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

Monday May 25th 2009 - The opposite way to yesterday

The third lovely morning in a row, and even though it was still relatively early when I woke the sun shining on the side of the caravan was already very warm - the previous day had been quite hot, and it looked like it was set to continue. Certainly not a day to be spent inside any longer than I needed to - the dogs were alert as soon as they heard me moving about, and they didn't need any persuading to go for a walk. I took them off the site and along the lane to the marina next door where there is a footpath through one of the fields and the dogs could run free - the grass there was quite long and it was quite amusing to see them both jumping through it like a couple of odd-looking bambis.

Back at the caravan I put the dogs' beds outside so they could enjoy the sun while I had a leisurely breakfast and decided what to do with my day. Another cycle ride was on the cards, but in the opposite direction to the day before - but first I had to top up my drink supply, so after washing up and tidying round the caravan I went over to the site shop for some cans of Coke. On the way back I got chatting to a man who said he had a boat moored on the canal just off the marina entrance - it turned out that he lives in my home town, and during the conversation it came to light that his younger son was in the same year as my son at primary school, and the man himself had been heavily involved with the school pantomime productions that I had also had a hand in. What a small world! As soon as he told me his name I remembered him, but I hadn't recognised him because he was now sporting a thick black beard which he hadn't had thirty years previously. He invited me to call at his boat for a brew and a chat later on, and after saying I would go when I got back from my cycle ride I returned to the caravan to collect my bike, the dogs, and anything else I needed.

Cycling along on the opposite side of the canal to the caravan site I was quite surprised at how many boats were moored up along the bank from the marina entrance - there must have been about twenty moored nose to tail in a long line, mainly canal and river cruisers but also a couple of narrowboats. There is no towpath on that side of the canal so the boat owners must have had to stay on their boats until they moved on somewhere else.

The scenery along the canal heading north proved to be just as nice as heading south on the previous day and I ambled slowly along drinking it all in. The gravel towpath gradually gave way to grass - to my left, and over the hedge, a patchwork of green fields spread as far as the eye could see, and to my right the blossom-covered branches of the hawthorn trees hung over the water. Through gaps in the trees I could see fields of cattle and beyond those, right in the distance, the hills of the Trough Of Bowland.

A bit further on the hawthorn trees gave way to a low hedge, which in turn gave way to an open field - and that's where I spotted a heron standing on one leg. At first I thought it was a fake, maybe put there to scare off other birds for some reason, but then it moved - it was quite a distance from where I was standing, but using my camera zoom I managed to get a photo before it took off and disappeared over the trees.

I thought that was as good a time as any to take a breather, so I poured some water out for the dogs and opened a can of Coke for myself. There was no-one else around at all just then, not even a passing boat, so the only sounds were the birds in the trees and a dog barking on a distant farm - sitting on a low stone wall at the side of the towpath I felt like I had the whole countryside to myself. It was soon time to move on though, and I cycled through open countryside for quite a distance before I came to civilisation - rounding a bend in the canal I saw up ahead a long row of low white buildings - when I got closer these turned out to be very modern and new-looking holiday homes. They looked very attractive with their white painted wooden balconies and their platforms built out over the water. Many of them had plants and flower tubs decorating the platforms and some had boats moored alongside.

Further on still I passed through more open countryside - a couple of boats were coming slowly towards me, the bow of the first one disturbing the glass-like stillness of the water and leaving opaque ripples in its wake. And just as on the previous day their occupants shouted hello and waved as they went past.

Round the next bend, and on my left, I came across a small and attractive-looking caravan and camp site - there was a wooden gate leading from the site out onto the towpath, and it struck me that if ever there was an ideal location for a camp site then this had to be it. I made a mental note that one day soon I would have a weekend there - but so far I have never found out what the place is called. Just up ahead was a stone bridge with a bench seat nearby - that would serve nicely as my turn-around point. The bench was occupied by a lady with a little terrier dog sitting underneath - I propped my bike up against the fence, fished another can of Coke out of my bag, and sat chatting while the three dogs all made friends, then once I'd finished my drink and given the dogs some water I set off back to base. And just like the day before, the return journey didn't seem to take as long as the outward one. 

Back at the caravan I wheeled my bike into the awning, made something to eat and relaxed with a magazine for an hour or so before going to see Tony, the man I had been talking to that morning. His boat was on a permanent mooring with a small decked area on the bank where there was a table and chairs and a few pots of brightly coloured flowers - Tony was sitting there enjoying a cigarette when I arrived but he welcomed me and the dogs on board the boat and put the kettle on for a brew, then showed me round. It was a nice boat though a little cluttered - typical of a man on his own. He had told me earlier that Eileen, his wife, had lost interest in the boat over the years and didn't go there as much, which obviously explained the lack of a woman's touch about it. The seating in the rear cabin was very comfortable though, and with mugs of coffee and a packet of biscuits we settled down for a good chin-wag. It was great to catch up on old times, people we new and the pantomimes we had done - we even managed to recite some lines from one of the scripts. Before I knew it a couple of hours had flown by and it was time for me to feed the dogs, so reluctantly I got back onto dry land and returned to the caravan for the rest of the evening. Tony had said he was on the boat most weekends and bank holidays and I was welcome to pop in any time I was staying on the site - I had enjoyed our chin-wag very much, so that really gave me something to look forward to for another time.

Sunday May 24th 2009 - A cycle ride and a picnic

Another lovely morning, and just right for going for a cycle ride, but first things first - breakfast in bed! For many years Sunday has always been my breakfast in bed morning and I saw no reason to change that, so putting on my fluffy dressing gown and slippers - yes, really! - I put the dogs on their line outside the awning and set about making tea, and toast with marmalade. When that was done I brought the dogs back in again, and with breakfast on a tray and a magazine to hand I retreated back to my cosy bed for another blissful hour or so. It was mid morning when I finally got up properly, and after tidying the breakfast things away I took the dogs for a walk round the site and the marina. The place was a hive of activity, with people working on their boats in the repair yard, cruisers setting out and others coming in, and various boat people going about their daily tasks. A few of the boats had 'For Sale' signs hanging from their rails - a nice red and white one took my fancy and I could just picture myself and the two dogs cruising leisurely along the canal on a sunny day - I made a mental note, just as a point of interest, to enquire about the price next time I went in the shop.

Back at the caravan, and with the dogs on their outside line, I collected together the things for my cycle ride - a couple of cans of Coke, a slab of fruit cake and a knife so I could have a 'picnic', and a large bottle of water and bowl for the dogs - put them in a carrier bag and strapped the whole lot to the carrier on the back of my bike. Then with the camera round my neck and the dogs on their leads I set off - I walked as far as the canal towpath then let the dogs off the lead so I could cycle along and they could run behind me or at the side. I decided to go back in the direction of Garstang and just keep going till I found a suitable place for my picnic, though I only cycled slowly and had plenty of stops for the dogs to have a drink and a few minutes rest. Once I had got away from the main hub of civilisation it was lovely and peaceful meandering slowly along the towpath - birds sang in the trees, cows grazed in the fields, ducks and swans with their babies swam in the clear water and sometimes a fish broke the surface, leaving ever-increasing ripples spreading out towards the bank. On a couple of occasions a boat passed going the opposite way, and the people on board either waved or shouted a cheerful hello - I don't know what it is about boat people but they always seem very friendly. The hawthorn trees and hedges along the towpath were in full bloom and the scent of the blossom was divine. I love the smell of hawthorn and I've often wished that some enterprising perfume manufacturer could reproduce it as a perfume and bottle it.

I don't know how far I cycled - it was probably only about four miles but it seemed to be more than that as I was going so slowly - but eventually the peace and quiet was broken by the sound of voices and children playing. Up ahead I could see a stone parapet alongside the canal and the voices were coming from that direction. When I got there and looked over the wall I saw the most perfect place for my picnic - a shallow river, which came from the other side of the canal and flowed underneath it, with a wide grassy bank and a couple of stony 'beaches'. Children and dogs were playing in the water while mums and dads watched from the bank - there was even one family having a barbecue. The way down to it was very steep though so I chained and locked my bike to the nearby railings, collected my 'picnic' then picked my way carefully down the hill. At the bottom I made my way along till I found a nice patch of grass, then while the dogs played in the water I opened one of my cans, cut myself some cake, and had my little picnic.

It was lovely sitting there in the sunshine, and I could have stayed there all day while the dogs played in the river and explored along the bank but all too soon it was time to think about going back to the caravan, so gathering my things together and calling the dogs I made my way back up the hill to where I'd left my bike. The return journey was just as peaceful as before, and even though I was cycling at the same speed as previously for some reason it didn't seem to take as long. Arriving back at the caravan I put the kettle on for a brew and prepared for an evening of relaxation and maybe a bit of tv watching - the dogs had already collapsed onto their beds, and apart from a short last minute walk before bed that's where they stayed for the rest of the evening. The fresh air and the long walk had tired them out, but come the morning they would be eager to go out again - but where to next? I would let the weather decide that for me!

Saturday May 23rd 2009 - A walk into Garstang

I woke that morning to blue sky and sunshine - not being in a rush to get up I lay there for a while listening to the birds in the trees and the various muted noises of other caravanners going about their early morning business. Looking round the caravan it seemed strange to be lying there on my own when only a month before I had been sharing the same space with someone I loved very much, and I couldn't quite believe that what we had both lovingly refurbished inside and out, only twelve months before, was now all mine. But mine it was, and I intended to enjoy every minute I spent in it, so without wasting any more time I got up and started preparations for breakfast. After putting the kettle on I took the dogs for a short walk round the site then put their beds outside the awning so they could enjoy the morning sun while I had my tea and toast and decided what I was going to do with my day.

The morning was spent pottering about and doing all the little things I hadn't done the previous night, one of which was sorting out the waste water situation. Although I had put the waste container under the caravan there didn't seem to be a hose from the outlet for the water to run into it - a search of all the cupboards and drawers proved fruitless, and as I didn't want the water to empty onto the ground I though I'd better rectify the matter if I could. So out came the tape measure, and on hands and knees I measured the diameter of the outlet under the caravan, then went across to the site shop - which is also a chandlery for anything boat-related - to see if I could get a length of hose to fit. I found what I wanted within a minute or so, but it was only sold in lengths of one metre or more and I only needed a short piece - however, after explaining my problem to the nice man behind the counter he agreed to cut me a half-metre length for the extravagant sum of 39p. Walking back to the caravan I was just praying that I'd got things right and the hose would fit - I needn't have worried, it fit the outlet perfectly, so to try it I ran some water down the sink and not a single drop escaped. Perfect - my first 'problem' sorted out satisfactorily!

After lunch I decided I would have a look round Garstang - although I had stayed at Bridge House Marina a couple of times before I had never really looked round the town, and I'd been told that it was a very pleasant walk along the canal, so collecting the dogs and my camera I set out on my first 'voyage of discovery'. The lane from the site leads over a narrow hump-backed bridge across the canal and I couldn't resist getting a couple of shots of the many boats which were moored along the banks.

After reaching the towpath and going under the bridge I let the dogs off their leads so they could explore as they wished - Sugar was very interested in the ducks swimming a few yards from the bank but I managed to persuade her that didn't really want one for her tea. A couple of minutes walking took me under the bridge which carries the very busy main A6, and round a bend in the canal I came upon this lovely white bridge, which although looks quite plain was positively ornate in comparison to the road bridge. I assume the FWB on the side stands for Fylde Water Board, as Garstang is classed as being in the Fylde area.

The canal doesn't actually run through Garstang town centre, it skirts round one side of it, and 15 minutes walking brought me to the point where I had to leave the towpath and go up onto the road - another few minutes and I was in the town centre itself. It's not a very big town - more of a large village really - but there's quite a good selection of shops, a couple of supermarkets, and several pubs and places to get something to eat, so quite a nice little place. It didn't take me long to look round the shops and I stopped a couple of times to take some photos but there were just too many people around for me to get the shots I wanted - after twice having someone walk in front of me just at the wrong moment I conceded defeat and set off back to the site. The walk back was just as pleasant as the walk there, and I could see that becoming a regular 'dog walk'. Back at the caravan I made myself a brew and a sandwich and relaxed outside the awning in the sunshine, deciding that if the weather was good the following day I would go for a cycle ride and explore the canal a bit further.

Friday May 22nd 2009 - Bridge House Marina (1)

It was raining hard as I prepared to leave Bolton that afternoon, and the miserable weather certainly didn't help my mood. This was the start of a long weekend away in my caravan, and the very first one on my own - to say that I felt more than a little apprehensive was an understatement, I was also nervous and very worried. How would I cope with all the technicalities - connecting the gas, electricity and battery, and putting up the awning? What would I do if things went wrong? You see, up to a month before I had always had a man around to take care of the technical side of camping and caravanning but he was no longer with me - the weekend had been booked long before he disappeared over the horizon and I hadn't wanted to cancel it, but by that morning I was beginning to wonder if I had made the right decision to go on my own. But I had to see it through, as other people had gone to a lot of trouble for me - at that time I couldn't even drive, so a lovely couple (Jim and Margaret) from a camping/caravanning forum on the internet had offered to tow my caravan for me and I didn't want to let them down. So giving myself a mental shake I put the dogs on their leads and went to wait by the garden gate for my driver and helper to arrive. I didn't have to wait long, and once my possessions and the dogs had been loaded into their car we set off to collect my caravan from the storage site, which was on the way to where I was going.

The journey was about 32 miles, and the further away from Bolton we got the less it was raining, and by the time we arrived at Bridge House Marina caravan site near Garstang it was fine and the sun was starting to shine. After checking in at reception Jim reversed my caravan onto my allocated pitch and Margaret showed me how to wind the corner steadies down. Unfortunately they couldn't stay long as they were meeting some friends, so once I had transferred my possessions and the dogs from their car into the caravan they left, with the promise to come back for me the following Tuesday - and that was that, I was completely on my own.

The first thing to do was put up the awning, but as it's the same length, width and height as the caravan and I'm less than 5ft tall I knew I wouldn't be able to do it on my own so I had to look round for help - and it just so happened that the guy in the caravan on the next pitch looked to be the ideal person as he was over 6ft tall, so not one for being shy I put on my nicest smile and went over to ask. He was quite happy to help, and between us it didn't take too long to get the awning up and the poles tensioned correctly, but pegging it all down was entirely up to me. And up to then I had never realised just how many pegging points there are on a full awning - it took me ages, and it didn't help that I was pitched on a hardstanding, though fortunately I did have plenty of rock pegs to do the job. By the time I'd finished I had a raging thirst and the dogs were wanting to go out, so I collected a can of Coke from my bag and took them for a walk round the site before I continued setting up camp.

The next job was connecting the electricity and the gas, both of which were actually easier than I had first thought. The hardest part of that was getting the tall heavy gas bottle out from the front of the caravan, but my weight training sessions in the gym stood me in good stead for that one - and once I'd figured out that the regulator screwed on anti-clockwise and not the usual way things were soon up and running. Next was the leisure battery - I had previously asked someone 'in the know' which way to connect it up but I wasn't sure if I remembered correctly. Which connector went to which terminal? What would happen if I got it wrong? There was only one way to find out - connect it up, and if I blew myself, the caravan and the dogs into the middle of next week then I knew it was wrong! So I tentatively made the connections and waited for the bang - which didn't happen. Not quite believing that I could actually be right I went into the caravan and pressed a light switch - and bingo! the whole kitchen area was illuminated, so obviously I'd got it right. Then came the tv aerial, which was relatively easy to set up - three slot-together poles with the aerial itself screwed to a bracket on the top one. Clamped onto the caravan drawbar it's much taller than anyone else's aerial and practically guaranteed to give a good picture. And finally the waste water container under the back of the caravan. Then it was time to sort things out inside - groundsheet down first, curtains put up at the awning windows, then set out my table, moon chair and the dogs' beds. By the time I'd done all that I was feeling quite hungry so I made myself a brew and a sandwich - it had gone dark by then, so after my brew I fed the dogs and took them for a final walk round the site before settling them onto their beds for the night. And when I got into my own bed I realised something - since arriving at the site I'd been so busy setting everything up that I'd lost all my earlier feelings of apprehension and nervousness and I'd managed things very well.  So it looked like I was going to be okay after all!