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 April 11th 2011 - Packing up and mopping up

After a night of dreamless sleep the birdsong symphony penetrated my brain just after 6am that morning - with one eye registering the time displayed on my mobile I decided it was far too early to get up, and as the dogs were still sound asleep in their side of the tent I rolled over and dozed off again. When I woke properly a couple of hours later the noise of the birds had been replaced by the noise of rain on top of the tent. I couldn't believe it -  after two absolutely brilliant days sod's law had decided it would rain when I had to pack up to come home! I wasn't in too much of a rush though so I retreated back to bed with my breakfast and a magazine in the hope that it would be fine by the time I had to take the tent down. Unfortunately it wasn't; if anything it was raining harder than before and I had to face facts - I was going to get rather damp.

After taking the dogs for a walk down the lane I put them in the back of the van out of the way and started the packing up process. Luckily I was able to transfer all my stuff from the tent to the van without anything getting wet, but the same couldn't be said for the tent itself, which ended up with a veritable paddling pool inside it. I had rolled up the door to stop it from getting in the way as I was going in and out and the rain had run down from the top of the tent and collected in the roll, eventually pouring out of both ends straight into the inside. Fortunately by then I had already removed the bedroom pods and most of my stuff so nothing got wet, it just meant I had a fair bit of mopping up to do. In the absence of a mop and bucket I had to use a towel and keep wringing it out - it took a few goes but eventually I got rid of all the water and I was ready for taking the tent down. That didn't take long, and by the time I'd got it in the van and checked the pitch for stray tent pegs the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to come through - typical!

With everything packed up I let the dogs out of the van, locked up and went across to join Colin and Joan - they were going for a pub snack before leaving for home and I thought I may as well go with them. Eileen and her family had already left the site, as had Lance and Dave, so there was just the three of us and the three dogs. We passed a pleasant hour in what had become our usual corner of the pub, but all too soon it was time to leave and hit the road for home. By then the sun was shining again properly and it was as if the rain had never happened, so it was with great reluctance that I settled the dogs back in the van and drove off the site. This had been my first visit to that area of the Lake District and the glorious weather had shown it at it's best - the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, and as I drove along the lane in the direction of the main coast road I knew I would be returning before long.

Sunday April 10th 2011 - Eskdale to Ravenglass, and a mad half hour

I woke just before 6am that morning to a cacophany of birdsong coming from the surrounding trees - I've heard the dawn chorus on many occasions but this was more like a full symphony orchestra. I don't remember ever hearing anything as loud before, there must have been hundreds of birds in those trees. I lay there listening to the many different tweets and chirps but apart from the obvious wood pigeons and blackbirds I couldn't identify any other particular type of bird - I know several different ones to look at but I wouldn't know what they sound like. Eventually I dozed off back to sleep, and when I woke properly an hour or so later the noise had subsided to just the odd tweet and chirp here and there. It was still too early to do much though so I made a quick brew and retreated back to bed with the previous day's paper which I hadn't got round to reading.

When I finally got up properly Sophie and Sugar were ready to go out, so walking them was the first priority. I didn't go far, just round the site - a longer walk would come later - and when I got back to the tent I made breakfast of tea, toast and marmalade which I ate sitting in the sun outside the tent while the dogs lay in the shade of the van. Studying the timetable for the railway I decided I would get the 11.50 train, which would leave me plenty of time to look round more of the surrounding area first. Colin had previously told me about a footpath off the lane, which led to the river from where I could take another path which would bring me out a mile or so further up the lane, so after having a brief chat with him and Joan I collected the dogs and my camera and set off to explore.

The path Colin had mentioned was more of a farm track with some old barns converted into holiday lets, and once I was away from the main lane I was able to let the dogs off their leads so they could explore as they wanted. At the end of the lane was a lovely little church with a well kept graveyard, a small parking area just by the riverside, and a grassy bank full of daffodils bordering the dry stone wall. I lingered for a while by the river, but when the church bell began ringing for the 11am service I thought I had better make my way back to the campsite, not taking the path which Colin had suggested but another one which brought me back onto the lane not too far from where I had started.

Back at the tent I just had time to give the dogs a drink and grab some money before setting out on the ten minute walk along the lane to the station. There are four miniature steam locos currently in regular service and on this occasion it was the newest of these, the Northern Rock, which was waiting by the station platform. It's a very popular railway and all the open carriages were already full so I had to get into a covered one, but at least the dogs and I had it to ourselves. This was the dogs' first train journey and I wasn't sure how they would react but I needn't have worried - I fastened their leads to the seat to prevent them from jumping out of the open sides, and once they had got used to clattering noise and the rocking they soon settled down, Sugar up on the seat beside me and Sophie lying on the carriage floor in the sunshine.

The seven mile journey to Ravenglass was lovely, although a bit draughty when in the shade, and passed first through an area of woodland before hitting open countryside, then another wooded area where we stopped briefly to allow another train to pass, then finally the open land of tidal Barrow Marsh, before ending at Ravenglass station.

Just outside the station a sign pointed the way to the shore so I headed through the village in that direction. I don't know what I was expecting to see when I got there, but there wasn't really a lot. The village is set on a large estuary and the tide was out, so there was nothing more than a vast expanse of sand with a river running through the middle and a beached sailing catamaran and a couple fishing dinghies leaning crazily to one side. Up ahead the West Coast main rail line crossed over the estuary with a footbridge running alongside so I decided to go that way and walk a little way along the shore on the far side of the river. I hadn't gone far along the other side when I came to a caravan site and a lane leading up from the shore, so thinking to make a circular route back to the village I headed up there.......and walked, and walked, and walked. There was no turn off as I expected so I kept going till I reached the main coast road, and when I finally got there I was a long way from Ravenglass! Going back the way I had come seemed pretty pointless, so as time didn't really matter anyway I just set off along the road. And at least it did give me the opportunity to take a couple of photos en route, which I wouldn't otherwise have done.

The road back down into the village took me into the station at the opposite end to where I'd gone out, and as I approached the platform I caught sight of an old tractor behind the station buildings - closer inspection revealed an enclosed well-mown plot of land which housed what I took to be a private collection of vintage tractors and farm machinery. I would have loved to get in there and have a proper look at them all but I had to content myself with snapping a few photos through the trees - maybe if I go there again I'll see if I can find the owner and ask if I can look round.

My long walk in the hot sunshine had given me a raging thirst so I made my way over to the station cafe, got myself a coffee and a slice of fruit cake, and sat on a wall while I waited for the next train. This time I was able to get an open carriage, and with the dogs' leads again tied to the seat I settled back to enjoy the return ride to Eskdale. It was only 3.30pm by the time I got off the train back at Dalegarth station, and a long while till I got a proper meal - I was going to the pub later with Colin and Joan and the others - so as part of my 'eat my way round England' plan I went in the cafe and had another coffee and a delicious piece of toffee cake before going back to the camp site.

Back at the tent I put Sophie and Sugar on their beds in their side while I went for a chat with Colin and Joan - when I went back a while later to check on the dogs they were both absolutely dead to the world; the long walk must have really tired them out. Sugar was lying half on and half off her bed and she was so still I had to look twice to make sure she was still breathing!

It was just after 6pm when we all headed for the village pub and our evening meal - with seven adults, two kids and five dogs between us it crossed my mind that the locals might think they were being invaded! All the dogs and kids were very well behaved though and we had a very enjoyable meal - afterwards we all went outside and while the rest of the group sat round a table on the patio Colin and I went down to the play area with Ruth and James. At first I was just watching them playing but then some little invisible devil on my shoulder prompted me to join in - and so began one of the maddest half hours I've had in a long while. First I went up the climbing frame and down the slide, then I tried the mouse swing, the other slide and the rope swing and finally wriggled through the tunnel at almost ground level. Then it was the dogs' turn to go through the tunnel and down the slide sitting in Ruth's lap, and somewhere along the line I ended up with my head and hands in the stocks while Colin took a photo. Finally the kids and I did the egg and spoon race - the 'eggs' being pool balls - over an obstacle course which consisted of stepping through the swings, up the climbing frame and down the slide, and up and over several tables and benches. I don't know who won - I don't think anyone was really counting - but it was darned good fun. Now I've always said that having kids gives you an excuse to act like one, but as I don't have any young kids what's my excuse??

The daylight had faded by the time we left the pub and as there are no street lights in the village we had to walk back to the camp site by torch light. Back at the tent I fed the dogs and took them for a brief walk round the site, then put them on their beds in their side of the tent while I went across to join Colin and the other adults for a drink. The conversation started off on a normal level but as the evening progressed Dave's observational humour came to the fore and it wasn't long before there was more laughter than proper conversation. He's a very funny guy and would give many of today's comedians a run for their money - I haven't laughed so much in ages, and when the 'party' finally broke up I went back to my tent with my sides aching. I had enjoyed myself immensely and it had been a great end to a great day.

Saturday April 9th 2011 - First camp of the season

It was a glorious morning as I left home at 7am for my first camping weekend of the season. I was off to Eskdale in the Western Lake District, and if the weather was as nice up there as it had been at home for the last couple of weeks I was in for a good weekend. I had originally booked for just one night but had managed to do my Monday morning's work the previous evening, meaning I could stay for a second night and not come home till Monday afternoon. Well, who wants to work when camping is an alternative??

So with the dogs safely in the back of the van and the radio to sing along to I headed up the road in the direction of the M6 motorway. At that time in the morning there wasn't much traffic about and it was an easy drive up to junction 36, where I turned off onto the A590. From there I had two ways of getting to Eskdale - the shorter route took me up past Windermere then over the Cumbrian Mountains by way of Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass, which was a narrow single-track road with steep hairpin bends and sharp drops in various places and not for the faint-hearted, and the longer route which meandered along near the coast. Playing it safe and deciding that I wanted to keep the van, the dogs and myself intact I chose the longer route - and was quite surprised that what is actually classed as an A road is really nothing more than a B road with a few wider stretches along it. The drive was very pleasant, albeit very long, and I was just beginning to think I would never get to where I was going when I finally saw a sign for Eskdale, pointing the way down a narrow country lane. Another few miles brought me to the site itself, and as I drove in through the entrance I saw Colin and Joan, who I had got to know through UKCS and who I was meeting up with, waving to me from outside their tent. After booking in at reception and being shown to my pitch I went across and joined them for a much-needed coffee and a bacon sandwich, then took the dogs on a quick exploration of the site before setting up my tent. The sun was quite hot, and though I had started out in tracksuit pants and trainers the effort of setting up the tent and my gear in the sunshine made me so warm that I ended up in cycling shorts and beach sandals. If this was going to be the weekend's weather then I wasn't complaining!

With the tent and everything else finally set up, and eager to take some photos, I grabbed my camera, clipped the leads on the dogs, and set off to explore my surroundings. The site itself was lovely - a narrow roadway cut through the centre from the entrance up to the reception and facilities block, with grass pitches on each side. The pitches on both sides were backed by a line of tall trees; at the end was a group of wooden camping pods and behind the trees on the right a stream ran through the site. And the whole place was surrounded by mountains and lovely scenery - certainly worth the long drive to get there.

A few hundred yards back down the lane from the site entrance was Dalegarth Station, where the Eskdale/Ravenglass miniature railway started from. I had every intention of experiencing a train ride at some point during my weekend so I headed down there to have a look round and pick up a timetable. There was a nice cafe and gift shop there, and looking round inside my eye was caught by a small brightly patterned bag which would just fit my camera, money,keys and phone while I was out on my wanderings - the price was quite reasonable too, so once I had finished looking round outside I went back and treated myself before making my way back to the camp site.

Back at the site I put the dogs in the shade of the van then went across to chat to Eileen, another UKCS member, and her family, then spent some time with Colin and Joan and their friends Lance and Dave. Sugar must have been feeling rather left out back at the van as she started barking and wouldn't quieten down - very unusual for her as she is normally very quiet - so as I didn't want her to annoy other campers I ended up taking her and Sophie for another walk off site. From the entrance I walked a little way up the lane in the opposite direction to earlier and took a few photos, then went back past the camp site and followed a footpath which led to the village.

The village of Boot is a lovely little place consisting of one lane with no more than a dozen cottages and a pub, a very narrow pack horse bridge over the river and an old water mill at the end. It was a pity that both the side of the pub and one of the cottages had scaffolding up as it rather spoiled what would otherwise have been a lovely photo. The water mill was attended by one of the villagers and was actually working, and for a small donation he would have shown me round, but I didn't have any money with me just then so I had to be content with just looking round the adjoining shop. And what a quaint, old fashioned place it was - one corner served as the village library, while the rest was given over to a hotch-potch of old and second-hand items with a few new information leaflets and jars of home-made jam thrown in. It was a fascinating place and I could quite easily have spent some time browsing round but I had left the dogs outside so I didn't stay long.

From there I went back across the bridge, stopping to take a couple of photos of the river as it flowed down past the mill, then finding a footpath off the lane I wound my way uphill where the river tumbled down over the many rocks and boulders in its path, and eventually arrived at the top end of the camp site where I made my way back down to my tent.

Back at base I made a couple of sandwiches and a brew and spent some time relaxing with a magazine before going across to join Colin and Joan. They were going to the pub later on and invited me to join them; at first I said no, but Colin assured me that the dogs would be made welcome if I wanted to take them, and also the landlord was originally from my home town, so eventually I agreed. We set off just before the light faded, with Colin and Joan taking their own dog Meg; when we arrived at the pub Colin introduced me to the very friendly landlord, Shaun, and we passed a very pleasant couple of hours over a few drinks - well, Coke in my case. When we finally got back to the camp site we said our goodnights, and after settling Sophie and Sugar on their beds in their side of the tent I snuggled into mine. It had been a lovely first day in a lovely place, made even better by the fantastic weather, and most definitely well worth the long drive to get there.