Weather-wise the day was much the same as the previous one, with blue sky and sunshine but with quite a bit of cloud cover, and as I had my Sunday morning treat of breakfast in bed I pondered where to go which didn't need a lot of sunshine. I hadn't yet got round to visiting my friends in Bungay, and as I only had three days of my holiday left I thought I should make an effort so it was decided - Bungay it was.
It was getting on for lunchtime before I set off, and as I headed down towards Yarmouth I was planning which order to visit everyone - probably Ady first, then his twin brother Andy, and finally their mother Jane. Ady and Andy lived in close proximity to the town centre but Jane lived just outside it and the road past her house would take me back in the direction of 'home' so it made sense to visit her last. The roundabout near Yarmouth Asda was nowhere near as busy as the day before, and as I headed along the Yarmouth bypass I thought of somewhere I else I could go - Redwings Horse Sanctuary. It was on the A143 and as I would be driving right past the entrance I thought I may as well stop off there for a while and say hello to Rusty, my adopted horse.
The Redwings sanctuary occupies over seventy acres of the Caldecott Hall estate and shares an entrance with the Caldecott Hall Country Club, but as I turned into the driveway I had the weirdest feeling that I had gone to the wrong place. I've been there many times over the years - in fact I was only there last year - and there's always been a large sign at the entrance with the Redwings name on it, but this time there was nothing, and no horses in the paddocks near the road either. I wondered if maybe the place had closed down but if that had been the case I'm sure I would have had a newsletter about it. I couldn't just turn round and drive away again as a car had pulled into the entrance behind me so I had to carry on to the end of the driveway - and when I got there I saw that the sanctuary was still very much in existence. Car parking and entrance to the sanctuary is free and dogs on leads are welcome so once I had parked the van I clipped the leads on Sophie and Sugar and went for a wander round.
Just inside the entrance gate is the gift shop, cafe and reception and after booking in and getting my visitor's sticker I had a browse through all the information leaflets that were out on display before making my way out to the paddocks. And that's where I got another weird feeling - on all the previous times I've visited Redwings there's always been lots of horses and ponies in evidence and several staff on hand, either going about their work or chatting to visitors and answering questions; now there was only a handful of horses dotted here and there, in fact there were more donkeys in one paddock than there were horses in all the other paddocks; many paddocks were empty, and I didn't see one single staff member. It felt just like a shop that was running down all its stock and getting rid of its staff before closing down for good. And I was disappointed that didn't even get to see Rusty, I don't know where he was. So the lack of horses and ponies coupled with the sign having gone from the entrance made me wonder if the place really is closing down, though I know Redwings has two other centres in other parts of the country so maybe a lot of the horses and ponies had been moved for some reason - I would ask at reception on my way out. After wandering round for a while I managed to get just half a dozen photos before I made my way back towards the entrance - I did call in at reception but there was only one member of staff on duty and her time was taken up with the lengthy process of arranging adoptions for several members of one family, and even though I waited patiently for over five minutes there was no sign of any other staff members so unfortunately my queries went unanswered.
Back at the van I let the dogs off the lead so they could have a quick run round the grassy parking area then after giving them a drink I set off for Bungay - it was a pleasant drive and twenty five minutes later I reached the main street of the little town. Ady has a ground floor flat in a modern block of four in a quiet little cul-de-sac just behind the main street and as he has a designated parking space but no car I had no problem finding somewhere to put the van. The communal front door was open so I walked straight in but in spite of knocking on his flat door several times there was no answer - by this time I was feeling quite hungry so I wrote a note on some scrap paper I had in the van, wedged it into the door handle, and took myself and the dogs off to the local cafe for something to eat.
Situated down a side street off the market place the Buttercross Tea Rooms sounds very much like the sort of place where you would get elderly ladies in twin sets and pearls drinking tea out of delicate china cups, but this place is nothing like that - it's down to earth and anything but fancy, frequented by many of the locals in working gear, but it's clean and serves up great meals at very reasonable prices. After studying the menu and the 'specials' board behind the counter I opted for home made steak and kidney pie with chips and peas and a large mug of milky coffee, then went to sit at a table in the corner. There were half a dozen local guys sitting round a couple of tables further along, they all seemed to know each other very well and as I drank my coffee I found listening to their jovial banter quite enjoyable.
My meal, when it came, seemed to swamp the whole plate and I didn't think I would manage to eat it all but I must have been hungrier than I first thought as the only thing I left was a bit of the pie crust. After a second mug of coffee, and feeling extremely satisfied, I went back to Ady's but he still wasn't in so I took the dogs for a walk round by the castle and the nearby common. Every time I walk round the castle grounds I promise myself that one day I will go in and look round properly (it always seems to be closed whenever I go) but up to now I never have - and even though nothing ever changes I always take a photo or two.
Back at Ady's flat for the third time I found that he still wasn't in, so I retrieved the note from the door handle, put Sophie and Sugar back in the van and set off for Andy's place. Lavender Cottage is only just at the other side of the town so it only took a couple of minutes to get there and I was pleased to find that Andy and his wife Sue were both at home. Andy put the kettle on and we all settled in for a good chat, during which he told me that I wouldn't find Ady at home as he now has a new lady friend and spends all his weekends at her place. I was sorry I wouldn't get to see him but I was pleased at the news - he's a nice guy and has been on his own for too long so it was good to hear that he's found someone after all this time.
It was over an hour before I took my leave of Andy and Sue and set off for Jane's house just outside the town centre. The narrow road through the town eventually joins a wider road at a T junction and on the far side of the junction is a roadsign which has amused me for about five years. Pointing to the right it says simply 'Swimming pool' - well that's what it should say but some of the letters have either been taken off or obliterated with white paint as it now reads 'Swim in poo'. Certainly not something I would want to try! I would have thought that after this length of time Suffolk County Council would have sorted it out but every time I see it it still says the same and it still makes me smile.
I think the Bungay bush telegraph - alias Andy and Sue - must have alerted Jane to my imminent arrival, because as I pulled up by her garden gate she was already waiting by the door to greet me. Jane is a lovely lady; the sort of person who you would choose if you could pick someone to be your mum, and someone who instantly makes you feel welcome and at home - it's just a shame I don't get to see her very often as I've always liked going to visit. So with yet another mug of coffee to hand - and with a downstairs loo close by if it was needed! - I curled my legs up on one of her comfy settees and prepared to catch up on some more family and local news and indulge in a bit of 'putting the world to rights' while Sophie and Sugar mooched about between the kitchen and the living room. The time flew by and before I knew it it was 7pm - I had stayed longer than I intended and it was now time for me to go. Jane came to the garden gate with me and I got back in the van with the promise that I would call again next time I was down that way - well it was more of a foregone conclusion than a promise as I would never go to Bungay without going to see her.
It was almost 8pm by the time I got back to California and still quite a pleasant evening, so after connecting the awning to the van and feeding the dogs I took them for a walk through the heath and back along the beach, then spent a couple of hours on my laptop before going to bed just before 11pm. In spite of my mild disappointment and puzzlement at Redwings it hadn't been a bad day at all, and being in the company of some lovely friends had made it even better.
- 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