About Me

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

Monday August 16th 2010 - Happisburgh and Sea Palling

I woke that morning to a grey, overcast sky and more wind - not the sort of weather to encourage convening with nature, so I decided I wasn't going to rush to go out anywhere. After putting the dogs onto their line outside the awning - I can highly reccommend the Delta dog tether - I put a couple of eggs on to boil and made some toast soldiers and a brew. I don't think the dogs appreciated the wind as it wasn't long before Sophie was whingeing to come back in again, so with breakfast on a tray I settled them both on their beds and retreated back to mine for another hour or so. Well, if I can't treat myself to breakfast in bed on holiday when can I?

As the weather wasn't very nice for taking photos I decided I would spend some time just driving round the lanes and villages, looking for places which would offer a decent photography opportunity when the sun came out again. My first port of call was Winterton beach to give the dogs a good run - well that was the idea, till I saw that the car park charge was £2.50. Ok if you're staying all day but I wouldn't have been there long, so with my Scrooge head on I turned the van round and drove off again. Passing through Martham and Potter Heigham I drove up to Stalham - I'd been taken to Stalham market by a friend about eighteen years ago, I remembered it was quite a sizeable market and I had the best donuts I'd ever tasted. Now I pride myself on having a good memory for places I've been to, but the small patch of land where the market is now held bore no resemblance whatsoever to what I remembered. Thinking maybe that my memory wasn't as good as I thought, I wandered along the main street and looked in the few shops which interested me then returned to the van and set off once more.

My next stop was Happisburgh (pronounced Haze-brough), and the red-and-white striped lighthouse slightly inland from the cliff top and just behind the village. Another place I'd been taken to many years before.

From there I walked to the cliff top and came across Manor Caravan Site - across the site, and set in its own grounds, was a huge and sprawling old manor house from which the camp site obviously got its name.  At first glance it appeared to be derelict, but the sight of a man on a ride-on lawnmower suggested otherwise. The place looked very eerie and spooky though, and reminded me of a film set for a horror movie. Intrigued, I followed the hedge line and the stone wall as far round as I could go in the hope of finding a name plaque or something which would tell me what it was, but there was nothing. I thought maybe it could be a hide-away for a very famous person, or possibly the headquarters of a secret society - and maybe I read too many adventure books when I was a kid, and it was nothing more than a private care home for the elderly people of Norfolk. I would have loved to know though!

Unable to satisfy my curiosity over the house I wandered across the caravan site to the cliff edge - and I must say that Happisburgh beach at that point leaves a lot to be desired. The cliff has been eroded quite badly all along that stretch of coastline so sea defences have been put in place in an effort to stop the ever encroaching tides. A wooden barrier runs parallel to the cliff as far as the eye can see, backed by piles of huge boulders at strategic points. Just behind where I was standing, large piles of weather-worn timber were heaped haphazardly up against the bottom of the cliff, whether put there by man or washed up on the tide I don't know. Access down to the beach at that point is, or was, by a wooden platform leading from the caravan site to stairs built into a wooden tower. For some reason it reminded me of the scene at the end of the Michael Caine film Get Carter, where his body goes up a conveyor and gets dumped in the sea.

The caravan site itself was actually quite nice and looked to have spacious pitches, but personally I wouldn't want to stay there. The whole area had, to me at least, a very depressing atmosphere and I was glad to get away, though maybe I was doing it an injustice and in bright sunshine it would have looked totally different.

From Happisburgh I drove a few miles down the road to Sea Palling. I'd never been there before and I was quite surprised to find that access to the beach was by a wide, steeply-sloping concrete ramp going up and over the dunes. I suppose in better weather the beach would be nice, but under the grey sky it wasn't very inviting so I only stayed long enough to give Sophie and Sugar a quick run.

At the bottom of the ramp was a nice-looking little cafe, so after the dogs had had their run I left them back in the van and went for a much-needed coffee before setting off back to the site. The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent watching tv and surfing the internet, then when the dogs had been out for the final time I went to bed with fingers crossed metaphorically for nicer weather the following day.

Sunday August 15th 2010 - Early morning & Potter Heigham

I woke that morning at 7am with the sun shining through the side window of the van and the sound of magpies chattering in the trees behind me. Normally at that time on a Sunday I would open one eye, look at the clock, then roll over and go back to sleep again, but this was different - I wanted to be up and out, and enjoying the time before the site came to life. The dogs were still sound asleep on their beds in the awning but the minute I picked up the leads they were alert and raring to go. I walked through the site and out onto the lane, turned right at the end and headed in the direction of Scratby - strange name for a village, it always makes me think of someone with a flea problem! About halfway along the road is Lands End, a privately-owned and gated part of the cliff top which for many years had three or four wooden holiday chalets on it - there were always lots of rabbits hopping about round there and every time I went past I would stop and count how many there were, but over the years the chalets have been removed and for some reason the rabbits have all gone. Now Lands End is just a plain grassed area, but I still stop and look for them every time I pass.

Just beyond Lands End is a layby with a bus shelter and toilets, and a steeply sloping path leading down to the beach - it was this path that I took, and once on the beach I headed back in the direction of the site. The tide had recently turned and was on its way out, leaving smooth shining wet sand and pebbles glistening in the sunlight. There's something about 'new' sand which evokes the child within me - just like being the first to walk in fresh snow I take great delight in being the first to walk on the sand after the sea has retreated. After walking a couple of hundred yards I stopped and looked back - the sun was warming up nicely, seagulls were wheeling and swooping overhead and the white-capped waves were tumbling over onto the beach. I felt a bit Robinson Crusoe-ish, standing there alone while nature happened around me, but where Crusoe's footprints were accompanied by Friday's, mine were accompanied by two sets of paw prints.

A short distance from there was a large patch of shingle and pebbles not far from the water's edge. As I walked past a slight movement caught my eye - at first I couldn't see anything, but looking closely I noticed a small bird with a long beak sitting amongst the stones. Its feathers were almost the same colour as the stones surrounding it, and had it not moved I would have been totally oblivious to its presence. I didn't want to get too close and risk scaring it off - the dogs were some way down the beach, exploring the rocks at the base of the cliff - so I used my camera zoom to observe it in close-up and managed to get a couple of good shots of it.

By that time the fresh sea air had given me an appetite, so calling the dogs from their rock exploration I headed off down the beach to the next cliff path which would take me back to the site. Once back at the van it was bread in the toaster, kettle on, and cereal in the bowl, and when everything was ready I set out my chair and coffee table in the sun outside the awning and breakfasted at leisure while reading a magazine and planning my day. As it was my first full day I decided to stick with my own personal tradition and make a trip to Latham's at Potter Heigham, with a visit to Hemsby on the way there.

Hemsby is only a mile or so up the coast from California and is what I long ago nick-named a mini-Blackpool, but the only possible resemblance to Blackpool is in the many arcades, gift shops and cafes which line both sides of the narrow road leading down to the beach - other than that it's nothing like Blackpool at all. I've been to Hemsby many times over the years and nothing much changes, but I wanted to have a look round the Sunday market. And I was glad I went, as I managed to get a folding camping chair in red (to match the decor of the van and awning) for only a fiver. It was the only red one on the stall so I was well pleased with that.

So on to Potter Heigham and Lathams, where I bought a dvd and a couple of books about Norfolk and the Broads, and went in the cafe for coffee and cake. When I went in there in June I had the most delicious Belgian bun so I opted for the same this time, but for some reason it just didn't seem to be as nice and I was rather disappointed. Then I remembered - the one I had in June had fresh cream in it but this was just a plain bun. How could I have forgotten something which had tasted so divine?? I had to rectify the matter before I left the cafe, so in the interests of 'quality control' and 'customer satisfaction' I returned to the counter and bought one with cream in - and who cared if it contained a million-and-one calories, I was walking the dogs after so the exercise would cancel it out. Well, that was my excuse and I was sticking to it!

After the 'cream cake cock-up' I took my purchases back to the van, collected the dogs and my camera and headed off towards the riverside footpath. Potter Heigham always fascinates me and even though I've photographed various bits of it many times I still can't resist taking another few shots, so I lingered for a while by the boat moorings and watched the comings and goings of the various river craft. There were boats of all sizes, from the small daily hire craft right up to floating palaces which would need the proceeds of a lottery win to finance a week's a holiday aboard one.

The sign on the bridge reads "Keep off deck, Lower windscreen, Sound horn". The river is tidal and hire craft have to use the services of a bridge pilot - I've been under that bridge several times in previous years on a friend's boat and there isn't a lot of headroom. I've heard there's more than one boat got stuck under there, or had its windscreen smashed on its way through.

By the time I'd finished doing my David Bailey impersonation the sky was beginning to cloud over a bit so I thought I'd better get on with my walk. The riverside footpath is part of the Weaver's Way, and to walk 6 miles in one direction will take you to Horsey. I didn't intend to go so far though, just far enough to give the dogs a decent walk. Eventually I reached an old windmill set back from the river, with a derelict cottage at its base, both standing in a garden overgrown with long grass and rampant nettles. I love windmills and rather hoped I would be able to find a sneaky way in to have a quick look, but any means of access was thoroughly boarded up so I had to give up on that one. By then the blue sky and sunshine had all but disappeared and grey clouds were starting to gather overhead - not wanting to get caught in a possible downpour I decided to head back to the van, which I'd left in Lathams car park, and go
from there back to the site. It turned out to be a wise decision, as no sooner had I arrived back 'home' than it started to rain. It didn't last long, but by then the best of the day had gone, so I made a brew and a sandwich and settled in for the evening. Once I'd fed the dogs I got out my laptop, plugged in my PAYG dongle, and spent the rest of my time catching up with the posts on UKCS. It just proves how addictive that website is, even when I'm on holiday I can't keep away from it!

Saturday August 14th 2010 - California here I come....tra la

It was raining as I left home at 5am for my 6-hour drive - that heavy but fine stuff that wets you within minutes. I hate driving in the rain but as I couldn't do anything about it I had to accept it, so turning the radio to my favourite station and with Sophie and Sugar settled safely in the back I set off. I was heading back to my favourite site at California in Norfolk, this time for nine days, and I was looking forward to every minute - though I hoped the weather would be better than at home. 

I took the same route as before, over Woodhead Pass, and when I reached the truck stop just before the M1 I pulled in for a much needed brew and a bacon and egg barm. Motorway services don't figure in my travels - the food is expensive and not very good, and the coffee always tastes like the sump oil from an old banger. Not that I've ever had to drink sump oil but you get my drift. The coffee at the truck stop was decent and came in a large mug, with a bacon and egg barm the size of a small dustbin lid - I only just about managed to eat it all and it would certainly keep me going for most, if not all, of my journey. My second stop was at the Cheerio Cafe on the A17 near the airfield at RAF Cranwell - the large mug of coffee had taken its toll and I needed the loo. On the outside of the cafe door there's a notice - "The cafe toilets are for customers' use only" and on the door leading to the toilets inside is another notice which has amused me for many years - "No tea - no pee!" Certainly short and to the point. So in order to justify using the loo I purchased a can of Coke and a KitKat, then took the dogs for a walk along the edge of the field behind the cafe car park. I say car park, but it looked more like a lunar landscape with rain-filled potholes the size of small craters - not to be recommended if your car has a low-slung exhaust or you like to keep your pride and joy clean, although the car park at the front of the cafe has a tarmac surface and is much better. By the time I hit the road again the rain had petered out and it was getting brighter by the minute, and when I reached the A47 and the outskirts of Kings Lynn the sun was almost shining. By my third stop at the Necton Diner just past Swaffham it was positively blazing, and really put me in a holiday mood. "Are you ready for the last leg?" I asked the dogs. "Yip" squeaked Sophie, and "Yap" replied Sugar. Am I mad for talking to the dogs? Are they mad for answering me? Who cares? - I don't!

My route to California took me off the A47 at Acle and through several small villages, one of which is Filby - I've previously only ever been through there in spring and early summer or late September, never in August, so I was surprised and amazed to see that almost the whole village from one end to the other was bedecked with flowers. They were everywhere - on bus shelters and lamp posts, outside the village shop, cascading over garden walls, along the roadside and on the village green. The whole place was a riot of colour worthy of a place at the Chelsea Flower Show, and certainly warranted a return with my camera.

I finally arrived at the camp site a few minutes after 11am, and after calling in at reception I parked on my pitch (I had the same one as last time) and set about putting up the awning. Now for some strange reason, even though the sun was blazing and there was hardly a breath of wind a mile or so inland, on the site it was blowing a gale worthy of a mention on the BBC Radio shipping forecast. Not very good for erecting an awning but I had my (almost) foolproof method of coping with it in the wind and within an hour and a half it was erected, fully guyed and pegged, groundsheet down inside, ehu connected and everything set out. By that time I was feeling rather tired and would have loved a nap, but I can't sleep during the day so I made a brew instead then took the dogs for a walk through the site and onto the beach.

Oddly enough, it wasn't as windy down on the beach as it was up on the site and it was very pleasant walking along in the sunshine. When I finally made my way back 'home' I called in at the site shop to say Hi to the lady who owns it. She used to work in the cafe on the chalet site just down the road, you wouldn't believe I've known her to talk to for more than twenty years but I still don't know her name! I picked up a couple of magazines while I was in there and after having a sandwich and a brew I spent the evening reading till it was time to take the dogs for their last walk and go to bed. It had been a long day and I was tired, but more than happy to be back in one of my favourite places.

Sunday August 1st 2010 - First night in the new tent a success

After a good night's sleep I woke to a grey but fine morning and the sound of birdsong in the surrounding trees - the dogs were still quiet over the other side of the tent so I lay for a while just listening to the birds and the water flowing down the rockery. It had been a dry night and I didn't know whether to be glad or sorry - in a way I had wanted it to rain to test the tent, but I was glad it hadn't because as daft as it sounds I didn't want my new purchase to get wet so soon! It was very peaceful lying there and I would have liked to stay a while longer, but over in the house Buddy and Murphy would be waiting for their breakfast and to be let out into the garden so reluctantly I had to get up. I had achieved what I set out to do though - I had spent a night in my new tent, checked it over and I was very happy with it. 

Sophie and Sugar were awake as soon as I moved so I took them over to the house and after feeding all four dogs I left them to play round the garden while I had some breakfast. Once that was over I went back outside to take the tent down, which didn't take long, and I even managed to get it back into its bag - I often think that tents and awnings somehow magically increase in size while in use as they never seem to go back into the bag they came out of! While I was packing everything away the sky brightened up a bit and the sun decided to come out in fits and starts, so after I had put everything back into the van I had a walk round the garden with the camera - it's a lovely garden and well deserving of a few photos.

Then it was time to put Buddy and Murphy back in the house and Sophie and Sugar in the back of the van - as much as I loved staying there I had things to do at home but I would be back later on - and I would be sleeping in a bed that night and not in the garden!