About Me

My photo
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

Tuesday June 1st 2010 - Burgh Castle, Oulton Broad and a ripped awning

It was another very grey morning when I took the dogs for their first walk, made more miserable by intermittent light showers. Over breakfast I pondered on where to go for my day, and decided on going south to Burgh Castle and then on to Oulton Broad near Lowestoft. It's surprising what a difference a few miles can make weather-wise so I hoped it would be nicer down in that direction, but unfortunately when I got there it was just the same as at California.

Burgh Castle is the remains of an old Roman fortress, and to be honest not particularly interesting. Only the four outer walls remain, surrounding a vast empty green space overlooking the river, and of the four only one is still complete. There was a good view over the river from there though, which would have been really nice in better weather, and I managed to get a shot of Berney Arms windmill standing tall across the marshes. Next door to the castle was a cute little Saxon church which I found far more interesting than the castle itself.

When I had finished wandering around - which didn't take long - I drove on to Oulton Broad, parking in the  large car park next to Nicholas Everitt Park which is right by the waterside. Feeling a bit peckish by then I went in the Park Cafe and treated myself to coffee and a chunk of to-die-for carrot cake, which was so good I was very tempted to have a second piece. I resisted the temptation, though I did have a second mug of coffee before I went walkabout round the park. I was just about to take my first photo when I had a phone call from Lisa and Steve, a couple I had got to know from a camping/caravanning forum - I had spoken to them earlier in the day and arranged to meet them as they lived not far from Oulton Broad, and they were ringing me to ask whereabouts I was parked. I told them where my van was, snapped a quick photo then set off to meet them.

I was almost back at the van when a squirrel ran across the path in front of me, scooped up something from the grass under the nearby tree and sat there calmly nibbling away - even the close presence of the two dogs didn't seem to bother it. I love squirrels - even though the grey ones are classed as vermin - and couldn't resist taking a couple of photos of it.

Lisa and Steve were waiting by my van when I got back there; after a couple of minutes discussion it was decided that we would go back to their house and they would lead the way with me following. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours with them, and when it was time for me to leave they guided me back to the main road which would lead me back in the direction of California and my evening meal.

It was much later on that 'disaster' struck - I was quietly watching tv when out of the blue came a shout and an almighty thud, and my coffee table and tv suddenly ended up on the floor. I jumped up and went out to see what was going on, to find a young lad scrambling up off the grass - it turned out that he and his mates were having a kick about with a ball on the four vacant pitches near mine and as he was running for the ball he had slipped, fallen, and thudded into the front of my awning with his feet. Ball games aren't allowed on the pitches, and even though it was an accident he shouldn't have been there so I was furious at what he had done, though he did apologise before going back to his own caravan. Luckily the tv was okay, but on closer inspection I found that there was a rip about eighteen inches long in the bottom of my awning and the anchor points and pegs were still in the ground. I was even more furious then and went to find the lad's father - when I told him what his son had done he gave him a good telling-off then came down to my awning to inspect the damage. As luck would have it he had some strong tape and an eyelet kit in his caravan so he spent some time making a reasonably decent repair for me, which went some way to restoring my good mood. And after all that 'excitement' it was getting quite late - I had missed most of what I had been watching so I abandoned the tv for that night, took the dogs for a quick walk round the site, then took myself off to bed.

Monday May 31st 2010 - Potter Heigham

After the previous night's high winds I woke that morning to find everything still and quiet, with not even the slightest breeze - and the awning just as it should be! The sky was very overcast again though and it looked like it might rain. After a breakfast of tea and toast I took the dogs for a long walk through the nearby heathland and along the beach, while deciding where to go that day. I finally opted to go into Potter Heigham and visit Latham's, my favourite store.

Now for anyone who has never been to that area, Potter Heigham - or Po' Hyam as the locals call it - is a small village on the Broads and a very popular boating centre. Latham's is a big store which sells everything from tea bags to compost bags - and even if you don't want anything when you go in there it's practically guaranteed that you'll come out with something. I spent ages wandering round, eventually buying three dvds of the local area and a couple of yellow breakfast trays for my caravan. I had previously spent months looking everywhere for yellow trays and never found any, but Latham's had exactly what I wanted. Feeling very pleased that I had finally got what I wanted after many months of searching I went round to the cafe at the front of the store and treated myself to coffee and the most delicious cream-filled Belgian bun I had ever tasted. While I was in there the sky started to clear a bit and the sun appeared in fits and starts so I decided to wander round with the dogs for a while and maybe take a few photos.

I discovered a lovely riverside walk, and spent so long wandering round that it became too late to go anywhere else so I just drove back to the site for tea. Monday is a good tv night for me so once I'd had something to eat and tidied everything away I settled in for the evening, and apart from taking the dogs for their final walk round the site later on I didn't venture out again.

Sunday May 30th 2010 - Beccles and Bungay

I woke that morning to very grey skies, and although it was fine it looked like it could start raining any moment. I took the dogs for a walk through the site and down onto the beach, there was a coolish wind blowing in off the sea, and with the grey sky and equally grey sea the morning seemed really dismal, but I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn't stay like that for long. It hadn't improved by mid morning though, so as it wasn't really a day for going out and about with my camera I decided to drive down to visit some friends who live just over the border in Bungay, Suffolk.

I suppose one advantage of having lived with someone who comes from down there, and who took me to many places in the area, is being familiar with many of the roads and lanes, so I didn't need to consult the map book for how to get there. Just outside Beccles the main road goes over the River Waveney, and two right turns just after the bridge took me to Beccles marina - I parked in the free car park and took the dogs for a walk along the riverside and through the large grassy picnic area before continuing on to Bungay. I had no trouble at all finding the address I was going to - Ady and his mum Jane are lovely people, and when Jane opened the door in answer to my knock she was very surprised to see me as she had no idea that I could drive. Although Ady doesn't live there he was actually doing a job for Jane, so after a quick coffee I went with him to the cafe near the Buttercross in town - they do a very good meal at reasonable prices there and the home made steak pie is delicious. Ady's ground floor apartment is in a small close of modern properties just behind Bungay's main street so I left the van in his parking space while we went to the cafe.

With our meal over we went back to Ady's apartment, rescued the dogs from his kitchen, and took them for a walk round by the castle which was just round the corner. By this time the sky was clearing and large patches of blue were showing through the clouds, so it was quite pleasant walking round the castle green. The castle dates back to the 12th Century, though there's only the curtain walls and the keep left now, but I find it quite fascinating and it's hard to believe that it is virtually in the town centre, being situated just behind the main street.

After our walk I spent some time chatting with Ady in his apartment, then I drove back to Jane's  where I stayed for a couple of hours, chatting and catching up on local gossip. I left with the promise to call again next time I was down that way, then drove a few miles back towards Beccles and called to see some more friends. They were equally suprised to see me, and were totally amazed when they realised I had driven all the way from home on my own - they've known me for fifteen years and never thought the day would come when they would see me behind the wheel of a car. I stayed for just about an hour then set off to drive back to California - I arrived back just before the light faded so I could still see to reverse into the right place alongside the awning.

With the van in the right position, the awning attached and the dogs on their beds, I put my blinds up in readiness for later then prepared to settle in for the night. However, not long afterwards the wind blew up all at once and very quickly became quite bad, so I spent the best part of an hour before bed hammering in more pegs and tightening up all the guylines. Only when I was satisfied that everything was as secure as I could make it did I go to bed - I didn't fancy waking up the following morning to find my awning in a tree halfway down the site!

Saturday May 29th 2010 - From home to California

Anyone may be forgiven for thinking that I was travelling a long way just to go camping but this wasn't California in the USA, it was California in Norfolk, a lovely little area just north of Great Yarmouth which I had been to many times before, though this would be the first time on my own. I had left the van packed up from my previous weekend break so all I had to do when I woke at 4am was make a quick brew and take the dogs for a short walk before making a 5am start, though I had to admit that I was feeling just a little bit nervous. I had only been driving since early April and this was my first really long journey - 240 miles - so I hoped I would be okay. There is no really direct route from the north west to the Norfolk coast so I chose the route my ex had driven many times before and which I was very familiar with, though I must admit that driving the route is a whole different kettle of fish to being a passenger/navigator. There were two reasons for leaving home so early, the main one being that my route took me over Woodhead Pass and I wanted to get that part of the journey over with early. For those who don't know, the A628 over Woodhead is a very busy and winding single-carriageway road used by a lot of HGVs - get stuck behind one of those and there's absolutely no chance of overtaking for miles (unless you want to risk meeting God a lot sooner than you anticipated), so it made sense to travel early and avoid the worst of the traffic. Also the earlier I set off the earlier I would get to the camp site and start enjoying my break.

An hour and a half into the journey, and with Woodhead Pass behind me I stopped at a roadside truck stop a mile before the M1 for a much needed coffee, then after taking the dogs for a short walk along the grass verge I continued my journey via the M1 and A57 to the A1, then the A17 and finally the A47. I stopped five times altogether over the whole journey as my eyes kept feeling tired and I didn't want to fall asleep at the wheel - I found that a quick five minute power nap in a layby was all I needed to be able to continue a bit further. The drive took me six hours altogether, which was the same length of time it used to take my ex, so I was quite pleased with my progress. As I drove up the lane leading to the site I felt quite a sense of achievement - I had just completed my first really long drive without accident or mishap, and actually quite enjoyed myself in the process.

When I arrived on site - Drewery Caravan & Camp Site - I checked in at reception and was given pitch No.1 on the touring section, but when I drove onto it I found that there was a dip in the middle which would probably have affected my awning fitting to the side of the van, so I went back to reception to ask if I could have a different pitch. Fortunately the site owner knows me quite well so he just gave me a list of vacant pitches, told me to choose one, then let him know which one I was on - I chose No.6 which was nice and level and sheltered by trees along the back, and once I had positioned the van where I wanted it I made a start on putting up the awning. Unfortunately though, there was quite a wind blowing in from the sea which didn't make for an easy job - every time I tried to stand it up against the van the wind blew it over again, but eventually I managed to get the centre rear guy line over the top of the van and pegged down at the other side. At least that kept the awning where it was while I got some pegs in it to steady it, then I was able to peg it down fully and attach it to the van properly. The next job was setting up the tv aerial, and once that was done I turned my attention to sorting out the inside and connecting the electric hook-up.

With everything finally done I took the dogs for a much needed walk round the site - it had been clouding over gradually while I was setting up the awning and I had just got back when the heavens opened. It poured down for the rest of the afternoon and evening so I settled in with a book and a dvd, and apart from taking the dogs for their final late evening walk I didn't go out again.