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

Wednesday August 18th 2010 - Filby and Hemsby

The weather when I woke that morning was a complete contrast to the previous couple of days - clear blue sky and sunshine, and hardly a cloud. The sun was shining onto the side of the van, and even with the curtains and blinds closed and the window slightly open it was very warm, so I got out of bed before I was in danger of becoming cooked. I didn't need to ponder on where I was going to go when I went out - wanting to stay fairly local for once I decided to go back to Filby and photograph some of the lovely flowers I'd seen on my initial approach to California, then spend some time on the beach with the dogs. I put my camera batteries on charge, took Sophie and Sugar for their first walk of the day, then had a leisurely breakfast outside the awning in the sunshine. There were two vacant pitches on the far side of my van and four vacant pitches between the awning and the next occupied pitch, so I felt rather like I was on a green island - it was nice though to be able to dine outside without being overlooked by the side window of the next caravan. With breakfast under my belt, the washing up done and everything tidied away, I put the batteries back into the camera, loaded the dogs in the back of the van and set off, keeping metaphorical fingers crossed that the lovely weather wouldn't suddenly break down on me.

Filby isn't that far from California and it's even less distance when you know the short cuts, so it didn't take long to get there. I drove to the far end of the village and parked up at Filby Bridge car park next to one of the smaller Broads. It's actually called Ormesby Small Broad, but I've always thought of it as Filby Broad because, well, it's in Filby! At the end of the car park, and by the water's edge is a pub, the name of which escapes me for the moment, and a wooden jetty partially overgrown with reeds and with a dozen or so numbered rowing boats moored alongside. There didn't seem to be anyone out on the water though, in fact apart from half a dozen swans swimming some distance away there was no sign of life anywhere.

Collecting the dogs from the back of the van I set off on my flower photography mission. Approaching the village from the Acle direction there is a road sign which proclaims Filby as a lovely place to be - this is certainly no lie, and if the village has never entered the Britain In Bloom competition then the villagers should seriously think about taking part sometime. The flower displays are truly lovely, and I make no apologies for posting several photos on here.

I walked the length of the village from one end to the other and back, and everywhere I looked my vision was assaulted by the riot of colour on display. I have often thought that if I were to lose one of my senses then my sight would be the one I would really hate to be without - I love flowers and I just can't imagine not being able to appreciate such colourful displays as these.

By the time I had got almost back to my starting point I was feeling quite hot and thirsty, so I made a slight detour into the village general store-cum-post office and got a chilled can of Coke which I drank when I got back to the van, then after giving the dogs a drink of water I set off back to the site. After having a bit of lunch and an hour or so relaxation, I clipped the leads on the dogs, and leaving the van where it was I set off on the second part of my day.

One of my favourite walks is from the site up to Hemsby Gap by way of the avenues at Scratby and the cliff top and dunes, then back along the beach, and that's the way I was heading. There are some lovely houses and bungalows along the cliff top - I've often thought I would like to live there if I could afford it, but there are so many nice properties I would be spoilt for choice. Many years ago a lot of these properties started life as nothing more than square wooden chalet-type dwellings with odd bits added on here and there - some of them were really quaint and fascinating - but over the years they have been rebuilt and extended upwards and outwards to become the proper houses and bungalows they are today. About half way between Scratby and Hemsby, where the cliff top ends and the dunes begin, is a couple of rows of quaint fishermens' cottages, one row set at a ninety degree angle to the other. The concrete lane through the dunes starts there, and on either side are wooden chalets. The land on the left rises quite steeply and the chalets are built up on stilt-like timber frames, while many of the chalets on the right are tucked away in the dunes themselves. Some of these are holiday homes but many are lived in permanently - if it's possible to call something like this 'cute' then many of them are, and they have long been a source of fascination for me. I would love to be able to go into some of them and have a look round.

When I reached Hemsby Gap itself I treated myself to an ice cream from the van which is always parked on the beach then set off back in the direction I'd come from. Once I'd got away from the Gap area itself I let the dogs off the lead so they could explore as much as they wanted.

In an effort to try and get Sophie to swim I spent some time throwing stones into the sea but she wasn't falling for that one and only went in just enough to get her feet wet. In complete contrast though, Sugar swims like a fish and will retrieve stones all day long. And if she can't find the stone I threw in she will search underwater till she finds a suitable alternative - often so big she can hardly carry it - and bring it back for me.

So while Sugar was busy retrieving stones Sophie was quite happy pottering about at the water's edge, and it was in this way we made progress along the beach till we reached the path back up to the site. On arriving back at my pitch I re-parked the van and put up the blinds ready for later, attached the awning, made something to eat and looked forward to a relaxing evening with my laptop and the UKCS website.

Tuesday August 17th 2010 - Africa Alive

I woke to another grey and miserable morning, and when I took the dogs out there was a touch of rain in the air, though it didn't really amount to anything much. My walk took me down the far side of the site, past the static vans and the camping field, and southwards onto the path between the beach and the heathland. It's great there for dog walking - the bracken grows 4 to 5ft tall and there are several paths which meander through it, giving the dogs the opportunity to run off the lead and sniff and explore in the way that only dogs can. When the heathland gave way to houses I cut across the main path and went down onto the beach, heading back northwards. There are no cliffs at that point, just a few dunes, a concrete 'promenade' and a wide expanse of sand - the beach narrows a bit where the cliffs start, and as the tide was at its height it was covering more and more of the sand till it got to the stage where I was dodging the waves as I walked. I decided to set myself a challenge - reach the path back up to the site without getting wet feet. I did it - just - but the dogs got wet more than once. Sugar loved it, but Sophie wasn't too impressed!

Back in the awning I towelled the dogs down, made tea and toast, and turned my thoughts to what I was going to do with my day. I wanted to go somewhere or do something where it didn't matter if the weather was a bit gloomy, and after consulting my 'Days Out In Norfolk' booklet I decided to take myself off to Africa Alive, a wildlife park down at Kessingland in Suffolk. I first went there back in the 80s when the park was in its infancy - there wasn't a great lot there back then, though I do remember an ostritch trying to eat my hair! So with the dogs safely ensconced in the back of the van and one of my favourite cds playing I set off.

Kessingland is just south of Lowestoft and I've been down that neck of the woods often enough to know that unless you want to risk getting held up in traffic you don't go through Lowestoft, you go round it, but what did I do? - I went through it and ended up sitting in a traffic queue for ages while a big fishing boat went through on its way out to sea. From where I was I could only see the top of the boat and the mast, but it seemed to be quite a sizeable vessel. It got me thinking then - at what size does a boat become a ship? Once the traffic was moving again it didn't take me long to reach Africa Alive and as soon as I'd ascertained from the guy in the kiosk that I would be able to re-enter the park if I came out to check on the dogs I drove over to the car park. I found a nice spot away from most of the other cars, with a big tree which would provide shade for the dogs if the sun decided to put in an appearance, and with the curtains drawn, the side windows open a bit and the fan on, I left them to settle down to sleep while I went to look for some wildlife.

Big cats are my favourites so I headed in their direction first - having been 'up close and personal' with cheetahs when in South Africa I was really hoping I could get some good photos of the ones there but I was destined to be disappointed. They were nowhere to be seen, but as they had cubs I assumed they were in their den. So I moved on to the lions, but if I was hoping to see them walking round and looking lively I had no chance - they were just lounging dozily by the fence, the big male looking very much like one of those pyjama cases you would have on the end of your bed. I wouldn't have liked to try stuffing my pj's in him though!

This montage - if that's the right word - is the nearest that Africa Alive has to elephants. In South Africa the elephant is one of 'The Big Five', so an African-themed wildlife park without elephants is like fish without chips - it just didn't seem right to me, though I suppose there must be a reason for it.

After wandering past the giraffes - which were too far away across the enclosure for me to see them properly - and the zebras I decided it was time to go check on the dogs.

After stamping the back of my hand so I could get back in later, I returned to the van. There was no sign of life so I crept up quietly and peered through the back window - both dogs were sound asleep, and if I hadn't sneezed just at that moment they wouldn't have known I was there. Some guard dogs they turned out to be! The car park is in a huge field, so after giving them both a drink I took them for a walk right up to the top and back, then returned to the wildlife park.

I went past some large creatures which looked like grey cows with huge horns - I can't for the life of me remember what they were - and some antelope-type things, then round by Lemur Island where two lemurs were chasing each other round the central tree, first one way then the other; I watched them for quite a while before moving on to some of the small animals housed 'indoors'. The young bat-eared foxes looked cute, and though I couldn't find the meerkats I did see some mongooses. And that prompted another of my musings - if the plural of goose is geese, then why isn't the plural of mongoose mongeese? It doesn't sound right really though, does it?

The best part of the day though was without doubt my walk through Lemur Encounters. This is a huge open enclosure where the public can walk among the many ring-tailed lemurs which live there. There were dozens of them, from small babies up to older adults, playing games of 'tig' amongst themselves, jumping onto fence posts and leaping in and out of the trees. One came to sit on the fence post right next to me - unfortunately I can't speak 'Lemurese' so I had to talk to it in English and hope it understood. It looked like it did, and it spent several minutes looking intelligently at me before it jumped down and ran to join its friends.

These creatures were so fascinating and amusing to watch that I could have stayed there till the park closed, but time was getting on and I didn't want to leave the dogs too much longer so reluctantly I decided to leave. On my way out of the park I called in the gift shop, which I expected to be expensive - places like that usually are - but surprisingly I found things were quite reasonably priced, so for less than a fiver I treated myself to a cuddly meerkat to keep in the van. I think the reasonable prices in the gift shop were offset by the prices in the cafe though - it would have cost more for coffee and cake than I paid for the meerkat!

Returning to the van I took the dogs for another walk then set off on the drive back to California. Just on a whim, and as I was in the area anyway, I decided to go to Kessingland beach. I went there many years ago but I couldn't remember much about it, though I'd been told not long ago that there's a nice cafe there. Well if there is, I couldn't find it - I did find a not-very-cheap bistro type restaurant on a corner near the beach, but no sign of a nice cafe. In fact there was no sign of anything much - the whole place had a very washed out, grey and boring look about it, and I didn't even bother getting the camera out. Another place I won't be going back to. From there I went back onto the A12, skirting round Lowestoft this time, and headed for 'home'. Looking at the map book the distance from Lowestoft to back to Yarmouth doesn't seem too great, and it's actually only just over 12 miles, but that stretch of the A12 must be one of the most boring sections of road I've ever been on and it seemed to take forever to do that journey. Was I glad when I finally got to the bypass over the River Yare - I made a quick stop at the nearby Asda to get a few provisions, and once back on site I put the blinds up in the van ready for later, made a brew and a sandwich and settled in for the evening.