trailer tent, then a new trailer tent, a campervan and finally a caravan. When my partner decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the street - literally - in April 2009 and I suddenly found myself alone after fifteen years, I decided there was no way I was going to give up camping and caravanning if I could cope on my own. This blog is the story of my travels, trials and tribulations since becoming a solo camper - I hope you like it

Saturday July 3rd 2010 - Elvaston Castle

It was another lovely weekend and I was off on my travels again, this time to Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire - not only was I going to the annual steam and vintage show being held there, I was also camping with the UKCS meet. According to the information on RAC Routeplanner the drive would take just slightly less than two hours, so I gave the dogs a decent walk before setting out then hopefully I would be able to make the journey without stopping. The first half of my drive entailed going down the M6, which I wasn't really looking forward to as I know it can be very busy, but leaving home quite early was definitely an advantage as there wasn't as much traffic as I expected and I made the journey without incident or delay.

It was still only 8am when I arrived at the large field where the meet was taking place and I didn't think there would be anyone around so early but there was already a steward at the gate. Seeing my large UKCS sticker in the front windscreen he directed me to another steward where I booked in, paid my fee for the weekend and collected a sticker for my tent and a wristband which entitled me to go in and out of the show as many times as I wanted over the two days. After that it was just a case of pick my spot and pitch my tent - the meet had the use of two fields, and though most members seemed to be camped in the first field I decided to go over to the far side of the second field where there was only a handful of other people. I didn't want to seem ant-social, but both Sophie and Sugar are very good at warning me when anyone comes close to the tent or the van and there were so many people around I didn't want them to annoy anyone by barking so I thought a quiter spot would be better.

It didn't take long to pitch the tent and sort out my bed, then after walking the dogs the length of the field and back I went across the lane to the showground in search of some breakfast. The first catering wagon I came to did bacon and egg rolls; that was good enough for me so I ordered one of those and a large coffee, then sat in the sunshine at a nearby table to watch the comings and goings of people getting ready for the show to open at 10am. Most of the exhibitors were already on site but a few late-comers on tractors and in vintage cars came slowly through the entrance, and stewards and programme sellers gathered near the barriers in readiness. While I was sitting there a guy in his early forties came over and started chatting to me, he seemed to have a reasonable knowledge of vintage tractors and we had quite a good chin-wag about them. It turned out that he was the owner of the catering trailer and went to many of the vintage shows held around the country - he joked that I could always go with him and help do the cooking, that way I would get into every show free! It was nice chatting to him but eventually he had to take over from his assistant, so I finished my coffee and went for a walk round the showground.

The first row of stalls was a mixture of tractor and auto-jumble, with spare parts and bits for all sorts of old tractors and cars, with various second hand items thrown in, then the rest of the stalls were all the usual ones to be found at vintage shows, including a couple of stalls selling camping items. The packs of gas canisters for portable camping stoves were on special offer at one stall so I bought two packs then made my way back to the tent. I was beginning to feel a bit tired from my very early start so decided to relax for an hour or so - I could look round the rest of the show later on. It was late lunchtime when I went back across to the showground and by then it was really busy - I had a good look round all the stalls then went to see the vintage tractors and steam traction engines. The engines looked superb, having been lovingly restored and painted in their correct livery by their owners. Most of them were standing idle but some of them were running on tick-over with steam puffing out of the top - now call me odd if you like, but there's something about the smell of the steam from these engines which really grabs me; I love it. When I'd had a good look round all of them I wandered round to the fairground - this was a real old-fashioned type fairground and the rides and attractions made a very colourful scene at that end of the showground.

When I had walked round everything twice I decided to go and visit some friends who lived only a couple of miles from the showground, so I went back to the van and after settling the dogs in the back I drove off the camping field. I had first met Ken and Shelagh on holiday in Italy in 2003, we had met up again the following year at the same place and kept in touch ever since, though I had only actually visited them once before. My memory and sense of direction didn't let me down and it didn't take long to find my way to their address, but even though I knocked on the door twice there was no answer - it was as I was getting back into the van a neighbour came out and told me they were away on holiday and wouldn't be back till the following week. That was just typical of my luck - I hadn't seen them for two years and the one weekend I decided to visit them they were away on holiday! I found some paper and a pen in the van, wrote them a note and put it through the door, then went back to the show in time to watch the parade of tractors and engines. My favourite tractor in the whole parade just had to be a red one - not only is red my favourite colour but there was just something about this particular tractor which stood out for me. With its brand new tyres, superb paintwork and lettering in all the right places it really looked the part - and of course it was driven by a woman!

When the parade was over I made my way back to my van and tent, where I made myself coffee and a sandwich, then I had a wander round the field and introduced myself to a few other members of the UKCS meet before having another chill-out session - there was evening entertainment in a big marquee on the showground and I didn't know how late it would finish, so I didn't want to be too tired to enjoy it. It was almost dark by the time I went across - a couple of the catering wagons were still open but all the stalls were closed, the visitors had long since gone and the main part of the showground was totally deserted. It was only when I got near to the marquee that there was any noise - the fairground was still open and the sound of music and singing came from the marquee. There was a stage at one end of the marquee and the entertainment was in the form of a comedy skiffle group called Kick 'N' Rush. A lot of people had brought folding chairs and were sitting in comfort, while children and other adults sat on the grass - I stood at the side for a while but then noticed a young woman and her children who I had been talking to earlier, they were sitting on the grass so I went over to join them. The group was brilliant, singing songs interspersed with jokes, and when they played their last set quite a lot of people got up to dance. I enjoyed myself so much that at the end of the night I bought one of their cds to sing along to while driving. I didn't go straight back to my tent afterwards, instead I decided to test the enhanced night shot facility on my camera and take some photos round the fairground. The rides had all closed by then but they were still lit up and made bright splashes of colour against the night sky - the one I thought most attractive though was the big wheel, standing tall against the other rides and more brightly lit.

When I got back to the van I took the dogs for a very quick final walk across the field with the aid of my flashlight then settled them onto their beds in the tent and got into my own - it had been a very interesting but very long day, and I was more than ready for sleep.

Sunday June 27th 2010 - Trearddur Bay, Rhoscolyn and Rhosneigr

I woke that morning to an almost cloudless blue sky, sunshine and the promise of another great day for photography. I didn't need to make any plans as I knew exactly what I was doing - first I was going to the big car boot sale held on Anglesey showground then I was going to explore a few places over the far side of the island, but I was also on a mission - to try to find a certain place which I had, in previous years, been unable to locate. But more of that later. After taking the dogs for their first walk of the day I made a mug of coffee and sat outside my tent for a while, watching the comings and goings of the few other campers occupying the field, then with my mug washed and put away I made preparations for my day out.

My route to Anglesey showground took me on a B road from Benllech village across the island, through Llangefni and up the A5 in the direction of Holyhead. I had only just left the outskirts of the village when I came across a baby rabbit lying dead in the middle of the road - now I know this probably sounds mad, but being the animal lover I am I hate to see any sort of 'roadkill' and I didn't like the thought of this poor little rabbit getting squashed by another car, so I stopped as soon as I could, parked the van on the grass verge and walked back to 'rescue' the rabbit, laying it gently in the long grass beside a stone wall. With my 'good deed' done I returned to the van and continued on my way, following the winding road through some lovely countryside to the small town of Llangefni. At the far side of the town the road becomes an A road which ends in two roundabouts linking the original A5 with the newer A55 bypass. The A55 passes diagonally across the A5 and it's very easy to take the wrong exit off the roundabout - I almost did, but realised in time and fortunately managed to take the right one. There was hardly any traffic on the A5, so driving through the villages was a pleasure - as I rounded a bend I could see the airfield at Mona on my right, and up ahead the sight of many rows of parked cars told me that the car boot sale was well and truly on. When I finally arrived I had to wait a couple of minutes in a traffic queue, such is the popularity of the sale, but once through the gates I paid my £1 entrance fee and found a place to park in a less populated part of the showground.

The first thing to do was get some breakfast, so I made my way to one of the big catering trailers and ordered a bacon and egg roll and a large coffee, and looping the dog leads over the trailer's towbar meant I had both hands free to deal with my food and drink, which I enjoyed while sitting at a nearby table. Once breakfast was out of the way I set out to browse the stalls, walking up one row and down the next till I had seen every one - and out of all those stalls I only made two purchases; a large lion picture for my African-themed living room at home and a suitcase camping stove. After I had taken these back to the van I took the dogs for a walk round the far end of the showground where there was plenty of space for them to run off the lead for a while, then I settled them in the van ready to drive to my next port of call - I was heading for Trearddur Bay, and I was going for a reason. A few years ago at work I had seen a calendar photo of a little cove with boats moored in the water and a white hotel on the headland above; the caption underneath gave the location as Trearddur Bay and it was such an attractive picture that I wanted to find the place and get my own photo, but although I had been there more than once since then I had never found that spot. And spending an hour or so wandering round with a camera is never particularly easy when someone else is with you, so now I was on my own I had all the time I needed to go in search of that cove - and I wasn't giving up till I found it!

Driving through Trearddur village I approached the bay itself from the northern end, going past the big white Trearddur Bay Hotel and the general store with its buckets and spades on display outside, and arriving at the car park which is separated from the promenade by shallow dunes. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that this seemed to be the cheapest car park yet, at only 50p per hour or £2 for all day - I didn't think I would need more than a couple of hours so I paid my £1, got my ticket, then collected my camera and the dogs and set off to explore. Walking through the dunes and out onto the promenade it struck me that things seemed to be different to when I was last there three years ago, and looking round me I realised that the whole promenade was completely new. A low concrete wall with built-in seating areas separated the promenade from the dunes, and curved blue-painted railings ran the whole length of the outer edge which, coupled with the white concrete of the promenade itself, looked really bright and attractive.

I walked along to the northern end of the promenade where there was a couple of fast food vans and treated myself to an ice cream which I ate while sitting on the wall - I knew there was no point going farther than that in my quest to find the cove as I had looked round that end of the bay before, so with my ice cream finished I set off for the far side of the bay. In previous years I had only gone as far as where the promenade itself ended but there was a road beyond there so I was going to try my luck in that direction. When I got to the end of the promenade I turned and surveyed the scene in front of me - the sea was on the retreat, leaving a wide expanse of flat clean sand, the water lapped the beach in ripples rather than waves, and the view was certainly deserving of a photo.

From the promenade I went up onto the road, and as I walked along the terrain changed from flat beach to rocky outcrops which sheltered several small sandy bays and inlets, where people sunbathed and boats bobbed about with the motion of the tide.

At one point the road veered away from the sea and passed through a small hamlet of white-painted bungalows and guest houses - mindful of the time, and not wanting to incur a parking fine on my van, I wondered if it would be wise to continue my walk as I didn't know just how far I would have to go to find the place I was looking for. But I wasn't giving up that easily, and as the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat - so I turned back the way I had come and went back to the car park, then with the dogs safely in the back of the van I drove back along the road I had just walked down. At the far side of the hamlet the road rounded a bend and opened up to provide a view of a small sandy bay with several boats anchored offshore, and as I drove past and looked to my right there it was - the white hotel on the headland. I had found my little cove! It took a few minutes to find somewhere to park, but once that was sorted out I was able to take the dogs and my camera and explore at leisure. At one end of the bay was a large car park which was busy with boat trailers and 4 x 4 vehicles from a nearby sailing club, and a small promenade bordered the beach so I walked along there first and took a few photos.

My main objective though was to try to replicate the calendar photo which had started my initial quest, and although I wasn't lucky enough to have that picture with me the details were firmly etched in my mind. It took quite a bit of walking round and scrambling over rocks before I satisfied myself that I was in near enough the right place, and although there weren't as many boats as in the original picture all the other details were the same. The resulting photo obviously wasn't as good as the professional shot on the calendar but it was good enough for me, and I was just happy that after searching for so long I had finally found what I was looking for.

I spent quite some time scrambling round the rocks and discovering hidden inlets and corners where boats were moored, and I even saw a young couple sunbathing on a rocky ledge which looked to be totally inaccessible.

When I had finally finished my rock scrambling I returned to the road and made my way back to the van - and that's when I came upon what must be the most gorgeous house and garden on Anglesey. Double gates led into the private driveway where a couple of vintage cars were parked; the well-mown lawn was bordered by a low conifer hedge and a couple of ornamental gas lamps stood sentinel by the path up to the door. The house itself was black and white, with a large blue-faced clock above the front door and flower-filled window boxes and hanging baskets all along the front facade. Round the side the garden was filled with exotic palms, small trees and pretty flowering shrubs. It was chocolate box pretty and would, to my mind, have made a wonderful subject for a jigsaw puzzle.

The house made such an impact on me that I could hardly tear myself away, but when Sophie started to get impatient I continued back to the van and set off for the next place to explore. I was heading for Rhosneigr, a place I had never been to before, but just out of Trearddur I saw a sign for Rhoscolyn, another place which was unfamiliar to me, so I decided to make a detour - and in some ways I wished afterwards that I hadn't as the route wasn't the easiest. The lane was a very winding single track barely wider than the van, with small passing places which were few and far between, and I was just hoping that I wouldn't meet something coming the other way. But on a ninety degree bend I did - I came face-to-face with a large 4 x 4. Luckily there was a cottage on the corner with a small gravel driveway so I reversed into there far enough to allow the other vehicle to pass then continued on my way. The rest of the journey was without incident, and the lane eventually ended in a rough-surfaced car park backed by low dunes - and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the car park was free. A path led from there through the dunes and onto the beach - I don't really know what I was expecting to find when I got there, but I certainly wasnt expecting to find a whole lot of nothing! The beach itself curved round in a wide arc of flat sand with a rocky outcrop at the far end; there was a handful of dinghies pulled up onto the sand near the dunes, and an old blue and white Ford tractor in pristine condition was parked nearby. The total number of people on the whole beach was exactly six, so it certainly wasn't a busy place, and I wondered if that was why there was no charge for the car park - maybe not enough people go there to make it worthwhile installing a ticket machine and collecting the money.

It certainly seemed to be a 'get-away-from-it-all' type of place and if I'd had more time I would probably have stayed for a while and enjoyed the peace and quiet, but I didn't want to leave it too late to go to Rhosneigr, so after a quick wander round I returned to the van and prepared to negotiate the single-track lane back to civilisation.

My route to Rhosneigr took me inland over Four Mile Bridge (which is actually only a couple of hundred yards long) and onto the A5, where I headed down towards the Anglesey showground before turning back towards the coast. Eventually I arrived at a crossroads in the centre of Rhosneigr village and I could see the sea at the end of the road in front of me. It was aptly named Beach Road, because not only did it lead to the beach it led directly onto the beach, but unfortunately there was no convenient place to park so I went back onto the main road in search of somewhere. I finally found a little turn off leading down to the beach, with a patch of very rough land about halfway along which was being used by water sports enthusiasts as a car park - it may have been rough but it was also free so that was good enough for me and that's where I left the van.

At the bottom of the lane a path led through dunes onto soft pale sand dotted with rocks, and with firmer darker sand nearer the water's edge. Letting the dogs off the lead I walked along till I came to the end of Beach Road where I bought my second ice cream of the day from a nearby van and sat for a few minutes on a wall, just taking in the view. The beach curved round to the left, several dinghies were pulled up on the sand near the wall, and even though the tide was out there were quite a few kite surfers out on the water.

Once I had finished my ice cream and taken a couple of photos I made my way back along the beach to where I had left the van - the day was still gloriously warm and I would have liked to stay longer, but I still had to pack up my tent and go home so unfortunately I had to leave, though I promised myself that I would go back another time.

When I finally got back to the camp site I made myself a coffee and a sandwich and had an hour of relaxation before I started packing things away. That didn't take long as I only had my own bed and bedding, the dogs' beds and the tent to pack, everything else was in the van - and as on previous occasions, it was with great reluctance that I drove away from my pitch and the site. I didn't leave the village straight away though, I drove down to the beach and took the dogs for a final walk - by then it was getting on for 9pm and the beach was almost deserted, but the sun was still shining and it made a lovely end to a lovely day.

The drive home was easy and uneventful, and with the dogs being tired out after all their walking they slept for the whole journey. I arrived back at 11.30pm, tired but happy - I'd had a great weekend, the weather had been glorious, I had been to some lovely places and taken some good photos. My life as a solo camper was going brilliantly, and I couldn't wait for my next trip!

Saturday June 26th 2010 - Anglesey weekend (1)

It was yet another glorious morning and making the most of the continuing good weather I was off on my travels again, this time to Anglesey in North Wales. The van was still packed up from my previous weekend away, so all I had to do was settle the dogs in the back and I was ready to go. It was only 6am but I wanted to leave as early as possible to make the most of the weekend - I was heading for one of my favourite sites, John Hewitt's Camping Fields at Benllech, where I knew it would be okay for me to arrive early and leave late the following day. The journey took a little over two hours and I arrived at the site just after 8am - at first there didn't seem to be anyone around and I was just wondering if things had changed in the two years since I was last there when Dave, the warden, appeared from his caravan near the entrance. I booked in, paid my one night's fee and got a swipe card for the security barrier, then drove round the site in an effort to decide where to pitch. It's a big site with several different fields and there are no marked pitches so I could have chosen anywhere, but I eventually opted to go on the top field where I knew I would get a good view over the bay. I chose a corner sheltered by a couple of hedges, parked the van and started setting up camp. Fortunately it didn't take long, as by this time I was feeling quite hungry, so once everything was sorted out I put the dogs on their leads and went off in search of some breakfast.

I headed for Pete's Cafe just by the crossroads in the village, as I knew I would get a good breakfast there, but when I got there I was disappointed to find that sometime in the last two years it had closed down and changed hands, and was now a charity shop. I had to think of an alternative, and remembered that there was a cafe next to the gift shop at the far end of the promenade, so I made my way down the hill and along the seafront - only to find that this too had changed, and what was once a proper cafe with tables and a counter was now an amusement place with slot machines and a small fast food kiosk in one corner. Now as much as I like cheeseburgers I don't eat them very often and I certainly didn't want one for breakfast! My third option was to go back along the promenade to The Bay cafe/bar, which had a sign outside saying that they now serve breakfasts - there is a lovely outside seating area there, overlooking the rocks and the beach, so I fastened the dogs to the railings near one of the tables and went inside to place my order. I decided to treat myself to a 'full English', and although it wasn't cheap it was very good, and made all the more enjoyable by the lovely surroundings and the view over the beach.

With breakfast over I made my way back to the site and my tent, and spent a couple of hours relaxing in the sun, looking at the view from my pitch, and planning where I was going to go over the weekend.

Since the last time I was there I had got a better camera, and the object of the weekend was to take some nice photos, so I decided to just drive about the island, visit places I had been to before and maybe find some I hadn't been to. My first port of call was back down to the beach - the tide had come in, and as I had never before got any photos of that beach with the sea up I didn't want to miss the opportunity. I managed to find a parking space along the promenade - I wouldn't be there long so it wasn't worth paying an all-day fee in the car park - and just wandered along with camera at the ready.

From there I drove on to Moelfre, the next proper village along the coast heading north, but on the way there I suddenly remembered that a few years ago I had gone to a little beach which was down a lane somewhere between Benllech and Moelfre, so I decided to see if I could find it. And my instinct, memory, and good sense of direction didn't let me down - turning off the main road I found the lane and followed it down to where it almost ended, in a large gravel-surfaced car park which was full to overflowing with 4 x 4 vehicles and boat trailers. It took several minutes to find a space, but once I was safely parked I got a ticket from the machine, collected the dogs and my camera, and set off to explore. Across the far side of the car park was a modern toilet block with showers, and on the corner was a small cafe and gift shop. The lane itself ended in a concrete slipway leading down into the sea - on the left was a white-painted bungalow with a dirt track behind it, and on the right a stretch of sand backed by a grassed area and the walls of a sailing club building. It was certainly a very popular little place - there were several boats bobbing about at the water's edge, with people either getting in or getting out of them; yachts were pulled up onto the beach or on the grass, some on trailers and some wedged on chocks; people were sitting on the beach enjoying the sun while children and dogs played at the water's edge, and out to sea a couple of jet skis were zooming around.

Walking back to the end of the lane I thought about exploring along the dirt track but unfortunately there was a 'private' sign at the entrance so I didn't go any further; however my attention was caught by the terraced garden of a cottage set back off the track. The whole garden was a riot of stone walls, trees, shrubs, hanging baskets, roses, fuschias and any number of other brightly coloured flowers - just the sort of garden I would love to have myself and certainly worthy of a couple of photos.

I had just taken my second photo when I had to move to one side for a 4 x 4 vehicle coming slowly down the track, towing a very posh-looking boat on a trailer - the driver had to stop before turning out onto the lane, so taking a chance I asked if he thought it would be okay for me to walk along and take some photos and he said it would be. And I'm so glad I asked as otherwise I would have missed something I thought was really special.

The top of the track widened out into a large gravel car park with yachts and other boats on trailers parked in a line along the edge, some with their towing vehicles parked alongside. There was also half a dozen old tractors parked in various places, obviously used for towing and reversing boat trailers in and out of the water. Standing at the seaward side of the car park I looked back towards the beach and it reminded me almost as if it could have been somewhere abroad.

It was when I reached the far end of the car park that I got a lovely surprise - an inlet from the sea led to a small sheltered cove where more boats were moored. Just in front of me a flight of steep stone steps led from the perimeter wall down into the sea, and over on my left a gravel slope ran down and over to the back of the cove. This looked to be quite a secret little place, and I felt very privelaged to be there. Surveying the scene in front of me I wondered, in view of the access track being private, how many members of the general public knew it was there - probably not many. And maybe, in the interests of keeping it private, I shouldn't be writing about it here!

It was all I could do to tear myself away from this pretty little place, but as I wanted to explore elsewhere I reluctantly made my way back to the van, stopping briefly at the cafe to get a can of Coke. Leaving the car park I followed the lane back to the main road and continued on to Moelfre, where I was able to park for free while I explored with the dogs. The small shingle beach comes up almost to the road, and at one point is only separated from it by a couple of bollards at its edge. A dozen or so fishing boats were pulled up onto the shingle and a couple of sunbathers lay on towels up against the sea wall.

The road through the village veers off to the left just beyond the beach, but a path to the right leads to a very pleasant cliff top walk past the lifeboat house and as far as the headland, with Moelfre Island opposite.

When I had seen all there was to see I retraced my steps back to the van and drove on to Lligwy beach - I had been there once before in previous years but on a very overcast day, so I was looking forward to seeing it in good weather. The car park was separated from the beach by low dunes, and I was quite surprised to see a few small tents dotted about in sheltered sandy hollows - I was later to learn that camping was permitted in the dunes, and the nightly fee was payable at the cafe near the car park entrance. The dunes were split by a wide stream which which wound its way across the beach and out to sea; to my left a wooden footbridge crossed the stream and to my right a few children were fishing for crabs and a couple of toddlers paddled in the shallower parts. Following a path through the dunes brought me to the beach - the tide had retreated, leaving a vast expanse of clean flat sand and quite a walk to the water's edge. The view was very attractive, and much nicer than the last time I had been there.

Walking back along the edge of the dunes towards the top of the car park I came across these two on a patch of grass near the cafe - I don't know where their owner was, or indeed if they both had the same owner, but they looked quite content in the sunshine.

After leaving Lligwy my next port of call was Cemaes Bay on the north of the island, another little place I had been to before. I drove along the seafront road towards the village and turned down the hill to the car park by the sea wall at the bottom - but when I saw the car park charges I promptly turned round and drove out again! I noticed there were quite a few cars parked by the grass verge along the seafront road so I left the van there and walked back down the hill. As with Llligwy the tide was out and a large expansive beach stretched between the small harbour at one side of the bay and the headland at the other.

With the dogs on their leads I walked along the promenade to the start of the headland then went down onto the beach, and letting the dogs free I walked out to the water's edge. The closer to the sea we got the wetter the sand became, and as soon as Sophie got her feet wet she became a bit wary of going any further - maybe she thought I was going to make her swim, and she didn't look very happy.

When we reached the water I walked parallel to the promenade and went back towards the harbour - the sea was lapping the sand in small gentle waves and it was very shallow for quite a distance out, so I walked in the water rather than on the sand. Sugar was playing her own little game with a piece of seaweed, tossing it into the water and retrieving it, though Sophie was quite happy to trot along just out of reach of the waves. Part way along was a yacht, anchored and up on chocks in the shallows, and the ladder up against one side suggested that the owner expected to be there for some time.

Nearing the harbour entrance I could see that the sand was becoming slippery with seaweed so I turned towards the promenade and skirting the nearby rocks I went back across the beach. There was a small kiosk at the corner of the car park so I bought a can of Coke, put the dogs back on their leads and walked through the fishermens' cottages out onto the harbour wall. Some of the boats moored in the harbour looked rather forlorn, beached on the sand and the seaweed-covered mud and waiting for the sea to return. Among the fishing boats and dinghies was an open boat which was obviously older than the others, and an information board on the wall told me that this was the Charles Henry Ashley, a recently restored lifeboat which was originally built in 1907.

By the time I had wandered along to the end of the harbour wall and back I was beginning to feel peckish. Looking at my watch I realised it was almost 7pm - the weather had been so lovely and time had been of no significance while I was exploring with my camera. No wonder I was feeling hungry - I had been out for well over seven hours and had nothing since breakfast other than two cans of Coke! It was certainly time to rectify the matter so I returned to the van, settled the dogs in the back and headed back to the site for a brew and something to eat. I spent the rest of the evening sitting outside my tent, and when the sun went down and the daylight finally began to fade I took the dogs for their last walk round the site before settling them on their beds and getting into mine. It had been a good day - the weather had been glorious, I had been to some lovely places and taken some good photos, and I just hoped that the following day would bring more of the same.

Sunday June 20th 2010 - A car boot sale, a dog show and an aquaduct

I woke early that morning to the sound of the birds in the trees behind me and the promise of another lovely day. As soon as I had taken the dogs for their first walk I made a mug of coffee - I didn't bother about making breakfast as I was going to a car boot sale and there would be any number of places where I could get something from. Chirk car boot sale is only a few miles from the showground so it didn't take long to get there - it's a huge and very popular sale, and even though it wasn't yet 9am there were so many cars already parked that I struggled to find a space. I got one eventually though, luckily in the shade of the hedge so the van would stay reasonably cool while I was away from it, and after I'd given the dogs a drink and clipped their leads on I set off on my journey round the stalls. There was only one thing I was really looking for - a mouse ornament to add to my collection, but of all the stalls I looked at, and the two hours it took me, I didn't find a single one. And I had been so intent on my search that I had forgotten all about breakfast, so by the time I had got to the last stall on my route I was feeling quite hungry and also very hot. Taking the shortest route back to the van I stopped at a cake stall nearby and bought a can of Coke and a large slab of fruit cake, which I sliced up and enjoyed several pieces of while sitting in the back of the van - an unusual breakfast maybe, but it was too hot for anything cooked. Then it was time to return to the showground, but before I drove off I took a couple of photos of the area of North Wales overlooked by the car boot field -

Back at the showground I decided on the spur of the moment to enter both dogs in the fun dog show which was to take place at 2pm, and I was just in time to register them. The entry fee was £1 per class and I entered both dogs in two classes each - Sophie in the 'prettiest female' class and the 'best short-haired' and Sugar in the 'best veteran over 9 years old' and the 'best rescue'. There were quite a few dogs taking part, from a couple of tiny Chiuauas to a large Great Dane, and I didn't think either of mine stood a chance, but it was all in fun anyway and the entry fee went to an animal charity so I didn't mind if they didn't win anything. It was Sophie's turn first, in the class for prettiest female, along with five other dogs, and I was quite surprised when she was judged in third place - her prize was a small pack of dry dog food, a handful of chews and a rosette. In the next class she got fifth place and was rewarded with a handful of chews and another rosette. We had to wait then for another couple of classes to be judged before it was Sugar's turn - and she gained fourth place, a handful of chews and a rosette for best veteran. After another couple of classes it was Sugar's second entry - and I was totally amazed when she won first prize and was rewarded with a large pack of dog food, chews and a rosette. After I had taken everything back to the van I fastened their rosettes onto their collars - they had both done well and I was proud of them, so I thought they deserved to show off a little.

After giving them a drink and some of their chews I went over to the main ring for the parade of tractors - I was standing near the entrance as they came through and there were so many of them I thought the line would never end. I watched them all drive round the ring then went for a final look round the stalls - the show was beginning to wind down by then, ready for finishing at 5pm, and there weren't quite as many people about so I could walk round with the dogs quite comfortably. A couple of people stopped me and asked what their rosettes were for, and one little girl really fell in love with Sophie - I think she would have taken her home if she could. Once I got back to the van it didn't take long to pack things away, and with the dogs in the back ready for leaving I went to say my goodbyes to Graham and Jean, hoping that when I see them at the show next year it will be as an exhibitor.

It was 5.30pm when I left the showground, the sun was still hot and there was still too much of the day left to go straight home so I decided to stop somewhere en route and explore for a while. My route took me in the direction of Llangollen, but about three miles before the town I spotted a sign for the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct so I headed for there instead. Turning off the main road I followed a narrow winding lane down the hill till I came to the Llangollen canal - I had been to this particular aquaduct a few years ago but only to the far side, so what I saw here was a very pleasant surprise. The canal went round quite a sharp bend at this point so it widened out into a basin to allow the long narrowboats to make the turn towards the aquaduct. There was a row of pretty cottages on my right and the lane ran past these to a couple of bridges over the canal - one was a footbridge with steps at each side, and the other was flat and level with the canal bank to enable wheelchair users to cross. A boat was just approaching the bridge, so I parked the van on the grass verge and watched, fascinated, while one of its occupants jumped out onto the bank and proceeded to raise the bridge by winding it up enough to allow the boat to pass through.

Walking up over the footbridge I stopped to take another photo then continued down onto the path at the far side of the canal and walked along to the aquaduct, keeping the dogs firmly on the lead until I'd got across it to the other side - and when you see the photos you will know why!

For anyone not familiar with this aquaduct here's a little history lesson - it was engineered and built by Thomas Telford between 1795 and 1805, and carries the Llangollen canal over the River Dee valley. It is just over 1,000ft long and is 126ft high, and to cross it either on foot or by boat isn't to be reccommended for anyone not keen on heights. The water itself is only slightly over 5ft deep, but while there are railings protecting walkers on the towpath the other side is totally unprotected, so crossing by boat gives a feeling of being suspended in mid air, with nothing between you and the valley floor 126ft below. Certainly not for the faint-hearted!

At the other end of the aquaduct was Trevor Basin, where the canal took another sharp bend and widened out again to allow boats to make the turn. A footbridge crossed the basin, several narrowboats were moored alongside the towpath, some three abreast, and there was a pub/restaurant with a nice beer garden over the far side. I was feeling quite thirsty by then and decided it was time for a Coke stop, so I crossed the bridge, found the gate leading into the garden, and fastened the dogs to a railing near a table while I went to order a drink. The garden was quite busy with people enjoying a meal or just a drink, and it was very pleasant to sit in the sunshine with my glass of Coke and the dogs lying quietly behind me.

With my glass of Coke finished, and feeling refreshed, I crossed back over the bridge and continued my walk along the towpath. The whole area was very pleasant, with well kept grassy areas bordered by bushes and trees, and with tubs of flowers at various points. Going under a stone bridge the grassed area widened out and there were a couple of bench seats where people sat enjoying the sunshine. A group of young men were sitting on the grass and one was throwing a ball for a dog - and it was when the dog came up to say hello to Sophie and Sugar that I got chatting to the young guy and found out that quite coincidentally he was originally from my home town. He had moved to that area four years previously for work, but still had family and friends back home - I ended up sitting on the grass with him and passed a very pleasant hour chatting about home and various other things until it was time for me to leave, and even though his friends were waiting for him he walked all the way back to the van with me. He even gave me his phone number and said to contact him if I would be down that way again sometime, and we could have a drink together - he was a nice young guy and it was a nice idea, and had I been ten years younger and he ten years older then I may have contacted him again - who knows? But when I got in the van and drove away from the canal I knew I would never see him again.

Leaving the canal I followed the lane through the nearby village, down the hill into the valley and up the other side, and came out near to the pub/restaurant where I had stopped for my drink. From there it was an easy and uneventful drive home, and I arrived back with still some daylight to spare. It had been a lovely weekend; the weather had been glorious, the show had been good, I had taken some nice photos and best of all the dogs had won some prizes and rosettes - I couldn't have wished for anything better.