About Me

My photo
Hi! I'm Eunice and I live in Bolton, Lancashire, with my two dogs Sophie and Sugar and an assortment of cats - well it used to be Sophie and Sugar, now it's Sophie and Poppie. I first began camping back in 1997 when my then partner took me to Anglesey for my birthday weekend. We slept in the back of the car - a hatchback - using the cushions off the settee at home as a mattress, and cooked and brewed up on a single burner camping stove. The site was good, the views were great, the weather fantastic and I was completely hooked. Following that weekend we got a two-man tent and some proper accessories and returned to Anglesey two weeks later, then over time we progressed to a three-man tent followed by an old trailer tent, then a new trailer tent, a campervan and finally a caravan. When my partner decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the street - literally - in April 2009 and I suddenly found myself alone after fifteen years, I decided there was no way I was going to give up camping and caravanning if I could cope on my own. This blog is the story of my travels, trials and tribulations since becoming a solo camper - I hope you like it

Thursday August 18th 2011 - Oulton Broad

After the previous couple of overcast days Thursday arrived with blue sky, fluffy white clouds and sunshine. As I walked the dogs along the beach just after breakfast I pondered on where to go - looking up and down the coast the sky seemed to be the same all over, so as I had been north at the beginning of the week I decided that this time I would head south and go to Oulton Broad. I had stopped off there one afternoon last year but the weather had been very overcast and not nice enough for any decent photography so another visit was certainly favourable. Oulton Broad was a nice place and with the right weather condititions I knew I should get some good photos.

Walking back through the site I got chatting to a couple of people I had met during my stay there in August last year; they were a nice couple and like me were regulars on the site, and during our conversation they invited me back to their caravan for a coffee. I wasn't in a particular rush to go out so I accepted and spent a very happy hour or so having a good chat and a laugh with them, their teenage daughter and her friend, so it was getting on for lunch time before I finally put the dogs in the back of the van, disconnected the awning and drove away from my pitch.

From the camp site to Oulton Broad was a distance of slightly over 17 miles and according to RAC Routeplanner should (theoretically) have taken just 31 minutes, but whoever worked that one out must have done it in the dead of night in the middle of winter with no traffic on the road as the reality of a sunny day in peak holiday season was ever so slightly different. The drive went well until I turned off the A12 and approached the outskirts of Oulton itself then I hit a long line of nose-to-tail stop-start traffic, and it took me almost as long to get from there to the Broad is it had done to get from California to there. I was just about losing the will to live when I finally saw the bridge which carries the road across the entrance to the Broad and knew I hadn't much further to go. At the far side of the bridge a minor road took me past a handful of shops and an attractive-looking pub and into the large car park adjacent to Nicholas Everitt Park, and though the first few sections were full there was plenty of space further along so I picked a spot in the shade of a couple of trees, got a ticket from a nearby machine then set off with the dogs to see what I could photograph. The weather was perfect and I couldn't have wished for a better location; of all the time I spent wandering round the camera was hardly out of my hand and I took nearly forty photos in total - and I make no apologies for putting many of them on here.

There were several paths leading from the car park and the one I took brought me out at the water's edge just by the private moorings of a sailing club. Set back in a quiet corner was a small shingle beach where a couple of dozen swans and nearly twice as many ducks paddled or swam lazily in the shallow water, and looking across the water to the gardens and houses at the far side of the broad I thought it made quite an attractive scene.

Crossing the top of the nearby slipway I followed the path through a pleasant area of trees and round to the main part of the park. An extensive lawned area overlooked the main part of the broad and stretched for a couple of hundred yards - strolling couples and dog walkers followed the path by the water's edge and families were dotted about enjoying picnics on the grass. On the right was the Park Cafe with its very pleasant outdoor dining area and just beyond it was a mini putting green, several trampolines and a very colourful crazy golf course backed by a well-trimmed evergreen hedge. A path led between the side of the cafe and the trampoline area and following this led me to a children's play area, another cafe and a nice little boating lake where brightly painted canoes moved lazily at the end of their mooring ropes.

By the time I had finished wandering round there I was ready for a brew so I made my way back to the Park Cafe for coffee and cake - and that's where I met my second 'nose-to-tail' queue of the day. The cafe was extremely busy and the queue was right along the front of the counter and up to the door; I must have been there ten minutes before anyone moved, and when I finally got inside I could see why - there was just one girl behind the counter taking orders, serving drinks and operating the till. Having left the dogs hitched to a railing outside I almost gave up there and then but knowing how good the carrot cake was last year I decided to stick it out until it was eventually my turn at the counter. To be fair the girl did apologise for the long wait, which probably wasn't her fault anyway, and when I had finally been served with my coffee and cake I went back outside and found a seat at a table close to the dogs. The coffee was just what I needed and the cake was, as last year, really delicious - it was just a shame that the service was so abysmal.

With my thirst quenched I left the cafe, crossed the grass to the waterside and walked along in the direction of the swing bridge. A wide concrete pedestrianised roadway led from the park towards the main road and this was split into two by a series of stone walls and raised flower beds, with bench seats overlooking the water on one side and grass verges, shrubs and large tubs of flowers on the other. Three single storey thatched roof buildings housed the harbour master's offices, public toilets, a fishing tackle shop and another cafe, and altogether it was a very attractive area.

Reaching the minor road at the end of the broad I followed the pavement and the footpath round almost as far as the Wherry Hotel, stopping every few yards or so to take yet another photo. I was very tempted to cross the footbridge and go beyond the hotel to the far side of the broad but mindful of how much time remained on my car park ticket and the distance I had to walk to get back to the van I decided against it, and after lingering for a few minutes to watch someone fishing I turned and retraced my steps in the direction of the car park.

Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink and pondered on where to go next. Being at Oulton Broad meant that I was only about four miles from Beccles so I could quite easily visit the friends who lived near there and then drive on to Bungay to see Jane, Ady and Andy, but having thought about it I realised that for once I wasn't really in the mood for visiting. I could save that for another day instead, so I decided to drive back to California ahead of the late afternoon rush hour and spend the rest of the day on site. Driving out of Oulton was much easier than driving in as there were no real hold-ups to speak of and it didn't take too long to get back to the camp site; I had no plans to drive anywhere else that day so I connected the awning back up to the van and with the dogs snoozing on their beds I set about downloading the day's photos onto to my laptop. I had got some really good shots, and looking at them on the laptop screen I knew that when I got round to writing the relevant section of my blog I would have a hard job selecting which ones to include - which is why there are now so many of them on this page! 

Wednesday August 17th 2011 - Thrigby Hall

After Monday's glorious weather Tuesday had been rather overcast and dull, and apart from going down to Asda in Yarmouth for some diesel and provisions I had been nowhere and done nothing other than potter about round the awning and walk the dogs on the heath near the site. Wednesday proved to be just as dull, but not wanting to stay on site for two days running I needed to think of somewhere to go where sunshine wasn't essential, and came up with the idea of going to Thrigby Hall wildlife gardens. I had only ever been there once before, back in 1982 when the park was still very much in its infancy, and I remembered that there hadn't been a great lot there at the time, so it would be interesting to see how it had developed over the intervening years.

Thrigby Hall was just outside Filby, only a few miles from California, so it didn't take long to get there - there was plenty of space in the car park so finding a spot in the shade of a large tree just in case the sun put in an appearance I went to the pay kiosk to make sure I would be able to go back in after checking on the dogs. I could as long as I had a hand stamp, so I paid my entrance fee and went to see what delights the place had to offer. Just inside the entrance was an extensive and very pleasant lawned area with picnic benches dotted here and there, and across the far side was the hall itself, with flower-filled borders and window boxes along the front - if the sun had been shining it would have looked really attractive.

Turning right from the lawns and following the signs my first stop was the swamp house. A walkway meandered through the rainforest vegetation and passed above the pools where various crocodiles and alligators lazed about - they might have looked docile enough but I wouldn't have fancied my chances with one. From there I went on to the reptiles and stopped to chat to a young female keeper who was cleaning out a Burmese python's 'den' - the 16ft long snake was lying along the floor of the den near the glass, and I could see from the bulge part way down its body it had recently been fed. The keeper confirmed this, and though she said it wouldn't be interested in her as a meal she still pushed its head back with a brush every time it moved. At one point it reared up with several feet of its body held upright and its beady eyes looking at me through the glass - then it crashed back to the floor, and the thud it made was enough to startle most people. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any decent photos of it as the glass gave out too much reflection and light distortion, so I had to be happy with a couple of photos of the crocodiles.

From the swamp house I went past the otters and the monkeys to the leopard enclosures, and that's when I realised that as nice as this place was it was nowhere near as good as Africa Alive and Banham Zoo. The enclosures were much smaller than at the other two places and were surrounded by so much wire that even from the tree top walk it was impossible to get any photos with an uninterrupted view - and if it wasn't wire that was in the way then it was other people. I walked right round the enclosures a couple of times to see if I could get just one really good clear shot but eventually gave up and moved on.

There was nothing else at that end of the park which really interested me apart from the red pandas, and they were nowhere to be seen, so I made my way back to the van to make a quick check on the dogs then headed off in the direction of the Cats Cloisters and the Tiger Tunnel. On the way I passed an enclosure containing a couple of really peculiar looking animals - dark grey and the size of large pigs with long snouts they were the strangest of creatures. The sign near their enclosure said they were babirusa, which I'd never heard of before. Following on from there I walked round the pools where various storks and cranes were strutting about and eventually reached the Cats Cloisters.

I could only actually see one large cat, a grey one with a spotted body and a face similar to a margay; it was pacing up and down at the far side of its den and just wouldn't stay still long enough for me to get a decent photo, so in the absence of any others I gave up and moved on to the tiger enclosure. The tiger tunnel is a covered passageway leading from the main path to a large glass viewing area at the side of the enclosure and this time I was in luck - across the far side of the enclosure a tiger was lounging in the grass behind a rock, and with no-one else around at that particular moment I was able to get a decent shot. I timed it just right too as seconds later the tiger got up and sauntered off to the other side of the enclosure - I could see why too, as it was almost feeding time and the advancing sound of a trundling wheelbarrow signified the imminent arrival of the keeper with his dinner. A second tiger appeared from seemingly out of nowhere then and I watched as the keeper dropped their meat into the special feeding stations built into the fence and the tigers took it, retreating to the centre of the enclosure to eat it.

After watching and photographing the tigers there was nowhere else I really wanted to go as I'd seen everything which really interested me and there wasn't much else left to look at anyway, so I called in at the gift shop for a look round there then made my way back to the van - and not a moment too soon, as the heavens suddenly opened with a really heavy downpour which lasted for about ten minutes before it stopped as quickly as it started and the sky began to clear. Deciding that there was no point in going anywhere else if there was a chance that it would rain again I let the dogs out from the back of the van and took them for a quick walk round the perimiter of the car park before setting off back to the camp site. The rest of the day and evening were spent in and around the awning, chatting to my neighbours and watching a bit of tv; after that one heavy downpour it didn't rain again and actually brightened up considerably, so I kept my fingers crossed that the following day would be nice enough for me to go a bit further afield.

Monday August 15th 2011 - Part 2 - Brancaster and Burnham Overy

Leaving Holkham village behind I drove the few miles west to Brancaster Staithe - Brancaster village itself was only a small place and the staithe was down a short lane which led off the main road. Turning into the lane I could see ahead of me a pleasant looking grassy area with a row of cottages alongside, and beyond that a glimpse of several boats on trailers. The lane ended in a large gravel-surfaced parking area which was used for both vehicles and boats, with the end of the staithe on the left - there didn't seem to be any proper parking spaces nor any ticket machines so I just drove along until I found a convenient place to stop, clipped the leads on the dogs and set out for a wander. I hadn't gone far before the parking area ended in a slipway and I could go no further - the tide was out and in front of me was a stretch of deep and slippery sandbanks and a wide water-filled channel leading into the main staithe, so I had to be content with taking a few photos just in that vicinity.

The many colourful boats made for quite an attractive scene but I couldn't help feeling that I was missing something - never having been there before and knowing nothing about the place I hadn't known what to expect, but for some reason I felt as though there should be more to it than there was. Nevertheless, it was a nice little place and I got several good photos so it had been worth going even for a short time.

My next stop was at Burnham Overy Staithe a few miles back towards Holkham, and yet again the staithe itself was down a lane leading from the main road, but this time the lane ran parallel to the staithe and rejoined the main road at the far end. Finding a parking space on the grass verge at the side of the lane I set off once more to explore, and straight away I could see there was a bit more to this place than Brancaster. A gravelled parking area overlooking the water had a sign on a post in the middle of it with arrows pointing left and right - car parking was to the left and boats to the right, and there was quite a long row of tarpaulin-covered sailing dinghies pulled up onto the grass verge. A bit further on a long single storey building on the right looked like it could have been the village hall, and at the far end of it was a small shop/chandlery. The outer timber doors were plastered with various notices and posters and on the left hand side was a sign which really amused me. I don't know who thought this one up but it crossed my mind that it could possibly be a lot more reliable than any official weather forecast!

A bit further on the lane turned to the right and headed back towards the main road and on the left was a large parking area near the water's edge. The creek curved round to the left in the direction of the sea, with a steep grass bank on the landward side. I could see people walking along the top and as there was a nearby path which headed in that direction I thought I would take the opportunity to explore a bit further. As I got nearer to the curve of the creek I could see that this area seemed to be a very popular spot - the low tide had uncovered several stretches of beach on both sides of the creek and the place was a hive of activity. Families were relaxing on the sand, kids were paddling and swimming, many had inflatable dinghies, and there were several dogs playing in and out of the water.

I walked for quite a distance along the top of the bank before turning round and retracing my steps. Away from the creek was a vast expanse of fields and marshland and had I walked far enough I would have reached the sand dunes and the sea, but that would be something I could do another time. The dogs had had a good run about and explore and I had taken plenty of photos so it was time to head back to the van. I had been pleasantly surprised and impressed with this little place and as I drove away from the staithe and turned out onto the main road I had already decided that I would make a return visit in the near future, but as with my last few visits to Anglesey I would go when the tide was in so I could get some different photos.

Driving back along the A149 I passed the roadside pond at Salthouse where I had stopped briefly back in June - just beyond it on my left was a single track road with a sign at the corner pointing down it to 'the beach' and in the distance I could see several parked cars so on the spur of the moment I decided to take a look. The road led through a large expanse of rough grazing land and marshland with a water-filled ditch at either side, and ended in a shingle-surfaced area which passed for a car park. Ahead of me was a steep shingle bank of almost Himalayan proportions - I didn't know what was up there but I hoped it was worth the climb. I didn't anticipate being very long so I left the dogs in the van while I went to explore - trudging up the shingle mountain was quite an effort and by the time I got to the top I almost felt like I should have stuck a flagpole up there to say that I'd conquered it.

As it turned out I didn't need to move off the top of the bank once I got up there as there was nothing really to see. A sloping shingle beach stretched for several miles in each direction and looking to the east I could see the cliffs on the outskirts of Sheringham. A handful of families and couples were enjoying the sun and an amateur artist had his easel set up down by the water's edge - if ever there was a place to enjoy the sun and sea without crowds then this was it, but personally I would prefer sand to shingle. I took just three photos then descended the south face of Anapurna with my feet sinking into the shingle and made my way back to the van. 

The drive back to California was very pleasant in the early evening sunshine and one I got through Sheringham I made good time. Back at the camp site I connected the awning to the van, fed the dogs then made myself a brew and something to eat. My evening was spent watching a bit of tv and downloading and sorting the day's photos on my laptop, then just before 11pm I took Sophie and Sugar round the site for their final walk of the day. As I settled down into my bed a while later I thought back over my day; I had been to three really nice places and got some great photos, and although it had been a long drive it had been worth it - and I would most certainly make a return visit in the not-too-distant future.