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

Friday April 29th 2011 - Beaumaris and beyond

I woke that morning to find that sometime during the night the weather gods had decided to provide some wind and it was now blowing a near enough gale, although the sun was shining, the sky was blue and it looked like it would be another nice day. I was in no real hurry to get up so I lay for a while planning my day and pondering on where to go. Beaumaris was a place I had been to many times before but I had never been in the castle, so I decided that would be my first port of call and after that I would take things as they came. So with the decision made, and the inside of the van getting warm in the sunshine, I got up, put some bread in the toaster and switched the kettle on for the first brew of the day. I would normally have taken the dogs out first but for once they didn't seem to be too fussed about going so I just put them on their line outside the awning and decided to make the beach the first stop on my way to Beaumaris.

It was mid morning by the time I was ready for going out; it was still very windy so I double checked all my guy lines and pegs first to make sure the awning was as secure as it could be before I left it - I didn't want to return and find that in my absence it had become airborne and disappeared over the hedge! When I got down to the beach I found that the sea, whipped up by the wind, was higher than I'd ever seen it before - at one end of the promenade the waves were crashing against the sea wall and sending showers of spray up and over onto the road. Not wanting to get the van drenched with sea water I drove along to where it was a bit calmer before parking up and taking the dogs down onto the sand - at least the curve of the bay meant that there was still a large expanse of beach which wasn't covered by the sea so we were able to have a decent, although a very bracing, walk.

Walking back to the van I got chatting to a local lady who was also walking her dog, and during the conversation I happened to mention an 'out of the way' beach I had been to about ten years before, but I couldn't remember where it was or how to find it - it turned out that she knew the beach I meant and she gave me directions to it, and as it was on the way to Beaumaris I decided to have a look there before going into the town itself. The route to the beach took me down a very narrow winding lane with an occasional passing place here and there - the lady I had been talking to warned me to be careful as the locals don't exactly drive slowly and I wouldn't know what I might meet round a bend, but I managed to drive all the way down without meeting any other vehicles. The lane ended practically on the beach, in a rough sandy area which could loosely be called a car park - there were just two other cars there and a horse box, with a couple of young girls and their ponies just getting ready for a ride out.

As I drove onto the sand I looked round for a ticket machine but couldn't see one so assumed I didn't have to pay; then I noticed that one of the cars, with its driver's door open, was occupied by a guy who was directing me into a place to park, so I thought he must be collecting payment. However, after I had parked up and gone over to speak to him it turned out that he was just an ordinary guy watching the world go by while waiting for a phone call, and he was only directing me so that I wouldn't drive into the soft sand and get stuck. We struck up a conversation and chatted for well over half an hour before I took the dogs for a walk along the beach.

The guy was still sitting in his car when I got back to the van so we chatted again for a while and he made friends with Sophie and Sugar. He was very interested and impressed with my van set up for camping, and when I said I liked photography he got out a map of Anglesey and showed me how to get to a couple of places I was interested in going to. He told me his name was Chris and that he lived on the island, and he even gave me his phone number so I could contact him if I fancied some company on one of my walkabouts - it was a nice idea but as I finally put the dogs back in the van and drove away from the beach I didn't think I would be pursuing it.

My next stop was Beaumaris, where I was lucky enough to find some free parking close to the castle instead of paying an all-day fee just for an hour or so at the sea front car park - and I was also lucky enough to be able to park under a big tree so the whole of the van was in the shade. I knew dogs weren't allowed in the castle so Sophie and Sugar would have to stay in the van, but the strong wind was taking most of the heat out of the sun so with the windows open and their fan on I knew they would be okay - and I didn't intend to linger in the castle anyway. So after paying the modest entrance fee at the counter in the gift shop I set out to explore, and I was quite surprised to find that the place was much bigger than I thought it was. And it was just the sort of castle which adventure stories are made of - with spiral stone staircases, hidey holes, and a maze of narrow passages built into the walls it would grab the imagination of anyone who had ever read Enid Blyton's Famous Five books. Adding in the great views over Beaumaris and towards the Snowdonia hills I found it to be a very fascinating place.

With my castle wanderings over I called into a nearby shop for a can of Coke and a KitKat then went back to the van to indulge before continuing my journey. I decided to search out a little spot at Menai Bridge which I had been to briefly several years previously - that was if I could remember where it was and how to get to it. My memory and sense of direction didn't let me down though and I found it without much trouble, although there were no available parking spaces so I had to use the car park behind a nearby pub. From the pub a short lane took me down to the shore - ahead of me a concrete slipway led down into the water, where several small fishing boats and private yachts were anchored in the calm water. The Menai Strait was at its narrowest there, and the shore on the mainland opposite looked so close it could have been within touching distance. To my left a short promenade ended at the entrance to what could loosely be called a pier, and to my right were some public gardens and a bowling green.

It was very pleasant wandering round the gardens but time was getting on and there was somewhere else I wanted to go to, so returning to the van I settled the dogs in the back and set off once more. This time I retraced my route back to Beaumaris and out the other side, following the coast till the road turned inland and after several twists and turns brought me to Penmon Priory. The old priory itself seemed rather a desolate place with its crumbling grey stone walls and narrow windows - one of those places which somehow never looks nice no matter how much the sun shines on it, although the adjoining church which is actually in use looked much better.  I hadn't gone to look at the priory though - a few yards from the graveyard entrance was a narrow grassy path, and this led to a quiet little grove where St. Seiriol's well was situated at the base of a limestone outcrop. The well itself, dated from the 6th Century, was shallow and square and surrounded by stone slabs, and the water was so absolutely crystal clear that it was like looking through a sheet of glass.

Leaving the van parked near the priory I headed off up the road towards Penmon Point, another place I had visited briefly several years previously. I could have driven there, but from just beyond the priory the road becomes a toll road and at that point there is no indication of the cost - the catch is that you pay the fee when you get to the other end, and if you don't like it then tough, you've already used the road to get there. I don't know how much the fee is, or what it's used for, but it certainly isn't to provide and maintain a car park as there isn't one - parking is on a rough, bumpy, pot-holed grassy area at the end of the road.

I couldn't remember how far away from the priory Penmon Point was, and at one stage I was beginning to think I would never get there, but then I reached the top of an incline in the road and there in front of me and down the hill was the Point, with Puffin Island just offshore.

There's not really anything there when you get to the end of the road, just a couple of whitewashed cottages and the rough land used for parking, but it's a nice enough place for anyone wanting to stop for a picnic. There was no need for me to go right to the very end so I just went far enough to take a couple of photos of the lighthouse and Puffin Island before I turned round and headed back in the direction of the priory.

It didn't seem to take as long to reach the priory as it had to get to Penmon Point, and once I'd given the dogs a good drink I settled them in the back of the van and headed for 'home' - it was early evening by then and I was more than ready for a good brew and something to eat, providing of course that my awning was still standing! There had been no let-up in the wind of all day but I needn't have worried, the awning was just as I'd left it, and I even had some neighbours. What had been a relatively empty field when I went out was now occupied by several tents and a couple of gazebos, with a group of kids playing ball in the middle. Well, the peace had been nice while it lasted! With the van reversed into place and the awning connected up I fed the dogs then set about making myself something to eat and drink, and apart from a brief late night dog walk round the opposite field and a check of the tent pegs and guy lines I didn't venture out again. I spent quite a while studying the map book to get some ideas for my next trip out, and when I finally went to bed I drifted off to sleep with the occasional rocking of the van as it was buffeted by the wind.

Thursday April 28th 2011 - Just call me Gypsy

Only two days after arriving home from Filey I was off on my travels again - this time it was my first visit of the season to Anglesey. I had left everything packed in the van after my Filey trip so all I needed to add was my clothes and food and I was on the road by 7am. The previous day my next-door neighbour had asked if I was changing my name to Gypsy -  I may as well, as I don't seem to be home much! Come to think of it, sometimes a simple life on the road and staying for a few days at various sites around the country seems very appealing - maybe if I can ever afford to give up work I'll give it a try.

The sun was shining and the journey was good with very little traffic on the road, and just before 9.30am I was pulling into the entrance of my favourite Anglesey site. I have never had a pitch on that site with electric before as the hook-up points are limited and on a first-come-first-served basis, but as I had my hook-up cable with me anyway I asked if one was available - there was, in fact I could actually have a choice of ten. Brilliant! The warden just told me to drive round the site and pick which one I wanted, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing I eventually chose a spot in a small quiet field with a view over the hedge in front of me of the bay and the mainland in the distance. There was only one motorhome in the far corner, other than that the field was empty - though how long it would stay like that was anybody's guess. The following day was royal wedding day and the start of another long bank holiday weekend, so I expected to have some neighbours before long.

It was a couple of hours before I'd finally got the awning up and pegged down and everything set out inside, and by the time I'd finished I was more than ready for a brew and a half hour or so relaxing in the sunshine. Then it was time to take the dogs for a walk, so grabbing my camera I took a photo of the view from my pitch then set off on a tour of the site and a walk to the beach via the path leading round the headland from the bottom of the site.

The tide was a good distance out from the shore, and as the dog ban didn't come into force for another couple of days I was able to take Sophie and Sugar right across the main beach to the water's edge, where we walked along a good way towards Red Wharf Bay before turning round and retracing our steps.

Back at the site I spent the rest of the afternoon and the early evening sitting in the sun outside the awning, then when things started to cool down I retreated inside, put the fan heater on low, and settled down to watch a bit of tv. By 9.30pm though my early morning start was beginning to take its toll, so after taking the dogs for a final brief walk round the site I settled them on their beds in the awning and retreated to mine in the van. The day's weather had been glorious, and if it continued the same way over the next few days I could see I was in for a lovely break.

Tuesday April 26th 2011 - Going home day

I woke that morning to a very overcast sky; for once the sun had deserted me, but then so had the wind - the previous night's gale had reduced itself to a gentle breeze, which I was quite thankful for as I didn't fancy taking down the awning in a high wind. I lay for a while not wanting to get up - my bed was cosy, the awning had survived, and I'd had a great few days which I would have liked to extend, but work commitments that evening meant I had no choice but to go home. The first job was to take the dogs out, and as soon as I pulled back the van door they were off their beds and waiting to go. I didn't take them far, just down the lane to the golf course and back; a longer walk would come later.

I wasn't in a hurry to leave though so I was able to dine at leisure before I had to start packing things away. I left the bed made up as I needed it for another long weekend in a couple of days time, so it was a relatively simple matter to pack the small stuff underneath it and the larger things on top. It didn't take too long, and when I only had the awning to take down I transferred the dogs and their beds to the back of the van so they wouldn't be in the way while I dealt with it. I think the worst thing about taking the awning down is getting all the pegs out, especially when they've been hammered into hard ground - it took a while but I got them all out at last, then it was a relatively easy job to remove all the poles, fold it up and get it back into its bag. With that done, and my pitch checked for stray tent pegs, it was time to take the dogs for a really good walk before I left for home.

Going down the lane from the site I went past the golf club entrance and followed the path to the cliff top, then took the steps down through the nearby glen to the promenade. I walked all the way along to Coble Landing at the far end then came back along the beach so the dogs could have a good run - and when we returned to the van they were quite happy to settle down on their beds for the journey back home. The clouds had gradually been lifting while I was out, and as I pulled out of the site entrance for the last time the sun finally decided to shine, making the drive back very pleasant. My stay at Centenary Way had been a good one - the site was nice, the weather had been perfect and I had been to some lovely places, and I certainly wouldn't hesitate to make a return visit in the not-too-distant future.

Monday April 25th 2011 - Part 2 - Sandsend and Staithes

After giving Sophie and Sugar a much needed drink of water I loaded them back into the van and set off on the next part of my day. Leaving Whitby behind I drove up to Sandsend, a little village just two-and-a-half miles along the coast. I had passed through there a few years previously and had been quite taken with what a nice little place it was, but I hadn't had the opportunity to stop at the time - well now was my chance. Finding a convenient parking space off the road just before the village itself I clipped the leads on the dogs and set off to see what I could find.

A wide grass verge and steep concrete bank separated the road from the beach, and a few hundred yards down the road a small cafe with outside tables was set back off the pavement. Not far from the cafe the beach was split by the water from a very shallow river which came from somewhere inland and flowed across the sand on its way to the sea. Beyond that a gently curving promenade was backed by a row of private houses, and in the distance I could see what looked to be a car park right at the end. The beach itself seemed to be very popular and there was a plethora of stripey windbreaks and beach tents scattered around, with various families enjoying the sunshine.

By the time I had walked down as far as the cafe I was ready for another coffee so I selected a vacant outside table, hitched the dogs to the nearby rail and went inside to order - and for once I did only have coffee. Having had the apple pie in Whitby it would have been just too much to have cake this time round so I managed to resist the temptation. Anyway, I had my waistline to think of, so coffee on its own was quite sufficient just then.

With my thirst quenched and the dogs eager to go I left the cafe behind and continued my exploration. Just beyond the cafe the coast road turned inland for a couple of hundred yards, following the river estuary and passing a couple of rows of quaint cottages and a pub before crossing over a narrow stone bridge and coming back down the far side of the river to join the promenade, where a wooden shack on the corner was set up as a beach shop with a colourful display of windbreaks, inflatables, buckets and spades and beach balls outside. The end of the river was a hive of activity with some kids paddling or floating in the shallow water in inflatable dinghies while others made sandcastles or flew kites while their families relaxed on the sand. It all made for a very colourful scene and I took several photos before continuing along the promenade on the far side.

My walk took me past several houses set back off the road with steps leading up their steep front gardens, a row of cottages at promenade level, a small general store/gift shop, and a hotel and a couple of bed-and-breakfast places, before the road turned inland again and crossed another narrow river before disappearing up a sharp incline to the right. On the corner was a small cafe and a car park, and this was as far as I went before turning round and retracing my route back to the van - anything beyond that corner would be seen soon enough as my next port of call was Staithes, a little fishing village a few miles further up the coast, and that's the way I would be going.

Another drink of water for the dogs and I was on the move again, following the winding road through two or three small villages before arriving at Staithes, about seven miles north of Sandsend. Turning down a lane off the main road I came to a car park set back about halfway down the steep hill, so leaving the van there I collected the dogs yet again and set out to explore for the third time that day. The main 'road' down through the village was steep and narrow with even narrower streets and alleys leading off it - red roofed and white walled cottages were built at different levels, and in several alleys there was evidence of the fishing trade which went on in the village.

Down at the bottom of the hill a cobbled street with a handful of shops and a pub led to the harbourside, another pub and a small beach. The tide was out so most of the small fishing boats were beached on the wet sand but there was a handful still surrounded by water. Taking a detour down a narrow alley brought me to a bridge across the river which flowed into the harbour, and over on the far side were more quaint cottages. By the time I had wandered round a bit more and taken a few more photos it was getting on for 6pm, and as I had quite a distance to drive back to Filey I decided to call it a day and head back to the van. I hadn't explored every nook and cranny of the village, but Staithes wasn't suddenly going to disappear into thin air anytime so I could always make a return visit sometime in the future.

It took me about an hour to drive back to Centenary Way and I got quite a surprise when I arrived back at my awning - although there had been a bit of a breeze all the time I had been out it had been nothing compared to the howling gale which was now blowing across the site, even though it was still sunny. Speaking to the family on the next pitch it seemed that the wind had started not long after I had gone out in the morning and they had actually been keeping an eye on my awning for me, but it had stood strong against the battering it got. After reversing the van into place and connecting the awning to it I went round and checked all the guy ropes and the pegging points, then satisfied that nothing could work loose I made a brew and a sandwich and prepared to settle in for the evening with my book. When ten o'clock came and I could hardly keep my eyes open I took the dogs for a final brief walk round the site then took myself off to bed - and in spite of the noise of the awning sides flapping and the motion of the van as it rocked in the wind it didn't take long before I was dead to the world.

Monday April 25th 2011 - Part 1 - Wandering round Whitby

Another sunny morning dawned, and after the usual dog walk and breakfast I sat down with the map book to plan my day. Not sure whether to stick to the coast or venture somewhere inland I finally decided on a drive to Whitby. I had only had one brief visit there, about four years previously, and the weather hadn't been particularly good on that occasion so it would be nice to see the place in the sunshine. So with the breakfast things washed and the dogs' water container refilled, I disconnected the awning from the van, loaded the dogs in the back, and set off on another day of exploration.

The drive up to Whitby was uneventful and very pleasant - I wasn't sure where I would be able to park when I got there but following the relevant signs brought me to a big car park by the side of the marina, and though the first part of it was full there was plenty of space in the other part. After paying for my ticket and giving the dogs a drink I slung my camera round my neck and set off in pursuit of something to photograph. The marina was absolutely full of boats of all different sizes and colours moored alongside various jetties, some of them two and three abreast - across the far side were terraces of tall and narrow red-roofed houses, and high on the hill behind the old town the ruined abbey stood tall against the backdrop of the blue sky. The abbey would be my next port of call, so after taking a few photos from the far side of the marina I found an alleyway signposted in that direction and set off on the climb up the hillside path.

As I got almost to the top of the hill I came across a lovely little skewbald foal with its mother and I couldn't resist stopping to take a few shots of them. Then it was on a bit further and to the abbey itself - unfortunately dogs are only allowed in certain areas so I wasn't able to explore the ruins, but I was able to see most of what I wanted by walking round the perimeter wall and the adjoining gardens.

Next door to the abbey was St Mary's church and graveyard, and though several people were wandering round looking at the gravestones it wasn't something I was particularly interested in doing so I decided to make my way down to the harbour via the famous 199 steps - and given the steepness of the hill and the red faces of people who passed me I was glad I was going down and not up! The view was good though - rows of colour-washed cottages with red roofs were built into the hillside at varying intervals, and beyond them I could see one wall of the outer harbour and the end of the promenade, above which were cliff top gardens and a big white-walled hotel. At the bottom of the steps cobbled streets and narrow alleyways were filled with quaint little shops and cafes, and following one of these streets brought me out at the harbourside. To my right was a small quiet beach where a handful of people were enjoying the sunshine, and in front of me a few private yachts sailed silently through calm waters on their way into or out of the harbour.

Making my way to the swing bridge which carries the main road from the old town to the 'new' town I crossed over to the other side of the harbour and found it to be in complete contrast to the old side. Although the streets of the old town were busy with tourists there was still a calm and quiet air about the place - here on the new side was commercialism, with gift shops, cafes, pubs and amusement arcades along the whole length of the quayside promenade, and all the hustle and bustle which goes with such places. About halfway along was the Magpie Cafe which is famous for its fish and chips - testament to that was the length of the queue, which came from the cafe door and snaked for many yards back along the pavement. I wouldn't have liked to be at the back of that lot - by the time I got to the front I think any hunger would have deserted me!

At the far end of the promenade was a small round whitewashed building topped with a conical roof and with numerous colourful buckets, spades, windmills and inflatables for sale outside, and next to this was a small enclosure with a handful of brightly coloured childrens rides. The promenade turned a corner at this point and ended in a large open area with tables set outside a couple of cafes, and a surrounding stone wall broken by a concrete ramp leading down to a nice beach. By this time my breakfast was a long-distant memory and I was feeling quite peckish, so after taking a few photos I hitched the dogs to a railing close to the door of the Beachside Cafe and went inside to see what was on offer. Opting for apple pie and cream rather than cake, and a latte coffee, I went to sit at a table near the door so I could keep an eye on Sophie and Sugar while I satisfied my hunger.

With my thirst quenched and the apple pie well and truly demolished I decided to walk out along the nearest of the twin stone-built piers which form the entrance to the outer harbour. Bench seats were set back-to-back in groups of four along its length and towards the end was an old tall and narrow stone-built lighthouse, an almost-twin to the one on the opposite pier. At 83ft high it hasn't operated as a lighthouse for many years, though it does display a green light as a navigational aid which can be seen from a distance of ten miles. Unlike the lighthouse on the opposite pier this one is open to the public during spring and summer months, but having the dogs with me meant I was unable to go in. However, after chatting to the very nice man who was sitting near the door and taking the modest entrance fee I was able to go in while he looked after Sophie and Sugar for me. The narrow stone staircase wound its way upwards in a very tight spiral, and meeting someone coming down meant squeezing past each other sideways. There were seventy five steps in all - I counted them going up and again on the way down to double-check - and a narrow doorway at the top opened onto a narrow balcony which ran all the way round the tower. Not to be recommended for anyone with an aversion to heights and small spaces, but the view was worth the climb. Looking back, most of Whitby was spread out in front of me; to my right I could see the beach at Sandsend about three miles along the coast and to my left was the opposite pier and the cliff top on which stood the abbey and St. Mary's church. I spent quite a while taking in the view before making my way back down again to collect Sophie and Sugar from their temporary dog minder.

Walking back along the pier and onto the promenade I turned off behind the shops and followed the winding road which led up to the cliff top where the big white hotel was situated. There were some lovely lawned areas traversed with paths and with plenty of bench seats in various places, so after taking a few more photos I sat for a while in the sunshine while I took in the view across the harbour to the old town and the abbey on the headland.

Checking the time on my phone told me it was only 2.30pm and I still had several hours to play with, so I decided to make my way back to the van and drive a bit further north. I had found Whitby to be a surprising and very lovely place, but with the weather being so good I didn't want to pass up the chance to see what other delights I could find along the coast.