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

Sunday May 22nd 2011 - Narrowboat on the canal

It was late when I woke that morning - 10am, which is very late for me when I'm camping. I had actually opened one eye and checked the time round about 7am but I was in no rush to get up and the dogs were quiet so I had drifted off back to sleep again, and it was only voices in close proximity to the tent which eventually penetrated my brain enough to wake me up. I lay there for a few minutes just listening to the sounds around me - John next door talking to someone, a car door closing and an engine starting up, then a voice calling goodbye as the car drove past. It seemed like some campers were already leaving for home, and when I finally got up and looked out of the tent door I saw that two tents across the field had already gone and most of the other UKCS members were in the process of packing up. I was in no rush to go home though and fully intended to make the most of the day so I wouldn't be leaving till the evening.

After a long overdue breakfast I took the dogs for a good walk off the site - there was a path at the far end of the field which led to a bridge across a narrow river and onto the nearby rail trail - I had a choice of going left or right, I opted for left and had a very pleasant walk along the tree-lined path for a good twenty minutes before turning round and heading back to the site. I hadn't been back at the tent long before a couple of UKCS members came to say their goodbyes, and looking across the field I could see that Lina's owner Ali and her family were near enough ready for leaving so I went across to say goodbye to them and give little Lina a final pat. While I was over there I got chatting to another camper who told me about a little place on a canal several miles away where you could have a free trip on a narrowboat - the weather, although windy, was also very sunny so as I have a 'thing' about boats and water I decided that would make a nice afternoon out. A quick study of the map book showed me where I needed to go to and how to get there, so with the dogs in the back of the van and their water container filled up I set off in search of a free boat trip.

My journey took me along the A1079 in the direction of York, then on the outskirts of Pocklington I turned down a little country lane and headed for the village of Melbourne which is where the boat trips went from. About halfway along the road through the village was a pub with a car park and a sign pointing the way to the boats down a nearby single track lane - a notice under the sign said that the car park could be used by people taking boat trips so I pulled in and parked up, clipped the leads on the dogs and went off in search of a narrowboat. The lane led down past a row of cottages and bungalows on one side and a field bordered by a hedge on the other and ended in a tree-shaded backwater off the canal, with several narrowboats moored stern-on to the bank on one side and a small car park for the use of boat owners. The trip boat, New Horizons, was moored on the opposite bank so I made my way round there, but apart from a couple of guys standing chatting in the stern of the boat there was no-one else around and no sign that the boat was going to go anywhere. An information board a few yards along the canal bank told me that the trips took approximately half an hour and didn't leave at any set time - talking to one of the guys afterwards confirmed that the boat only went out when there was enough people to make it worthwhile so he suggested that I went back in twenty minutes or so, which I didn't mind as I was quite happy to wander about with the camera.

Walking back to the top of the lane I turned right and went along the road through the village, passing an eclectic mix of bungalows, old cottages and newer semis and detached properties - but as nice as the village was I wouldn't personally have wanted to live there as there was absolutely nothing there. No village green, no duckpond, nothing you would normally associate with a country village - there was just one shop, and even that was closed! I turned round at the shop and headed back in the direction of the canal, and that's when I found something which made the walk worthwhile - through the gap between two houses I could see what appeared to be a church spire, and on further investigation I found, set back in a large garden at the head of a cul-de-sac, a lovely little church building with grey-painted bargeboard walls, mullioned widows, fancy fascias and a crested ridge above a corrugated sheet iron roof. The style of the building looked very much like something you would see in America's New England, rather unusual I thought for this country, though judging by the climbing frame in the garden and the double detached garage it was no longer a church but a private house - nevertheless, it was worth a couple of photos. Later research told me it was indeed a private dwelling but it had originally been St. Monica's church.

From there I took the lane back to the canal and I was rather disappointed to see that there was still no-one else waiting for a boat trip so it looked like I was going to be out of luck, however one of the guys told me to climb aboard and they would take me anyway - and just as I got settled in the front of the boat with the dogs three more people arrived so it made it more worthwhile. After casting off the boat moved slowly down the backwater and turned onto the main canal where we moved along at a leisurely pace for quarter of an hour before turning round and heading back to the mooring. The guy inside the boat was a mine of information regarding the history of the canal and all the flora and fauna in and around it so it was a very pleasant trip and well worth giving a voluntary donation to help with the upkeep of the boat. It was just a shame that the sky had suddenly decided to cloud over somewhat during the trip so I didn't manage to get any really decent photos, but it had still been a good experience.

Back on dry land I made my way back up the lane to the van and set off on the drive back to the camp site - it was only 3.30pm but I wanted time to have a brew and something to eat before I started packing up to go home. And Murphy's law decreed that once I was in the van and heading back to the site the sun came out again and stayed out for the rest of the day - typical! However, I was quite unprepared for what I was to find when I did arrive back at my tent - it was the only one left on the site, and though it looked fine on the outside the inside was a scene of total devastation. Both my tables had been overturned, the fridge was face down on the floor and everything that had been on the tables was also on the floor, including the washing up bowl which had been half full of water that had now saturated the carpet and formed a pool in the living area. It looked like I'd been targeted by vandals but I realised that the wind, which had become stronger while I was out, must have blown the back of the tent inwards, catching the nearby tables and up-ending them, sending everything onto the floor.

So bang went my idea of a brew and a sandwich, I had some serious clearing up to do first. Disconnecting the fridge and the kettle I put them in the bedroom out of the way, put the tables outside then picked up the carpet - the front half of it was saturated and I could only hope that by spreading it out in the sunshine it would dry out before I went home. So out on the grass it went, held down at one corner by my peg box and some breeze blocks, purloined from the nearby greenhouse, on the other corners. Then I had to get rid of all the water - there was too much to mop up using a towel so I went to find the warden who said I could borrow the mop and bucket from the disabled toilet, and that did the job nicely. Fortunately none of my bedding was wet so that was something I didn't have to deal with - and with everything sorted out I was finally able to make myself a brew before starting on the packing up process.

That didn't take long once I got going, and in no time at all I was ready for taking the tent down - it was still quite windy so I left the four corners pegged right till the last minute but I didn't really have any trouble with it. It was soon folded and rolled and back in its bag, and with all the pegs collected up and put in the box the only thing left to deal with was the carpet. It had more or less dried out in the sunshine so I folded it and packed it as it was - I could open it out again once I got home. So with the van loaded up and the borrowed breeze blocks returned to the greenhouse the only thing left to do was take the dogs for a final walk round the now empty site - and it's times like that, when I have a whole site to myself, that I wish I could stay longer.

It was 7.30pm by the time I finally left the site - the sun was still shining and with not much traffic on the motorway I had a very easy and pleasant journey home. It had been a great weekend and I had met and chatted to lots of different people who I would otherwise only have known through the forums of UKCS - it had also been my first time at Major Bridge Park, and although I probably wouldn't return on a regular basis because of its fairly remote location, for the occasional chill-out weekend it would certainly be added to my list.

Saturday May 21st 20011 - Making new friends and exploring

It was just before 5.30am when daylight and the dawn chorus penetrated my brain - apart from the birdsong there was no other sound anywhere and it was far too early to get up so I just lay halfway between sleep and consciousness. Then all at once, BANG!! - it came from across the field and sounded like someone had just discharged both barrells of a 12-bore. It took a few seconds for my brain to register it, then I realised it was a bird scarer and not one camper murdering another!  Being familiar with the noise of bird scarers, though not usually so loud, I dozed off back to sleep again and it was eight o' clock when I finally woke up properly.

The first thing was to take the dogs for a walk - emerging from the tent I expected to see a hive of activity going on around the site but there weren't many campers about at all. I didn't go far as I was more than ready for some breakfast; out of the site and a short distance along the road was enough - I could take them for a longer walk later on - then it was back to the tent to try out my new folding toaster for the first time. And I must say, having initially been very sceptical about these things I was very pleased with it - and I even managed to do four slices of toast without burning any of them. So with breakfast ready and the dogs on their line I sat outside the tent in the sunshine and watched the rest of the site come to life. After breakfast I got chatting to John from the campervan next door, he had driven up from Norwich and during conversation it turned out that he was very familiar with the site I stay on at California, and had been staying there when I was there myself last year, though we didn't actually meet at the time. Later on I took a walk round the site and introduced myself to a few more UKCS members and made friends with their dogs - and of all of them I think my favourite just had to be little Lina, a whippet. She had the most lovely face and was so cute - one of those dogs you've just got to love.

Back over at my own tent I decided to get practical and creative - even though it was lovely and sunny someone had mentioned the possibility of rain showers later so I thought about erecting some form of canopy over the tent door. It was simple enough to do with a spare cheap builder's tarpaulin and half a dozen lengths of cheap washing line (it's surprising what I carry in my van!) and with the tarp being near enough the same colour as the tent it didn't look too much out of place. In fact the only things which stood out were the bright pink guy lines! Okay, so it didn't look exactly professional, but if it meant I could still sit outside the tent even if it rained then it was good enough for me.

With that done I decided to take myself and the dogs off out somewhere though I hadn't a clue where. All the UKCS members were having a get together and a communal meal that evening so I didn't want to be out too long, but as I had never been to that area of Yorkshire before I wanted to do at least a little bit of exploration. So with the dogs in the back of the van and a quick look at the map book I set off to see what I could find. My first intention was to head for Hornsea Mere near the coast - I didn't know how far it was but driving along the country roads it seemed to take forever to get there and I realised that maybe I was being a bit too ambitious, so finding a convenient lay-by I turned the van round and headed back the way I had come. I had already passed through a nice looking little village so I decided that when I got back to it I would stop and have a look round there instead.

The village was called Bishop Burton, and driving through it the road ran alongside a large village pond bordered by white railings and with an island in the middle on which was a stone-built war memorial. The village had, for reasons unknown to me, very strong equestrian connections and across the road from the pond was a large pub/restaurant called The Altisadora - it was later that evening, while talking to John in his campervan, that I learned the pub had at one time been called The Horse And Jockey but the name had been changed in 1813 to The Altisadora in honour of the local squire's horse of that name winning the St. Leger at Doncaster. The village itself was lovely, with many chocolate box-pretty white-walled thatched cottages and a smaller duck pond set on a village green. I could have taken several photos but unfortunately the sky had decided to cloud over and the sun was only appearing in fits and starts so I didn't get many.

With my wanderings over I returned to the van and set off back in the direction of the camp site. After several miles I passed through the village of Market Weighton, and driving along the main street my eye was caught by a couple of intriguing looking shops, so finding a large public car park just behind a pub at one end of the village I stopped to take a look. I walked the length of the high street on one side then back again on the other, just browsing in the shop windows - one of the shops sold gifts and fancy goods and I thought I might find a mouse ornament to add to my collection but I had no luck. By the time I got back to the van the sun had returned with a vengeance and although there was a breeze it was quite warm - the shop on the corner near the car park was a newsagents which sold ice cream, so leaving Sophie and Sugar in the back of the van I popped in there for a magazine, a can of Coke and the rare treat of a white Magnum, which I ate while sitting in the van and watching the world go by. Just across from the car park was an island in the road with a small brick-walled garden and a bus shelter, and a sign pointing to the left which told me that Holme village, where the camp site was, was only four miles away so that's the way I headed when I left the car park.

It didn't take long to get back to the site and when I pulled up by my tent it was to find a hive of activity going on over the other side of the field. A line of tables had been set up sheltered by a line of windbreaks, some of the men in the group were making preparations for a couple of camp fires while other members were setting out the tables with plates, pots and bowls of different food. This was a 'Jacobs table', where each person in the group provided an item of food - someone was cooking a very large pan of chilli so I had agreed to provide the pitta bread to go with it. With that in mind I thought I'd better take it across and also see if I could help in any way but it seemed as though everything was under control, so after a brief chat with a couple of the members I returned to my tent.

It was an hour or so later, with the two camp fires now blazing, that various members of the group started assembling in a large circle so I took my chair and went over to join them. When everyone else had arrived the buffet was classed as being open and everyone was free to help themselves to any of the food and drink available - it was all very informal and it was great to sit round and chat to other UKCS members who I might otherwise never get to know. There was only one slight downside though - what had earlier been a slight breeze was now a proper wind and it was blowing the smoke from the fires over most of the group. Many of the members, myself included, moved round to get out of the way of it, only to move again when the wind changed direction - this happened several times and it seemed like we were all playing a mad game of musical chairs but without the music. It was a great way of getting to know people though as I seemed to end up sitting next to somebody different every time! One member I chatted to, Wendy, turned out to be from another area of my home town and it came out in conversation that she had actually gone to the same senior school as me and had been taught by many of the same teachers, though there was four years between us. What a small world!

As the evening got later some of the members with children took themselves off to bed though there was still quite a lot of us sitting round the camp fires. It was a shame that no-one had a guitar, a sing-song would have really added to the ambience of the evening. It was gone midnight when I finally decided to call it a night and go back to my tent - I still had to take the dogs for their last walk and things were beginning to wind down anyway. I didn't go far with the dogs, and by the time I had zipped the tent door closed for the night I was more than ready for my bed. It had been a great night - the forecast rain had held off, the food had been good, and I had got to know some really nice people, and although I had been to a couple of UKCS meets in previous years this was the first one I had been to since becoming a solo camper - and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

Friday May 20th 2011 - Major Bridge Park

It was a lovely sunny evening and 7.30pm saw me leaving home on a mad dash to the village of Holme on Spalding Moor in the East Riding of Yorkshire, where I was joining the UKCS weekend meet at Major Bridge Park site. I couldn't leave home any earlier as I didn't finish work till 7pm, but the van had been packed up the day before so all I had to do when I got home from work was collect the dogs, lock up the house and set off. RAC Routeplanner had given me a journey time of an hour and a half so with any luck I should arrive about 9pm and just about have enough time to put the tent up before darkness fell.

There wasn't much traffic on the M62 so the drive over to Yorkshire was much easier than I expected and very pleasant in the evening sunshine; I made good time and it was only a few minutes after 9pm when I arrived at the site. As I drove onto the camping field the warden came out of her caravan to greet me and book me in, and as there were no actual designated pitches she showed me the best place to park for a hook-up point. With the van finally in the right place, and leaving the dogs in the back, I set about putting up the tent - I worked quickly but the daylight was fading fast so I had to use my lantern; by the time the tent was pegged down it had gone completely dark, though once I'd got my cable connected I was able to plug my lamp in so I could sort out the inside of the tent. A couple of UKCS members came over to introduce themselves and asked if I needed any help, which I didn't, and the guy in the campervan 'next door' asked if I wanted a brew, which I did, so he very kindly made me a coffee and also went to fill up my water container for me.

With the inside of the tent sorted out, the coffee mug returned to John next door, and my bed made up the next thing was to feed the dogs and take them for a walk. I didn't want to walk round the site as I hadn't yet got my bearings and I didn't want to disturb other campers, although quite a few of them were sitting chatting round a camp fire over the other side of the field, so I went just as far as the site entrance and back. It wasn't particularly late but by then I was feeling tired and more than ready for sleep, so I locked up the van, settled Sophie and Sugar on their beds in their side of the tent and got into my own on the other side. It had been a very busy evening and I was just glad to finally relax - I didn't know what delights the following day would bring but whatever I did I had a feeling I was going to really enjoy this weekend.

Tuesday May 3rd 2011 - Do I have to go home??

It was my last morning, and I woke to more sunshine and yet more wind, though thankfully it wasn't as bad as the previous night. I wondered how the awning had fared - was it still intact or had it collapsed under the battering it got? I hadn't been disturbed by anything during the night so I assumed it was ok, and when I pulled back the van curtains I was more than relieved to see that it was perfectly fine, still standing and without any damage - though I'm not sure whether that owed more to my pegging skills or the excellent quality of the awning. A bit of both I suppose!

First things first, a dog walk to get me in the mood for breakfast. There was a path from the rocks at the very bottom of the site which led round the cliff in the direction of Moelfre - I remembered that the very first time I had been to Anglesey I had walked round there and discovered a ruined cottage on a headland but I had never been that way since, so a walk in that direction was long overdue. I kept the dogs on the lead to start with, which turned out to be a good idea as the path was very narrow in places with a steep drop of what must have been near enough a hundred feet down into the sea. The walk was very pleasant, especially on the more sheltered stretches where I was out of the wind, though it seemed to take forever to get to the headland with the cottage - I'm sure it wasn't that far when I'd been before! Eventually though the bushes bordering the path thinned out and got less and I could see the headland not too far ahead - another couple of bends in the path and I had arrived.

There was a rocky cove just to my right and in the distance beyond the headland I could see the little bay and the private cove I had been to last year; further round than that was Moelfre village with its lifeboat station and island just offshore. The ruined cottage was still on the headland - well I don't think it was really a ruin, rather it was more half-built and not completed and I did wonder why. It would have been a great place to live, surrounded by great views, but maybe the headland was too exposed to the elements and whoever was building it had a radical re-think half way through - or maybe they just ran out of money. There was a bench seat over the far side of the headland, and as it was now safe to let the dogs off the lead to explore I sat there for a while just taking in the view in front of me. It wasn't long though before my thoughts turned to breakfast, which was by now rather overdue, so calling the dogs and putting them back on the lead I made my way back along the headland path and returned to the awning.

With breakfast over and everything washed and put away it was time to start packing up - a job which I didn't want to do when the weather was so good. Wherever I camp, if the weather is good I always wish I could stay till the sun stops shining but unfortunately work gets in the way. So with the dogs on their beds out of harm's way I made a start and half an hour later I was ready for taking the awning down. I left it attached to the van until I'd got all the pegs out, only releasing it at the last minute - and in spite of the wind I didn't have too much trouble taking the poles out and folding it up. After collecting up all the tent pegs and checking round the pitch there was nothing left to do but dispose of my rubbish and put the dogs in the van - and by the looks on their faces they knew they were going home.

I didn't leave Benllech straight away though - as has become the custom over the years I drove down to the beach to take the dogs for a final walk before the drive home. And what a sight met my eyes - the very high winds of the previous night must have caused the waves to hit the sea wall with such force that quite a long stretch of the promenade was completely covered in a thick carpet of seaweed which stretched halfway across the road and crunched under my tyres as I drove along. Of all the times I've stayed in Benllech I've never seen that before!

Parking up on a clear stretch of promenade I put the dogs on their leads and made my way to the 'dogs allowed' part of the beach before letting them off for a last run round. It was still very windy but the sunshine more than made up for it and it was quite pleasant walking along by the water's edge. All too soon though it was time to go so I made my way back to the van and settled the dogs in the back, then with a cd to sing along to I drove away from the beach for the last time - but as I left Benllech behind I was already thinking about places to go on my next visit, and hoping it wouldn't be too long before I returned.

Monday May 2nd 2011 - Newborough beach

It was my final full day on Anglesey and once again I woke to brilliant sunshine and a howling wind - of all the times I've camped on Anglesey over the years I'd never known it to be as windy as the last few days had been. However, at least the sunshine more than made up for it and it hadn't stopped me getting out and about with the camera. After the first dog walk of the day I put some breakfast on and pondered on where I was going to go - I'd just about covered most of the island so there weren't many places left to see, but one place I hadn't yet been to was Newborough beach. This was a place I had mentioned to Chris while I'd been chatting to him - I remembered going there several years ago and having a very long walk through a pine forest to get there, however Chris had told me how to get there by driving, thereby avoiding that long walk, so I decided to give it a go.

While I had been having breakfast I could see through the awning windows that several of the other campers were already starting to pack up ready to leave - after a very lazy morning it was going on for lunchtime by the time I was ready for going out and by then some of them had gone, so if all the others left while I was out I would probably have the field to myself for my one remaining night - and I could think of nothing better! So with the dogs safely in the back of the van I set out to see what Newborough beach had to offer.

It was a relatively easy drive, and remembering Chris's directions brought me to the toll road winding down through Newborough forest to the beach itself - it cost £3 but when I finally reached the end of the road and saw the dunes right in front of me I had to admit that it was worth it to save the very long walk. A large area of land had been made into a very pleasant parking and picnic area and from there two or three paths led through the dunes onto the beach - and what a beach it was! A large sweeping bay was backed by dunes at one end and pine forest at the other - on my right was Llandwyn Island and in the distance on my left were the hills of Snowdonia over on the mainland. The tide was on its way out, leaving behind a huge expanse of flat sand where children and dogs played, and in the lower dunes were several brightly coloured windbreaks and beach tents. Going out to the water's edge I walked along to the left for a distance first before heading back along the edge of the dunes towards Llandwyn Island. The island is actually joined onto the main beach and my original idea was to walk right round to the tip of it, however when I got closer I saw a couple of signs saying that from May 1st dogs weren't allowed on the island - I was two days too late! Not to worry, nobody was going to move the island so I could always go sometime in the future - and I was quite happy just wandering along taking my photos while the dogs explored close by.

When I had seen all I wanted to see I made my way back along the beach to the path which took me back to the car park and after giving the dogs a drink and settling them in the van I drove back up the road and out of the forest. Without any clear idea of where to go next I decided that would be my one and only port of call, and I would make my way back to the camp site and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the sun outside the awning. I did however make one brief stop on the way back - my route took me past the lay-by where most of the photos of Menai Bridge are taken from, and as it had been rather an overcast day last year when I took my photos of the bridge I decided to stop and take some more. The sunny weather and blue sky certainly made a dramatic difference to the scenery and the view and I got several very pleasing shots of the bridge from that lay-by.

It didn't take long to get back to the site from there and when I arrived I had quite a surprise - apart from the motorhome in the far corner all the other weekend campers had gone, but far from the field being empty as I expected four tents and a gazebo had been erected along the hedge line near my awning with four large cars parked alongside, and about fourteen Oriental kids were playing ball while their families prepared a huge barbecue. Unfortunately the wind was blowing the smoke in the direction of my awning making sitting outside it impossible, so after I'd reversed the van alongside the back I retreated inside to make a brew and something to eat. And it was while I was sitting peacefully reading a magazine that I noticed the already strong wind was getting even stronger - thank goodness the awning had flexible poles; I'm sure any other sort of poles would probably have bent under the battering it was getting. At one point I did wonder if the awning would survive as the wind got even worse, but taking it down at that point wasn't an option so I just had to sit it out and hope for the best.

It was 9pm when I ventured out with the dogs, and that was when I got another surprise - the field was empty! The tents, the gazebo, the four cars, kids and adults, all gone and unbelievably I hadn't heard a thing! And I had the strange sensation that somehow I'd imagined the whole thing as there was absolutely no evidence that they had ever been there - nothing left behind, no rubbish, nothing. I felt like I was either going crazy or I was in some sort of a time warp! However, sanity and logic returned to my brain a couple of minutes later and I reasoned that the high wind had put them off staying, and the noise of my awning being battered about had drowned out any noise they made as they packed up and left. So apart from the motorhome, which looked like it would be there for quite a while, I had the field to myself for my final night.

The wind was still very strong when I eventually went to bed and I wondered if I should be concerned about the awning. I had been all the way round and checked the pegs and the guy lines and I could do no more - if the worst happened and it collapsed or got damaged I would deal with it, if it stayed put that was a bonus. There was no point ruining my last night by worrying about it! The dogs however were a different matter - normally I'm quite happy with them sleeping in the awning and they are quite happy to be there, but it crossed my mind that if anything did happen to the awning then I could have two very scared little creatures on my hands, so just for once I put them on their bed in the back of the van. They soon settled down, and apart from the occasional snore from Sugar I didn't hear a sound from them of all night.

Sunday May 1st 2011 - The best cheeseburger I've ever had

I woke that morning to another gloriously sunny day and yet more wind; there was no sign of life from the dogs so I allowed myself the luxury of a 'lie-in' before the sun shining on the van made it too warm to stay in bed. First was a dog walk round the site then bread in the toaster and the kettle on for a brew while I decided where I would go for the day. My mind turned to Chris, the guy I had met on Pentraeth beach a couple of days before - although at first I hadn't given any thought to his suggestion of meeting up I now seriously considered it. He seemed to be a nice guy and we had a lot in common, and although I'm always happy to be on my own with the dogs it would make a nice change for once to have the company of someone else. So I decided to ring him - but although I searched all round the awning, the van, and my pockets and various bags, I just couldn't find the piece of paper with his phone number on. Murphy's Law had decreed that I should lose it! Typical! And having finally decided to get in touch I was quite looking forward to the idea of some male company on a walk, but with no other way of contacting him that idea was knocked firmly on the head, so I decided to start off at the car boot sale on Anglesey showground then head towards Holyhead and take it from there.

There weren't as many stalls at the car boot as on previous occasions but that wasn't surprising in view of how windy it was. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, just browsing really, but there was nothing that metaphorically jumped out and shouted ''buy me!'' so for once my money stayed in my pocket. After my wander round the stalls I took the dogs up to the far end of the showground where there was plenty of space with no-one around and let them off the lead for a good run round. At one point they both disappeared into the long grass at the side of the path and when they finally re-appeared they both had very black legs - they had found what must have been the only mud-filled ditch on that part of the showground! Another run round the field though and they had soon dried out, and back at the van a quick brush down got rid of most of the mud before we hit the road again.

Driving towards Holyhead took me to Penrhos Coastal Park, another place I had been to a few years before but never revisted. The land is owned and managed by Anglesey Aluminium and the car park there is free - it's a very popular place and many people go just to park up and chill out while looking at the view. I was quite surprised to find a large catering van - Pete's Burger Bar - on the far side of the car park (it hadn't been there the last time I visited the park) and as my breakfast had worn off by then I decided I would get something to eat. A sign on the van window proclaimed "We don't do fast food, we do good food as fast as we can" and I briefly wondered how true that was. I ordered a coffee and a cheeseburger with onions, and took them back to the van - and I have to say that the sign on the catering van was right. The bun was a good size, the burger itself was very tasty, there was plenty of cheese on it - not just one pathetic little slice as is usually the case - and the onions were cooked to absolute perfection. And the whole thing had been wrapped securely in foil, which made a nice change from having something handed to me on top of a pathetic serviette with the onions dropping out all over the place. Now I've eaten many cheeseburgers over the years, bought from many different places - some have been good(ish), one I had a couple of years ago was really awful, most of them have been mediocre, but this one just had to be the best I've ever had - and at £3.20 for that and the large coffee it was hardly OTT on the price. I was well impressed, and made a mental note that whenever I was in that area of Anglesey in the future I would purposely stop off at Penrhos and get a cheeseburger.

So with my hunger satisfied I let the dogs out from the back of the van and set off to explore the country park. Just across the car park was a very attractive pond with several ducks and seagulls swimming around, and just past the catering van a tarmac path led through a large and very pleasant grassy area with yellow gorse bushes in full bloom and which bordered the stony beach. Further on was a private house set in its own grounds and the path turned to the left there, skirting round the back of the house - and there in a quiet corner under the trees was a small pet cemetary with gravestones inscribed with the names of people's much loved pets. There was nothing to say who owned the little graveyard or whose pets they had been, but being the animal lover I am (though not wanting to seem morbid) I spent a quiet few minutes there just reading the names and dates on the stones. Then it was on along the path and back out onto the shore, where another few minutes walking took me to a sandy bay with a house built out on a rocky promontory - the path continued, and had I followed it far enough I would probably have ended up in Holyhead, which wasn't that far away, but there were other places I wanted to go to so I turned round there and made my way back to the van.

My next port of call was South Stack on the far west of the island - on my one and only previous visit there the weather had been very cloudy so I was looking forward to seeing the area in the sunshine. Consulting my map book and committing the route to memory I drove into Holyhead and out again, following a long and winding narrow country road (there's two song titles in there somewhere!) till I came to South Stack and its two car parks. The one at the top of the hill had a cafe but I chose the lower one, and after paying for a ticket I took the dogs and set off to explore. The whole area is a designated RSPB nature reserve very popular with birdwatchers and I saw several people with binoculars slung round their necks. Walking uphill in the direction of the lighthouse I turned round to look at the view behind me - yellow gorse grew in random patches among the greenery, clumps of purple flowers emerged from cracks in the rocks, and in the far distance beyond the island were the hills of Snowdonia on the mainland. In front of me was a square white tower and down on its own rock below the cliff was the lighthouse itself.

Having the dogs with me meant there was no way I was going to tackle the four hundred or so steep steps down the cliff to get to the lighthouse so I decided to see what the white tower was all about. It was actually called Ellins Tower and it had been set up by the RSPB as an information and viewing centre - intrigued, I hitched the dogs to a rail by the door and went in to have a look. It was very modern inside and a staircase led from the ground floor up to a balcony which ran round three sides of the tower and had large viewing windows at strategic points. Several telescopes and sets of binoculars on tripods were set up and trained on various points on the cliffs or out to sea; one of the staff on duty invited me to have a look, telling me which part of the cliff I would be looking at and what I would be seeing. The first telescope I looked through was trained on some guillemots on a cliff ledge, but it was the second one which gave me the biggest thrill - trained on a spot about a hundred yards from the base of the cliff I had a close-up view of a pod of porpoises playing in the swell of the sea. How brilliant was that! I never thought when I went in there that I would be looking at porpoises through a telescope. It was fascinating watching them and I could have stayed there for ages but with two little dogs waiting for me outside I soon had to leave.

By then it was almost 6pm but I had nothing to rush back to my awning for and in spite of the wind the weather was still good so I decided to drive down to Trearddur Bay which wasn't too far away. The road closely followed the coast for much of the way, passing several little coves and sandy bays, and it was one of these that I stopped at on the spur of the moment. The road dipped as it went past the beach and there was a long line of cars parked along one side. A tarmac 'promenade' bordered the beach, with picnic tables set in a grassy area at one end and a couple of ice cream vans and a catering van further down. The tide was out but judging by the many colourful kayaks pulled up on the sand it looked like someone had been having some earlier fun on the water. It was quite a nice little place and well worth taking a few photos.

It didn't take me long to walk from one side of the bay to the other and back so I was soon on the road again, and another five minutes saw me arriving in Trearddur Bay. Not bothering with the main part of the bay itself I drove round to the little cove I had photographed last year, just to see if it still looked as nice as I remembered it. And it did, in fact for some reason it looked better than before so the camera was in action once more.

Those were to be my last photos of the day - it was 7pm by then and I was more than ready for a brew so it was time to head for 'home'. Arriving back at my pitch I reversed alongside the awning, connected it to the van and fed the dogs, then made a brew and a sandwich and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and downloading my photos onto the laptop. A brief dog walk round the site at 11pm rounded off the day nicely, and the huge dose of sea air I'd had during the day made sure that even the noise of the wind on the awning and the rocking of the van didn't keep me from sleep.

Saturday April 30th 2011 - Caernarfon and the Lleyn Peninsula - Part 2

Leaving Caernarfon behind I followed the A487 then the A499 coast road thirteen miles or so south to the little village of Trefor. This was another place I had been to some years previously and which I had wanted to make a return visit to - there's actually nothing much there but it's a pleasant little place and the views are nice. Turning off the coast road a lane led me through the little village and downhill to the bay, where the harbour and sandy beach were backed by low dunes with a car park at one end and a grassy picnic area at the other.

Parking the van - a free car park this time - I let the dogs out from the back and went off for a wander along the shore to the harbour. The tide was out just beyond the end of the harbour wall and a handful of fishing boats were beached on the flat wet sand, with half a dozen upturned dinghies lying on the finer sand nearer the dunes. An ice cream van was parked near the harbour wall though there was hardly anyone around to buy anything, just a couple of people walking a dog and a family sitting at one of the picnic tables. I walked out along the harbour wall to the end where I snapped a couple of photos before retracing my steps, stopping at the ice cream van to treat myself to a cornet then letting the dogs have a run along the top end of the beach before returning to the van.

Setting off once more I drove back through the village to the main road and continued south, but where to next? There was another little place a bit further along the coast which I considered going to but then I remembered there was quite a steep lane down to it and absolutely nothing there except a beach so I decided to give that one a miss and head across land instead. I don't know how many miles I travelled but eventually I came to a T junction where a left turn would take me to Pwllheli and a right turn would take me to Abersoch, so as I'd never been to Abersoch before I opted to go in that direction. The road closely followed the coast which made for a nice drive down the eastern side of the peninsula, and when I finally reached Abersoch itself I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw - it looked to be a lovely little place. Following the signs for parking I drove through the little town and came to a private car park with a very reasonable parking fee - paying for my ticket at the kiosk I got chatting to the guy in charge and it turned out that he was a very keen amateur photographer and quite willing to give me some suggestions for taking photos around the area, so armed with some 'inside knowledge' I collected the dogs from the back of the van and set off to explore.

Walking down the hill from the car park brought me back to the main road; a river came from somewhere inland and flowed under the road towards the beach where it crossed the sand and joined the sea. Boats were pulled up onto the grassy banks or were beached in the shallows, and on each side of the river was a hard standing with many more boats on trailers. It all made for a very attractive scene and I couldn't resist taking several photos.

On a bend in the road was the Hardware Shack, a single storey white wooden building selling hardware, gifts and beach toys, and a bit further along were a couple of takeaways and a large powerboat centre. Passing the boat hard standing my eye was caught by a Fordson Major tractor parked by the fence - it had no seat, only one wing, no bonnet, cowl or radiator, and the bodywork had definitely seen better days, but it had brand new tyres on all four wheels. Someone's restoration project maybe? I don't know, but having played a big part in the restoration of a couple of vintage tractors several years ago I would have loved to get my hands on this one and finish the job!

Just past the boat area a sandy track led me down to the beach; on my left the sand curved round to a tree-covered rocky outcrop and on the right, where the river flowed out to the sea, was a harbour wall and a handful of boats anchored in the sand, waiting for the tide to return. Looking past the rocky outcrop on my left I could see part of another beach so I decided to head over in that direction to see exactly what was round the corner - and what I found was a long stretch of fine sand backed by steeply sloping dunes and populated by several families enjoying the early evening sunshine. After snapping a couple of photos I turned and headed back in the direction I'd just come from - the tide was starting to come in, creeping rapidly and stealthily across the sand, and where I had walked only ten minutes or so previously was now covered in shallow water. It was easy to see just how people can get stranded by an incoming tide, so not wanting to be one of them I stuck to walking by the high water mark on my way back to the lane. By the time I had reached the far side of the river the sea had come in to such an extent that the previously grounded boats near the harbour wall were now almost floating - I would have liked to stay and see how the scenery changed with the advancing tide but by then it was almost 7pm and I had quite a distance to drive back to the camp site, so reluctantly I made my way back to the van.

The drive back to the camp site took about an hour - I experienced a very hairy couple of minutes having the van rocked by the high wind as I crossed Britannia bridge from the mainland onto Anglesey, but other than that it was very pleasant in the evening sunshine. Back at the awning I fed Sophie and Sugar and made myself a sandwich and a brew, and apart from a brief late night dog walk round the adjoining field I didn't venture out again. I'd had a lovely day exploring places both old and new - Abersoch had really impressed me, and as I hadn't seen it all I knew it was a place I would be going back to in the not-too-distant future.