I woke after a good night's sleep to almost cloudless blue sky and warm sunshine on the side of the van. Birds were singing and twittering in the trees behind my pitch, and somewhere across the site in another tree Mr and Mrs Magpie were having a right old argument. I lay there for a while just listening to the sounds of nature and with idle thoughts running through my mind, but it was too nice a morning to waste any of it so it wasn't long before I got up. I had just put the dogs' beds out on the grass when Wendy came along with Max on his lead - she was taking him for a walk along the river, and as Sophie and Sugar also needed a walk I decided to join her. The three dogs got on like a house on fire and really enjoyed bounding through the fields and along the riverbank while Wendy and I walked along at leisure chatting about anything and everything. We parted company when we got back to the site, but not before Wendy had said she would come across that evening with a bottle of wine - an evening of wine and good conversation sounded good to me and I really looked forward to that.
With the dogs on their beds and fastened to their anchor I made tea and toast for myself and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while sitting out in the sunshine and planning my day. The couple who had given me the orange juice the day before had said that Fleetwood market was worth a visit, and as I had only ever visited Fleetwood very briefly a couple of times in previous years I decided that was where I would go, but not till later on - I wanted to relax for a while in the sunshine and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the site first.
It was late morning before I finally decided to make a move, so after a quick tidy up I put the dogs in the back of the van, filled up their water bottle, disconnected the awning and set off for Fleetwood. The drive there took about twenty minutes, and approaching along the road past the docks and the ferry terminal I was struck by the sight of many derelict properties and closed down shops - the area looked really run down and dismal, and my first thoughts were that if this was Fleetwood then I wouldn't be staying long. However, keeping an open mind I drove on, following the signs for the market - there was a car park conveniently located just across the road from it so I pulled in there, found a space and went to get a ticket from the machine. Except I didn't get a ticket - I put my £1.80 in but the ticket didn't come out. I banged the machine in the vague hope that either my ticket would appear or my money would be returned but still nothing happened - obviously the machine was faulty, yet there was no 'out of order' notice on it. I was just about to walk away from it when a man said the same thing had happened to him, and he had got a ticket from another machine across the car park. Well he may have done but I had no intention of paying twice so I got back in the van, pulled out of the car park and drove round till I found a side street where I could park safely and legally for free. And it was only three streets away from the market so no great distance to walk back.
The market itself was, I suppose, very much like any other market in any other town. In spite of the excellent weather a great majority of the outside stalls were empty, and those that were trading didn't really have anything very exceptional. I made my way inside and worked methodically through the whole market, walking up one aisle and down the next, and out of all the stalls I looked at I only made one purchase - a black shoulder bag for the extravagant price of £4.99! From the market I walked through the streets onto the promenade, and I was quite pleasantly surprised by what I saw. In contrast to the run down area just up the road this was really quite nice - there were some nice gardens to my left and across the road was a small row of shops, an amusement arcade, and a cafe with outside tables and bench seats. A bit further along was the ferry terminal for the small ferry which runs across to Knott End over the other side of the river estuary, a nice modern lifeboat building and an ice cream kiosk at the corner of the beach. Tempted by the cafe I decided I would treat myself to coffee and cake, so fastening the dogs' leads to a vacant bench I went inside to order. I opted for apple pie with cream and a mug of cappucino which I took back outside and enjoyed while people watching. The weather was absolutely glorious and many people were obviously taking advantage of it, dressed in shorts and t-shirts, with kids carrying buckets and spades and many walking along eating ice creams from the kiosk. I could hardly believe that it was still only May, with the weather and the people it seemed more like the height of summer.
With my apple pie and coffee finished I returned my tray to the cafe, unfastened the dogs from the bench and made my way back to the van. Rather than go back the way I had come I decided to drive along the promenade and see if I could find somewhere nice to take the dogs for a walk - and what I found gave me another nice surprise. More nice gardens with flower beds and a crazy golf course, a pavilion, bowling greens and an extensive golf course backed by the dunes which bordered the beach. Further on still was a large boating lake divided into two parts, with a path and a blue and white painted bridge crossing the narrow channel between the two sections. A wide, well-kept grass bank separated the lake from the promenade, with bench seats at intervals all the way along. The whole scene was really attractive and looked to be a good place to take the dogs, so I found a convenient place to park and set off on a voyage of discovery. Walking round the end of the lake I was quite surprised to find the water lapping over the concrete edge onto the path, and I was glad I was wearing beach sandals as I had to paddle for several yards. And I was even more surprised to see dozens of almost transparent jellyfish floating about, which I thought to be rather unusual - coupled with the lake being full to overflowing I could only assume that there must have been some extremely high tides during the winter months, though the lake was separated from the beach by high dunes and another promenade. The dogs were running happily along the path in front of me, but knowing Sugar's love of water I put them back on their leads, as I didn't want to risk her jumping into the lake and getting stung by a jellyfish. As I approached the point where the bridge spanned the lake I could see there was quite a bit of activity down below it - several teenagers, and younger children with their parents, had buckets and nets and were fishing for crabs from the concrete causeway which divided the lake into two.
Walking across the causeway I followed the path round till I reached my starting point - a group of swans was swimming very near to the edge, maybe in the hope that I would have some titbits for them, but all I produced was my camera to take some photos of them so unfortunately they were disappointed.
Leaving the swans behind I walked up the wide grass bank onto the path at the top and continued on to the outer promenade. Crossing the bridge gave me a good view over the second half of the lake - where the other side was a distinct rectangular shape this was irregularly shaped, bordered by bush-covered dunes and with a couple of little beaches where small children were playing in the sand and families were having picnics.
The path from the bridge led me through the dunes and onto the outer promenade, where a sloping walkway led directly onto the beach. The tide had gone out, leaving a vast expanse of sand ideal for the dogs to have a good run so I let them off their leads and set off at a brisk pace. I walked for quite a distance before I turned round and headed back, stopping every so often to throw a stone for Sugar and Sophie. For two small dogs they have an endless supply of energy and never seem to tire of chasing after stones and bringing them back, but after a while it was time to head for the van and make the journey back to the camp site. I'd had a lovely afternoon and Fleetwood had certainly given me some surprises - I was quite impressed, and made a mental note to return in the not-too-distant future.
The drive back to the site was uneventful, and after I had connected the awning to the van and put my blinds up ready for later I put the kettle on and made some sandwiches - the sun was still very warm so I decided to sit outside and enjoy it for as long as I could. It was a couple of hours later that Wendy came across carrying a folding chair in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other - with my little table between us and the wine opened we settled in for a long chat, and by the time the wine was finished it was almost dark. Wendy still had to take Max for his final walk so while she went back to her tent to get him I put away my table and chair and put the dogs on their leads ready to join her. We didn't go far, just up the lane to the main road and back, then a circuit of the site which ended at her tent, where we said goodnight and I returned to my awning. I could hardly stop yawning by then so I settled the dogs on their beds and climbed into my own. It had been a good day and I replayed some of it back in my mind, but the combination of fresh sea air and half a bottle of wine made sure that it wasn't long before I was sound asleep.
- 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