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

Saturday August 28th 2010 - Wyton Lakes

Early morning saw me off on my travels yet again, this time to Wyton Lakes adults-only site just outside Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. I had only been at home for four days since my California trip and here I was, on the road again - (there's a song there somewhere, I think Willie Nelson sang it!). No wonder my family say I've turned into a gypsy - I'm rarely home now, and the van is permanently packed with all my gear! I suppose there's one good thing about that - friends and family can't use me as a private taxi as I've no room for passengers!

The drive down to Huntingdon was relatively easy - RAC Routeplanner had given me a journey time of slightly over three hours going via the M6 but I didn't fancy going that way and possibly getting held up in traffic round Birmingham so I opted to make the first part of the journey the same as if I was going down to Norfolk - over Woodhead Pass and take the M1 and A57, but then straight down the A1 and the A1M almost to Huntingdon itself. With a couple of short stops it took me about four hours going that way, but the weather was good and I wasn't in any particular hurry.

It had been two years since I was last at Wyton Lakes but as I drove through the gates into the site it looked just as I remembered it. Parking the van outside reception I went to book in with Louise, one of the owners, and was quite surprised to find she had given me the same pitch as the last time I was there, as she had remembered I had liked that particular one. Now after two years you don't expect that - definitely good customer service there! After a brief chat I drove round to my pitch and parked up, then made a quick brew before I started putting up the awning.

It was while I was drinking my coffee that my friend Steve phoned - having emailed each other during the week he knew where I was staying, and it seemed he was on his way to London on business so he said he would call in to see me on the way down. How odd that circumstances should turn out like that - I hadn't seen him for several years then I see him twice in a week! I was in the middle of pegging the awning down when he arrived - it did cross my mind to tell him to grab some tent pegs and the other hammer but he was dressed for business, not for hammering tent pegs into a hardstanding! He didn't stay very long though, and once he had gone I finished off the awning and put all my gear in place inside, then decided to go in search of something to eat. Having had no breakfast I was more than a little peckish and wanted something more substantial than toast and marmalade, so I drove down to Daylock Marine, which is on the riverside and almost next door to the site.

Daylock Marine is down a long dirt track off the main road and is actually a boat yard which provides boat repairs, moorings and a few hire boats, but there's also a nice little riverside cafe there which does good meals at reasonable prices, so one of their all-day breakfasts was definitely the order of the day. Having the dogs with me meant that I couldn't go inside the cafe unless I left them in the van and it was too warm for that, so I was quite happy to sit at one of the outside tables instead. And it was very pleasant sitting there in the sunshine watching the passing boats on the river - so pleasant in fact that when I'd finished my meal I ordered a second mug of coffee and lingered a while longer before going back to the site.

I spent quite a while relaxing in the sun outside the awning and chatting to one or two other residents who passed, but not one for being idle for too long when the weather is nice I took the dogs for a walk round the site and took a few photos - I would have taken more but the camera batteries needed charging. The site has a dog walk right round the perimeter, part of which runs by the riverside, and it was lovely and peaceful down there. I had expected to see at least one site resident fishing but there was no-one at all just then, not even a passing boat.

Back at the awning I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing and alternately watching tv and catching up with the posts on UKCS, then just before it went dark I took the dogs for their final walk round the site. It was a lot earlier than I would usually go to bed but it had been a long day and by then I was finding it hard to keep my eyes open, so after settling the dogs on their beds I settled myself into mine and it wasn't long before I was in the land of nod.   

Monday August 23rd 2010 - Going home

I woke at 6.30am and it was another lovely morning, so after taking the dogs for a walk round the site I set my table and chair outside the awning and had my last California breakfast. And there's something about telling people back home that you've had breakfast in California that makes them think you've been a lot further afield than Norfolk! Once that was out of the way and the mug and plate washed I started packing up the van. Leaving the bed made up I put the small stuff underneath it and the larger stuff on top, and packed neatly and methodically there's plenty of room for everything. The dogs were keeping a low profile on their beds while I was busy, and when I only had the awning to take down I put them both in the back of the van out of the way. It beats me how they always know that they are going home but they do, and they didn't look very happy.

It didn't take long to get the awning down - using a claw hammer to pull out the pegs saves a fair bit of time and it certainly came down quicker than it went up, so it wasn't long before it was rolled up and back in its bag. With everything finally packed away I locked up the van and took the dogs for a final walk along the cliff top and the beach. The weather was glorious, and it wasn't the sort of morning which really made me want to go home.

But home I had to go as I had to be at work at 5pm, so with Sophie and Sugar safely in the back of the van I left the site at 10am - I called at the petrol station down the road in Ormesby to get some fuel, then with the radio on I settled down for the long drive back. I only stopped twice on the journey, the first time at the Cheerio Cafe (no tea - no pee!) and the second time at the truck stop near the M1. Apart from getting stuck behind a wagon for several miles on the A17 , which slowed me down a little, my journey was relatively uneventful and I was home for 4.30pm, with enough time to settle the dogs on their beds in the living room before leaving for work fifteen minutes later. And what was I doing while I was at work? - thinking about places I can go to on my next visit to California!

Sunday August 22nd 2010 - Winterton, Somerton and Horsey

It was my final full day and I woke to yet another lovely morning. I lay for a while listening to the birds in the trees behind me and the breeze whispering through the leaves - somewhere a dog barked briefly but other than that the camp site seemed to be still asleep. I only moved when the sun shining on the side of the van made it too warm to stay there - after putting the dogs on their line outside the awning I made some breakfast then joined them outside while I ate it at leisure.

Sitting there in the sunshine my thoughts turned to Eileen and Ron, a couple who I had become friends with twenty years ago when my son was in his teens; they had lived out at Clippesby, not too far from California, and were great animal lovers. Their cottage had a fair amount of land attached to it and they had a pony and donkey, hens, ducks, a couple of dogs and several cats, and a double-ended caravan which was a source of constant fascination for me. They also had a boat moored at Acle and would often take us for days out in it; we had many happy days messing about on the water. Over time though, and through personal circumstances, we lost touch and I hadn't seen them for fifteen years. It was only a couple of months ago, through a boating forum, I found out that during those years their boat had been sold on twice but had unfortunately been lost in a fire about four years previously at a boatyard in Potter Heigham. It was thinking about all this which made me decide - while I was on my travels that day I would try to track Eileen and Ron down.

By this time the site was coming to life so I cleared away my breakfast things, put my table and chair back in the awning, then took Sophie and Sugar for a walk up to Lands End and back. After a shower and a quick tidy up I topped up the dogs' water container, put them in the back of the van, and hit the road - I was aiming to take photos of a couple of places I hadn't managed to photograph earlier in the week because of the dull weather. I started off at Winterton - there's a lovely row of houses there, set back from the road and looking really attractive with their painted walls and thatched roofs. I couldn't quite make my mind up if they were old houses done up or new houses made to look older, but whichever it was they looked very nice.

From there I went on to West Somerton, which is little more than a few cottages and a narrow backwater off the upper reaches of the River Thurne - it was one of those 'blink and you miss it' places, but nevertheless looked very attractive in the morning sunshine.

From West Somerton I drove on to Horsey, which was only a mile or so along the road. Although it was only a couple of months since I was last there, and I had got some good photos of the mill, this time was different and I was going to the beach. Now I don't know if Horsey beach is a well-kept Norfolk secret or I've just never spoken to the right locals before, but as many times as I've been to that area of Norfolk I didn't even know it existed until a few days previously. I had been down on the beach near the camp site with Sophie and Sugar when I got chatting to a local lady who was also walking her two dogs, and she had mentioned it. And when she said there are seals there it went straight on my list of places to visit. It isn't the easiest of places to get to though - you can only drive so far then you have to park up and walk a good mile along a track before reaching the dunes which separate the fields from the beach.

The dunes are high, with a concrete sand-covered ramp cutting through them and leading onto the beach - it wasn't easy walking up the slope as the sand was soft and quite deep, but as I emerged through the dunes onto the top of the beach I knew it was worth the effort. In front of me lay miles of unpopulated sand, backed by the dunes and broken up at the water's edge by groynes made up of large boulders. Now maybe I'd just happened to pick a day when it wasn't busy, maybe people don't go because of the walk involved, or maybe it really is a 'secret' beach, but there was only a handful of visitors there. And maybe I shouldn't be mentioning it here - if everyone knows about it then it won't be 'secret' any more!

The lady I'd spoken to on the beach at California had told me whereabouts the seals would be so that's where I headed for, but if I was expecting to see groups of them sunning themselves on the sand I was destined to be disappointed as there were none at all. However, there was about half a dozen of them swimming a hundred yards or so off the beach - I stood there for ages trying to get some shots of them but it wasn't easy. Every time one came into view I clicked the shutter, only to find that the seal had gone back under the water just as quickly and all I'd got was a photo of the sea. I got snouts, whiskers, and backs of heads - everything except a full seal, till I struck lucky and one popped up just long enough for me to get a reasonable shot.

While I was standing there I noticed a little to my left a group of five people in the water wearing wetsuits and with masks and snorkels - I don't know what they were doing but the seals didn't seem to be bothered about them and were actually swimming quite close to them. So that's another thing that's gone down on my list of things to do in the near future - get myself a wetsuit, go back to Horsey and swim near the seals!

Walking back along the beach with the dogs I began to feel quite peckish so I decided that rather than go any further afield I would pay a last visit to Lathams at Potter Heigham and have my final treat of coffee and cake. And that tied in nicely with my quest to track down Eileen and Ron, as the turn-off to Clippesby was on my way back from Potter Heigham to California. Now the last time I'd been to Clippesby was nearly sixteen years ago, and as I had always travelled in the back of Eileen's car I wasn't really sure of the route to their house. I remembered that at some point we had driven past the entrance to Clippesby Hall holiday site but other than that I hadn't a clue, so I thought I would just drive round the area in the hope that inspiration might strike.

There is really only one 'main' country road going through Clippesby and as I drove along I saw a sign pointing the way down another lane to Clippesby Hall, so I took that turn-off. A little way along, the lane turned to the right and the Clippesby Hall site was on the right - further down and to the left were a couple of cottages set back off the road down a private lane. I wondered if that was where I was looking for but as I went past the end of the lane there was nothing which looked familiar. As I drove on I passed a man walking a border collie on a lead, though I thought nothing of it and assumed he had come from the Clippesby Hall site. Further on the lane went round to the right but there was still nothing which looked familiar - there was a small hamlet of new houses, developed from old farm buildings, so I turned the van round there and retraced my route. The man with the Border Collie was still walking down the lane so I decided to stop and ask him for directions - and that was when I experienced one of the biggest coincidences of my life. As I pulled up at the side of him I recognised him as being the very person I was looking for! He didn't know who I was at first as I had my glasses on for driving, but as soon as I took them off he recognised me. And the cottages down the private lane was where he lived - things didn't look familiar to me because he had sold off some of his land, his own cottage had been extended and the gardens had been landscaped. I asked about Eileen and he told me she had suffered a stroke eight years previously but apart from needing to walk with a stick she was okay, though she didn't go out much. He said she didn't get many visitors so she would be pleased to see me if I wanted to go along to the house - and my dogs would be welcome too.

I parked the van on Ron's front driveway then let the dogs out to play with the collie who was called Joe, and Ron took me round the back of the house to meet Eileen. I was really surprised at how much things had changed - what had at one time been little more than a small two-up two-down place with a poky kitchen was now much larger, with a sizeable extension to the rear which housed a good-sized modern kitchen, and there was even a conservatory on the back. The 'waste land' which had previously been their back garden had been landscaped and had a nice long lawn, a patio, decking, raised flowerbeds and a turntable summerhouse down at the bottom end overlooking the open fields. Ron said the pony and the donkey had long since gone to other homes, but I didn't like to ask what had become of the ducks and chickens!

Eileen was sitting in the conservatory when Ron took me to see her; having been told she'd had a stroke I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but apart from her hair being grey - it had been jet black when I'd last seen her - she looked just the same as all those years ago, though maybe a little frail. She knew who I was straight away though, and was really surprised to see me after all this time. Ron made a brew and while the three dogs played together outside we sat and had a lovely chat. It was nice to see that the stroke hadn't robbed Eileen of her brainpower or her speech, and we spent a lovely couple of hours catching up on family news and reminiscing over the pets they'd had and the times we had all gone out on their boat. Eileen even solved my puzzlement over Stalham market - I had been right in thinking it used to be much larger than it is now, but the Tesco supermarket and petrol station had been built on the old market ground. No wonder I couldn't find it and I thought I was going potty!

It was really pleasant sitting in the sunshine in the conservatory and I could have stayed chatting for the rest of the day but all too soon it was time for me to leave, though I promised them both that now I've found them I will keep in touch, and also call to see them again next time I'm staying at California.

I thought about Eileen and Ron a lot that evening - I was so pleased that I had found them again after all this time and I went to bed with a smile on my face, thinking what a lovely end it had been to a lovely holiday.

Saturday August 21st 2010 - Barton Turf and a friend's visit

Waking up to yet another glorious morning I realised I didn't want to go home the following day - the weather was too good and I was enjoying myself too much. So after the dogs had been walked and I'd had breakfast I phoned my son back home to ask if he could look after my cats for an extra day - he said it was no problem so I went straight round to the site office to see of my pitch would still be available. I was in luck, it was, so I paid for another night and phoned my son back to tell him. If only I could afford to give up work - I don't think I would ever go home!

Not long afterwards I got a call from an old friend, Steve, who lives near Peterborough - he knew I was staying at California so said he would come down later that day for a visit. Although we keep in touch regularly by phone, text and email I hadn't actually seen him for quite some time, so I thought it would be nice to have a good 'catch up' and maybe a meal out. He said he wouldn't arrive till very late in the afternoon though so I still had plenty of time to do what I wanted with my day. Consulting my map book I decided to go to Barton Broad and the village of Barton Turf, which I had never been to before. "Want to go out again?" I asked the dogs - and the way they were jumping about with their tails wagging told me that was a definite "yes", so I put a supply of fresh water in the van, collected my camera and set off on my voyage of discovery for that day.

Barton Broad lies in a triangle between the A149, the A1151 and the A1062 and is on the River Ant, but try as I might I couldn't find it. I drove down several country lanes, some of them twice, and though I came across a couple of staithes off the river I couldn't find the broad itself, so I came to the conclusion that unless I'd missed something obvious it could only be reached by boat. I did find Barton Turf though - it's a lovely little village with some very pretty cottages, a village green and a pond. There's also a boatyard, a car park and the staithe where many different boats were moored. It's this staithe which leads to Barton Broad itself, and though I walked along the moorings as far as I could go I still didn't come to the open water. The staithe looked very attractive in the sunshine though, with all the boats moored peacefully in the tranquil water - there's something about boats and water which I find fascinating, they always make a good subject for photos so I was quite happy to spend some time wandering around with the dogs and the camera.

When I had seen just about everything there was to see I set off back for California, calling at Tesco in Stalham en route, to get some bread and a few other bits. Arriving back on my pitch I reversed the van and attached the awning - I had no intention of driving anywhere else that day - then got changed into something better than cycling shorts and t-shirt and settled down to await Steve's arrival. He rang me just after 5pm, he was parked on the lane approaching the site but wasn't sure where the entrance was so I said I would walk out to meet him while he was still on the phone - and when I got to the lane he was only a few yards away! Getting into the passenger seat I directed him round to my pitch and while he parked the car I put the kettle on. He was suitably impressed with my awning and admitted that it was a lot larger than he had first thought from my descriptions of it - and I don't think he could quite believe that I'd erected the thing all by myself! I made us both a coffee and we sat chatting and messing about on the laptop for well over an hour before we decided it was time to eat. And it wasn't hard deciding where to go - across the lane from the site, to the California Tavern, where they do very nice meals at very reasonable prices.

Being the height of the season the restaurant was very busy - many of the tables were occupied and all the ones which weren't had 'reserved' tickets on them - so we thought we would have to go somewhere else. However, I don't know whether it was because Steve is a well-heeled businessman and looks the part, or they didn't want to turn potential customers away, but a waitress came across, took the reserved sign off a cosy table for two in the corner, and seated us there. After getting a drink from the bar and studying the menu for quite a while we ordered our meal - it took a while for it to arrive but it was worth the wait and we both enjoyed it immensely.

Back in the awning I made another coffee and we settled in for an evening of chat and discussion, and a few reminiscences of years gone by. All too soon though it was time for Steve to drive home, but he accompanied me on my final walk round the site with the dogs and made sure I was safely back in my awning before he left. I told him it wasn't necessary as I've walked round that camp site many times in the dark over the years, but he insisted, which I thought was quite sweet. But then that's Steve - I've known him for thirty six years and he's always been considerate. Once he had gone and I was alone once more I settled the dogs on their beds and got into mine, wondering what the delights of the following day would bring.

Friday August 20th 2010 - Southwold and Walberswick

It was the third glorious morning in a row, and I decided to take myself off to Southwold and Walberswick down on the Suffolk coast. I've been to both places a couple of times previously, but being accompanied by someone else never really gave me the scope to explore as I would have liked so I thought it was time to rectify the matter. So with breakfast out of the way, the awning tidied and the dogs walked , I set out southwards. One advantage to having lived with someone who comes from down there is that I'm very familiar with many of the routes to and from various places, so avoiding most of the busy A12 I had a very pleasant drive along the quieter country roads and through some nice little villages. The only bit of the A12 I touched was a stretch of a few hundred yards which took me to the turn off to Walberswick.

The road down to Walberswick runs initially past vast fields containing hundreds of pigs and with little wooden 'piggy houses' dotted about the sandy soil, then past fields of crops bordered by high hedges, and through the village itself, finally ending in a large gravel-surfaced car park near the mouth of the river Blyth. I parked up and paid my car park fee, gave the dogs a drink, then headed off in the direction of the dunes and beach, with the dogs running free over the grass-covered shingle. Just off the river is a tidal creek spanned by a couple of wooden bridges - it's a very popular place for kids to go crabbing, and there were several of them on one of the bridges with their buckets of water, crab lines and various forms of foul-smelling bait. It's also the place where I once slipped and fell in the mud, but that's a completely different story!

Although I had been to Walberswick before I had never been to the beach so I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice it is. A wide expanse of firm flat sand was bordered by a shingle strip and backed by dunes and more sand. The sea was on the retreat and at one point the water was lapping the sand in ripples rather than waves - just right for taking Sophie for a swim, and as I was wearing cycling shorts and beach sandals I clipped on her lead and waded in up to my knees. She wasn't too keen at first but when she realised that the waves weren't going to drown her she swam quite happily on the end of the lead for a few minutes. Sugar was in her element, swimming round and doing her impersonation of an otter, she was loving it. After our paddle and swim we walked back along the beach and headed back towards the river, stopping briefly at the van for the dogs to have another drink.

 From the riverside at Walberswick there are two ways to get to Southwold - along the riverside path for about half a mile, cross the bridge and walk back down the other side, or go across on the ferry. I opted to get the ferry just for the experience as I had never used it before. Now the word 'ferry', for me at least, conjures up a picture of a reasonably-sized boat which will carry a fair few people, but the Walberswick ferry is nothing like that at all - it's a rowing boat, and carries no more than eleven passengers. It's operated by a local guy and currently costs 80p per trip, with dogs travelling free. There was already a small queue when I got to the jetty and when everyone else had boarded the boat it was full so I had to wait till the next trip, but it only takes a few minutes to go across and back so I didn't have long to wait. Being first in the boat on that trip meant I was last to get out and I managed to have a quick chat with the owner - he said that in good weather and at the height of the season he can do as many as sixty trips in a day - times that by eleven people at 80p each and that's a nice little earner. And all that rowing must be good exercise, he had arm muscles like Popeye on a spinach overload.

Leaving the jetty on the Southwold side of the river I walked along the rough, potholed lane past the boat sheds and the chandlery to a riverside cafe which I've been to before. There were a few tables and benches outside, so tying the dogs to one of these I went inside to order - and I didn't have coffee and cake this time, I had fish (said to have been freshly caught that morning) and chips. It was so pleasant sitting in the sun and watching the riverside activity while I had my meal that I was tempted to linger for a while, but my quest for more photos soon had me on my feet again. The boat sheds were a hive of activity when I passed, and there was a big tractor reversing an even bigger boat on a trailer into one of them - the boat was my favourite colour, red, and looked like something which could have been bought with a decent lottery win. Nearing the end of the lane I passed a field with some very comatose-looking cows lying in the sunshine - across in the distance the houses of Southwold encroached on the marsh and the fields, and the white body of the lighthouse rose up from the middle of the buildings.

After passing a caravan site and a car park I finally reached the beach, turned left - turning right would have resulted in a ten foot drop into the river - and walked along till I came to a row of brightly painted beach huts, which looked nicer at the back than they did at the front, and the lower level of the promenade. By this time the sky had clouded over somewhat to the north and I hoped the weather wasn't going to break down on me but it didn't - the clouds soon cleared and left behind a sky which, if anything, was bluer than before.

Taking one of several paths which traverse the cliff side I reached the upper promenade and headed in the direction of the pier, stopping every so often to take a photo. Now most seaside towns (well the ones I've been to anyway) usually have their piers roughly in the centre of the beach, but Southwold has to be different, and its pier is right at the northern end, so it was a fair distance to walk. About half way along the cliff top path is St. James Green, a popular spot for taking photos of the lighthouse. It's just about impossible to take a photo of just the lighthouse as it is literally surrounded by houses - I did try, but a gable end wall and a roof got in the way. And I couldn't resist taking a photo of the corner bungalow, I thought it was really cute.

After stopping several times to look at the view and take photos I finally reached my destination, the end of the promenade and Southwold pier. There's nothing much beyond the pier other than a boating lake and model yacht pond, so after taking a short breather I set off back the way I'd come.

When I got back to the river I decided that instead of going back across on the ferry I would walk all the way round and get some shots along the riverside. Further up the river a few boats were lying, partially tilted, on the mud, but most of them were afloat, tied up to the wooden jettys which spanned the deep gloopy mass. Some of the jettys had fallen into disrepair, with gates hanging off their hinges, handrails broken and missing, and holes in the boardwalk - I could just imagine one of the boat owners coming back from the pub on a dark night, missing his footing and falling off into the mud, getting stuck there while the river rises. I don't know if it's ever happened and I hope it never does.

The sun was still quite hot when I got back to the van so I treated myself to an ice cream from the nearby kiosk and gave the dogs a much needed drink before setting off for 'home'. On the way through the village I stopped to take some photos of the church - it's a lovely old Norman church built in the ruins of an even older church. There are quite a few churches like that in Norfolk and Suffolk and I love to look round them if I can.

Those were my last photos of the day, so with the dogs settled in the back of the van and a cd playing happy songs I drove back to California. After having a brew and a bite to eat I downloaded the photos onto my laptop and discarded the few I didn't want to keep. The dogs must have been tired from their day as they stayed on their beds all evening - it was much later when I took them for a final brief walk, then with a last brew I retired to my cosy bed to reflect on the lovely day I'd had and make a few plans for the following morning.

Thursday August 19th 2010 - Cromer

Well it was another glorious morning and another breakfast outside - I could quite easily get used to this al fresco dining if our British weather stayed nice enough for long enough. After coffee and toast and a quick tidy up in the awning - not that it was untidy anyway - I consulted the map book for ideas on where to go for my day. I did have thoughts of going to north Norfolk and the area round Blakeney, Wells and Holkham but felt it was a little too far, so I took the middle ground and opted for Cromer. I had only been there once before, several years ago, so felt it was time I paid a return visit. After a quick circular walk round the site with the dogs I put them in the back of the van, collected everything I needed for the day and set off. The route was very simple - from California through Ormesby and onto the A149, passing through Potter Heigham, Stalham and North Walsham and on into Cromer. At Stalham I did a slight detour and went to Tesco to get some diesel - running out of fuel miles from anywhere wasn't something I wanted to risk.

It was after I left Stalham that I rounded a bend and spotted a possible opportunity for a photograph - a vast straw-coloured field sloping gently upwards to the skyline and dotted with huge round bales of hay, or maybe straw. It just reminded me of an American prairie, though on a smaller scale. Now I may not have been driving that long but I have become quite proficient at whipping my large mpv round in relatively small laybys so that's what I did, and went back to take a couple of shots. After turning the van round a second time I continued on my way.

Arriving in Cromer I followed the signs through the town for the beach and promenade, but if I was hoping to park on the road by the promenade gardens I had no chance - it was Cromer Carnival Week, the place was heaving with visitors and every available parking space was occupied. I had to drive a distance up the road to where there was a big 'overflow' car park on the grassy cliff top and then walk back. Now the last time I went to Cromer I was struck with how picturesque the promenade gardens were and I got a few nice photographs, but this time things didn't look as nice - there was a distinct lack of flowers and plants and the fountain wasn't working, so I didn't feel it was worth taking any shots. I wandered over to the seaward side of the promenade instead and took a couple of shots overlooking the beach, then went to have a look round a few shops before going down onto the lower promenade and the beach itself.

Having the dogs with me meant that I could only window shop but maybe that was a good thing - it meant my money stayed in my pocket! Now maybe that's a novel way of saving money - take a dog with you when you go shopping and you won't go in anywhere and buy anything! Anyway, after looking round the shops I took a narrow alley heading in the direction of the sea and came out on an intermediate part of the promenade, overlooking a steeply sloping concrete slipway where several fishing boats on trailers were sitting at the bottom.

There was a cafe on the corner with tables outside, so I ordered coffee and cake and sat out in the sunshine to watch the world go by. Anyone would think I live off coffee and cake - I don't, in fact I very rarely eat cake at home and I drink tea rather than coffee, but I like to treat myself when I'm away and coffee and cake is my one indulgence. Maybe I should set myself a challenge - to eat my way round England, having coffee and cake in every place I visit! I might end up the size of a house with all the calories but I'd have fun doing it! Anyway, after satisfying the inner woman with chocolate fudge cake and cream I went down the nearby slope to the bottom level of the promenade and walked to where there was a row of beach huts at the far end.

On the way back I mentally counted all the old tractors used to pull the fishing boats up and down the beach - there were twenty, and with the exception of one which was a David Brown they were all Fordson Majors. Most of them looked very battered about, with rear wings missing, wheels pitted with rust, bonnets bent out of shape and front cowlings which were more hole than tinwork, but given the nature of their use none of that was surprising - these were workhorses, not show models.

After spending some time studying the tractors - yes, I know it's sad! - I walked up the slipway, turned left at the top and onto the cliff top path, heading back in the opposite direction. The path makes an uphill but very pleasant walk, bordered on one side by flowering bushes along the cliff edge and on the other by the fences of peoples' private back gardens. Where the houses end the path opens up into a large and very pleasant green area with a couple of benches where out-of-breath walkers can sit and recover from their exertions. I was heading for the lighthouse but it seemed to be further away than I first thought, so I decided to sit for a while and let the dogs explore their surroundings. And that was where my camera batteries gave up the ghost - for once I had no spares so being unable to take any more photos, and also conscious of the time I had left on my car park ticket, I thought I may as well head back to the van. The sky had clouded over a bit while I was down on the beach but it didn't last long and the sun had come out again warmer than before, so on my way back along the promenade I got myself a can of Coke from a little gift shop and drank it while I was walking along.

Back at the car park I got chatting to the couple whose car was parked next to mine - they had a cute, scruffy little terrier which I could quite easily have brought home - and I found out that from where I sat on the bench I wouldn't have needed to walk too much further along the cliff path before I came to the lighthouse. But being unable to take any more photos would have rendered the exercise pointless anyway, so I made a mental note of that for a return visit, settled the dogs safely in the back of the van, and headed back towards California. I didn't go back on the same route though, I decided to explore the coast south of Cromer to see if there would be any future photographic opportunities.

My first stop was Overstrand, a sprawling village on the outskirts of Cromer - in fact the only thing separating it from Cromer itself was a golf course. Following the signs for the beach I turned off the main road and down a lane which led past a few little shops and ended in a small car park on the cliff top. I don't know what I was expecting to see when I got there but as I drove into the car park I knew I wouldn't be staying long. Away from the main sprawl of the village there was nothing there - just a few little cottages set back from the end of the lane and a zigzag path leading down the cliff to the beach, which was just a long uninteresting stretch of sand divided by breakwaters and backed by a concrete 'promenade'. Even if my camera had been working I wouldn't have bothered taking any photos, so after less than ten minutes I got back in the van and drove on.

A few miles further on I passed RAF Trimingham with its white radar dome looking like a huge golf ball which had strayed from the course back in Cromer - it wasn't something I expected to see, and I thought it looked rather incongruous sitting like that in the middle of open countryside. The coast road eventually passed through Mundesley, which looked marginally more intriguing than Overstrand, and seeing a sign for a car park I thought it worth a look so I pulled in and parked up. Just by the car park entrance was a small gift shop and a nice looking cafe with tables outside, and just beyond the cafe was a pretty garden and a crazy golf course. Across the road were well-tended lawns with pretty flowerbeds near the edges and bench seats overlooking the sea. The lawns were divided by a sloping path leading down to the beach and on the right was a green and white shelter for people to sit out of the sun. A splash of colour down the road caught my eye and when I went to investigate I found another gift shop, larger than the first one and with various brightly coloured beach toys displayed in baskets outside the door. Next door to that was a bakery and another cafe, and a bit further along was The Ship pub with a large beer garden overlooking the sea and another path leading down to the beach. This was a really nice little place, with much more about it than Overstrand, and it was a pity my camera wasn't working. I suppose I could have got some batteries from one of the shops but ordinary ones don't last long so it wasn't worth it. However, Mundesley will still be there next time I stay at California so it will most certainly be on the list for a return visit.

Time was getting on by the time I had finished looking round and I still had quite a distance to go, so I gave the dogs a quick drink and set off once more. Just out of Mundesley the road went inland slightly before turning back towards the coast, and as I drove through Bacton I passed the huge power station which spanned both sides of the road. Situated where it was, in open countryside, it was a complete blot on an otherwise nice landscape - if I thought the Trimingham 'golf ball' looked odd then this was positively ugly. But then I suppose the people of north Norfolk have got to get their power supply from somewhere. Once through Bacton the road turned inland properly and took me back to Stalham, and from there it was less than half an hour back to California. After parking the van on my pitch I connected the awning, put up the blinds, and made a much needed brew and a sandwich. It had been a varied and enjoyable day with quite a lot of driving, now it was time to put my feet up and relax for the rest of the evening.