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 December 24th 2012 - A Very Merry Christmas......

And a Happy New Year to all my blog readers!

It doesn't seem long since this blog was just a vague idea at the back of my mind, but it's well over three years since I started camping solo and over two years since I started writing about it - and in that time I feel I've come a long way and achieved so much, both in my camping and in my writing and photography. And it's good to know that I have so many readers - not just 'followers' who I know about but others I don't know, and in so many different countries too. Sometimes I've wondered if anyone really is reading my posts or if I'm just writing to amuse myself, but then I look at my blog stats and they tell me different - there are some readers out there after all!

So thank you everyone, wherever you are, for continuing to log in and read about my travels, and here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a bright and prosperous New year - I hope it's a good one for all of you!

Monday December 10th 2012 - The end of the weekend

I woke to another clear sunny morning with lots of blue sky, and as I was in no particular rush to pack up and go home I decided to treat myself to an extra hour or so in bed with my breakfast - a bit of a luxury for a Monday morning as normally when I'm working I'm out of the house by 7am. First though was a dog walk round the lake, and as there was no point getting dressed if I was going back to bed I went out in my dressing gown. Now normally you wouldn't see me on a camp site in anything other than my daytime clothes but as I was the only camper there it didn't really matter what I was wearing; yes, there was a chilly wind blowing but in the sun it was actually quite pleasant and I didn't feel cold at all. I'd done two circuits of the lake and was just taking a couple of photos of the tent when a train went past - heaven knows what the passengers thought if they saw me. A woman in a fluffy pink dressing gown with hair like Worzel Gummidge, walking round a field on a cold windy morning with two dogs wearing little pink and black t-shirts? Sounds rather like a case for the men in white coats!

With my coffee and toast made I retreated back to bed and spent a very quiet and cosy hour reading my book before I decided to get up properly and make a start on packing up. I didn't really have a lot to pack so it didn't take long, then with the dogs in the back of the van out of the way I dismantled the tent. As I was working I noticed a very grey cloud coming over the sun, and I'd just got the tent rolled up and back in its bag when the cloud dropped its rain in a sudden heavy shower. It only lasted a few minutes though, and by the time I'd checked round the pitch for any stray tent pegs and taken the dogs for another quick walk the cloud had drifted away and the sun was out again.

With a cd to sing along to it was a very pleasant drive home in the sunshine and I arrived back just a few minutes after 3pm. After letting the dogs into the garden for a few minutes my first task was to download the weekend's photos onto the pc as I couldn't wait to see the results of Expedition Seal - and I was very pleased with most of them, I'd got some good shots in spite of not being able to go out onto the sand flats. All in all it had been a good, if all too brief, weekend - the camp site had been nice, I'd met up with a nice group of fellow campers and the weather, although cold, hadn't bothered me unduly. This had been my first solo winter camping experience and I'd survived - and to be honest I felt quite proud of myself!

Sunday December 9th 2012 - Expedition Seal at Donna Nook

I woke just before 8am that morning to the promise of a fine bright day, and as I was lovely and snug in my bed and there was no movement from the dogs I decided to stay where I was for a while longer. When I finally did get up and venture outside the tent it was very chilly but lovely and sunny with an almost cloudless blue sky, just right for my photography expedition later on. After a dog walk round the site and a breakfast of coffee and toast I went to have a chat and say goodbye to everyone else - they were leaving that day and would be gone by the time I got back to the site later on - then I made preparations for visiting the seal colony at Donna Nook. Having been there four years before on what was then, according to the weather experts at the time, the coldest weekend ever, I knew from experience that there would be a bitingly cold wind out on the sand flats and I needed to be dressed appropriately, so on went the first three layers of clothing with the rest stashed in the van to be put on when I got there. Even the dogs had their winter hoodies on for extra warmth,  and as I couldn't take them with me out to the sand flats there was a duvet in the back of the van for them to snuggle under while I was away. With fully charged batteries in the camera and the means to make a brew if I needed one I finally set off on Expedition Seal at 11.30am.

Now although the camp site was only about 20 miles from Donna Nook as the crow flies my van unfortunately didn't have wings and there was no truly direct way of getting from one to the other, so my route took me north east first then back in a southerly direction, most of which was along very winding roads and which added several miles to the journey. At one point it seemed as though someone was moving my destination further and further away and I didn't think I would ever get there, but then I passed the entrance to the site I'd stayed on four years before and knew I hadn't much further to go; and finally, an hour after leaving the camp site, I arrived at the car park at Donna Nook. Unfortunately though it was full, such is the popularity of the place, so I drove straight round and out again and went to the overflow car park further along the lane where there was plenty of room and a catering van in one corner. Parked up in a nice sunny spot I made the dogs comfortable under their duvet then put on my final layers of clothes, which in total added up to - 3 pairs of long socks, 2 pairs of leggings, 2 pairs of tracksuit bottoms, long-sleeved t-shirt, short-sleeved t-shirt, cycling top, padded jacket, motorbike jacket, waterproof jacket and overtrousers, 2 pairs of gloves and wellies. And if that lot didn't keep me warm and dry then nothing would - I probably looked a bit like Michelin Man but I didn't care, I was on a mission!

As it turned out I didn't really need all those layers after all; when I got to the place where I would be able to go down onto the beach, at the far end of the protected area, I found it closed off with barriers and several notices prohibiting access - it looked like Expedition Seal was scuppered before it had even started. Disappointed but curious I went to find a seal warden to ask why the beach access had been blocked and he told me that it wasn't just a handful of serious photographers who went out there like it used to be, but sometimes whole coachloads of people on organised trips would turn up and there could be as many as three hundred people out on the sand flats at any one time. This was having a detrimental affect on the seals and between fifty and sixty pups were dying each season because of human interference; and if the young ones kept dying the adults would stop coming to the area and eventually there would be no seal colony left. Put like that it was a no-brainer - to protect the seals the public had to be kept off the beach, and though I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to get any truly wild shots I fully understood and respected the decision which had been made - and I could still get plenty of photos from behind the fence.

Unfortunately though, there was one big drawback to staying behind the fence - dozens of other people were there too and several times I would just get a photo lined up then two or three people would stand next to me, casting a large shadow, or someone would stand completely in my way and ruin the shot. It took plenty of patience and over an hour of wandering up and down before I was satisfied that I'd got all the shots I could - and all I can say is thank goodness for a good zoom lens! Many of the seal pups seem to spend an inordinate amount of time lying on their backs, which gives them the cute look - or maybe the world looks better viewed from upside down - and one baby turned out to be a real poser. He was lying not far from the fence with his nose on his paws but as I pointed the camera he lifted himself up and sat perfectly still while I took several shots of him. Bless him - if I could have given him a treat for being so good then I would have done. I took almost a hundred photos altogether and only had to discard a handful; unfortunately I don't have the web space to put them all on here and it would get boring anyway, so I've chosen the following few as some of my favourites.

With my photography finished I made my way back to the van and took Sophie and Sugar for a walk right round the car park - which was actually a large farmer's field set aside for the purpose - then after stripping off a couple of layers of unwanted clothing I went across to the nearby catering wagon and got myself a cheeseburger and a coffee. They weren't a patch on what I get from Pete's burger bar on Anglesey but they filled a hole and buying the coffee saved me from making my own. Then it was time to head back to the camp site but with a slight detour; along the lane leading to Donna Nook was a sign for The Ark animal sanctuary, and although I didn't know anything about it, or even if it was open to the public, I decided to drive along and check it out. When I got there I found it was open so I left the van in the small parking area and went to have a look round. It wasn't a big place so fifteen minutes was all it took to see everything, but they had quite a range of pets looking for homes and I fell instantly in love with four adorable tiny kittens and a scruffy little blind dog. It's a good thing I live too far away for a home check or I would have the lot!

Back on the road again I decided to go back to the camp site by a different route, so headed south towards Mablethorpe then turned off in the direction of Louth and Market Rasen. Unfortunately though I was heading west and the sun by then was getting low in the sky and shining directly in my eyes - not a good idea when the lane I was driving along passed through a vast expanse of open fields and was narrow and winding with deep unfenced ditches on both sides; my sun visor didn't help much either. Thankfully I reached the outskirts of Louth without any mishaps - though I did pass a car which had gone off the road at some time and landed on its side in the ditch - and once I reached the main A road to Market Rasen the rest of the journey was fine.

The daylight had all but disappeared by the time I got back to the camp site so I fed the dogs and took them for a quick circuit of the lake while I could see without needing my lantern then I put the heater on in the tent and settled in for the evening. With my camping companions gone, and no-one in any of the nearby caravans, I had the place to myself and there was no noise apart from a few hoots from an owl in a tree across the lake and the rumble of the occasional goods train passing on the nearby track. With very little of interest on the tv I spent most of the evening reading my book and playing games on my DS, then as it got later I took the dogs for their bedtime walk, made a final brew and got into my own bed. It had been a good day, and although I'd been disappointed at not being able to complete Expedition Seal as I'd wanted to I'd still got some good photos and I couldn't wait to download them to my pc when I got home.

Saturday December 8th 2012 - First winter camp

A very sunny but chilly Saturday morning saw me leaving home for north east Lincolnshire and my first solo winter camp. Okay, so if various people thought I was slightly mad when I went camping in late October they must have thought I was positively insane going in December, especially as the weather had, for the most part, been bitterly cold and frosty over the previous couple of weeks. But I was going to a particular place for a particular reason and winter is the only time I could go; my eventual destination was a place on the Lincolnshire coast where, between mid October and mid December there is a large breeding colony of grey seals, and my mission for the weekend was to get some photos of them. I'd been there four years previously and though I'd got some good photos of the seals in the protected area of the dunes I'd actually trekked right out along the sand flats almost to the water's edge, which was about a mile walk, and got some even better photos there so I was keen to repeat the experience.

When I'd first thought of going, which was only a couple of weeks beforehand, I'd asked my friend Janet if she fancied coming with me and at first she was all for it, especially as the site I'd stayed at previously had a B & B which would, in the current cold weather, be far more comfortable than camping. However, when I'd phoned to check availability I found that dogs weren't allowed in the B & B, and as neither of us would be happy leaving them in the van overnight when it was so cold, and Janet wasn't really too keen on actually camping anyway, the idea was initially scrapped. But the more I thought about it the more I wanted to go, though it would really all depend on the weather - if we had any snow or anything which could make driving conditions difficult then I wouldn't be going anywhere, but if I left it till the last minute to make a decision then I probably wouldn't get a pitch on the camp site anyway as it's only a small place and being close to the seal colony it gets booked up quickly.

So after several days of watching the tv weather forecasts and with my thoughts alternating between ''I'm going'' and ''no I'm not going'' (I'm not usually so indecisive!) and the possibility of getting a pitch on the camp site dwindling with every passing hour, a solution came in the form of MissE, a UKCS member who had seen one of my posts on the forums and suggested an alternative camp site where she and a few other UKCS-ers would be spending the weekend. It was about twenty miles inland from where I wanted to be but it would be quiet and there would be no problem in getting a pitch with ehu, also it was behind a pub which did meals - that all sounded good but again it would depend on the weather, so as she was going on the Friday she said she would let me know what conditions were like. So on Friday morning I packed up the van in readiness - I decided to take the small tent as it would be easier to heat than the big awning - and waited for an on-site weather report, which came that evening and was very favourable. And now, after a quick phone call to the pub to double check that there was indeed an electric pitch available, I was on the way to Lincolnshire to indulge in some seal photography.

The drive over was relatively easy and quite pleasant in the morning sunshine, and I arrived at the site in the village of Moortown just two hours and ten minutes after leaving home. The first thing was to park by the pub and go to book in; I hadn't a clue how much it would be as I'd never asked when I'd phoned earlier, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was only charged £7.50 per night, and that was including electric. The camp site was behind the pub with a small car park and a hedge separating it from the pub itself, and as I drove round and into the main part of the site my first impressions were good; a large level field with one end split by conifer hedges into a smaller section where there were a few seasonal caravans, and backing onto the main part was a large fishing lake with access all the way round which would be ideal for walking the dogs. A railway line ran past the far side of the site but I'd been warned about that by MissE, and trains don't bother me anyway so it wasn't an issue. After being greeted by MissE and the others, and introduced to Shorty and her hubby who I hadn't met before, MissE made me a very welcome coffee then I had a wander round the field to suss out where to pitch. John and Bill had both pitched between two unoccupied caravans and as there was a vacant hook-up point and plenty of space between their tents I decided to pitch there. It didn't take long to put the tent up and get my belongings inside and once everything was sorted out I took the dogs for a walk round the lake then spent a while chatting to the others, during which I was asked if I wanted to join them when they went to the pub later on for an evening meal. That sounded good to me and it would save me making something for myself so the answer was most definitely a 'yes'.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing on my bed in the tent, reading a book and watching a bit of tv; it had gone cold again once the sun had gone down but with the fan heater on the tent was actually quite cosy. It was getting on for 7pm when Bill shouted that they were all off to the pub so zipping the dogs into their bedroom so they wouldn't escape while I was away I put my jacket on and went out to join them. The pub menu wasn't extensive but home made steak and ale pie was one of the items on it so I settled for that, and though Bill had said earlier that the food was only so-so I actually found the meal quite nice, and at only £6.95 for the pie, three veg and lashings of gravy it certainly didn't break the bank. And as pub meals go it was far better than the meal I'd had at that place in Northumberland in August!

After a very pleasant hour or so we all made our way back over to the camping field and though it wasn't late we said our goodnights and retreated to our own tents for the rest of the evening. I spent a couple of hours reading and watching tv then when the long day began to catch up with me I took Sophie and Sugar for their bedtime walk round the field aided by my camping lantern. Back in the tent once more I settled them into their bed and snuggled into mine for the rest of the night, with my fingers metaphorically crossed for good weather for my seal photography the following day.

Monday October 29th 2012 - I'm not a celebrity, get me out of here!

It was fine when I woke that morning, though when I took the dogs for their first walk up the lane it was obvious from the saturated ground that it had rained for most of the night - thank goodness I got those wellies last time and decided to keep them in the van, I really needed them now. Back from the dog walk I made some breakfast then once that was out of the way, and with no reason to linger on the site, I made a start on packing up. Unfortunately though, the state of the ground didn't help matters and as I went to and from the van the mud which was outside the tent quickly transferred itself to the inside via my feet, which didn't exactly make me a happy bunny. I almost wished I'd opted for the hard standing pitch I should have been on instead of changing my mind and pitching on the grass - I should have remembered from last time what it would be like in wet weather, but then it had been a glorious day when I got there.

By the time I'd got to the stage of taking the tent down there was mud everywhere - it was on the carpet in the van, on the tent, in the tent, on my new tent carpet, on me, on the dogs even though they'd not been off the lead, on their bed, and worst of all on my duvet where they'd brushed against it on their way in from our earlier walk. As I pulled out the tent pegs, getting my hands filthy in the process, I just wanted to get away from there as soon as I could - this mud wasn't funny and I wasn't in the mood for much more of it. Fortunately once all the pegs were out it didn't take long to remove the poles, fold the tent and get it back in the bag, then after saying a quick goodbye to the other nutters who were also in the process of packing up I was finally ready for off. The next problem was driving off the waterlogged pitch and as I reversed slowly I didn't think I would make it but I did, and once I'd got onto the gravel road through the site I drove round to the shower block to give my hands a good wash and change from my wellies to my trainers.

As I left the site I realised that although I was the last of the group to start packing up I was actually the first to leave, which was unusual for me, but for once I was just glad to get away. As I left the village behind and headed down the main road I relaxed a bit, and with a cd to sing along to my mood improved with the drive. It was still only lunchtime when I arrived home, and as I pulled up outside the gate I felt almost human again. Later on, as I downloaded my photos onto the pc, I thought over the last couple of days - my trip to Bolton Abbey had produced some good pics, I'd met up with a good crowd and the beach party evening had been good fun and very enjoyable. I'll say one thing for Riverside though - it's a lovely site in a lovely area and though this was probably my last camp of the season I have every intention of staying there again in the future, but not if there's any chance of wet weather!

Sunday October 28th 2012 - Scrambled eggs in Skipton

I woke that morning to the sound of rain on the tent; hard to believe after the previous day had been so lovely but I suppose not totally unsurprising for this country. According to my phone it was 8am but the hour had gone back overnight which meant it was still very early; I was lovely and cosy in my bed with no desire to go out in the wet, and as the dogs weren't exactly rushing to the door I awarded myself the luxury of a long lie-in. By the time they'd got to the point of looking rather cross-legged the rain had stopped so I took them for a walk up to the village and back; those members of the group who had school-age kids were in the process of packing up to leave so I wandered round and had a chat to them all then went back to my own tent and put the kettle on for a brew. By this time it was raining again, so with no chance of any good photography and no tv to watch I spent a couple of hours reading my book, then when I got fed up of looking at four blue walls I decided to go into Skipton for a look round the shops.

When I got into town I pulled into the car park by the canal and with a couple of hours on the ticket went for a wander round. Having the dogs with me meant I was confined mainly to window shopping though I did go in a couple of charity shops and bought a cd from one of them. By the time I returned to the van I was feeling quite peckish, so leaving the dogs to curl up in the back I went across the canal to the Boathouse cafe. The menu there isn't terribly extensive, though they do have a 'specials' board, and though I was tempted to have coffee and cake I decided for once to have something different and ordered scrambled eggs on toast. It took a while for it to arrive as there was only one woman serving and one man doing the cooking but it was well worth the wait. The scrambled eggs were absolutely divine, really smooth and creamy and cooked to perfection, and I have to say they were the best scrambled eggs I've ever had - and I'm including my own in that comparison. So if I ever go there again - which no doubt I will - I think I'll be ignoring the cake and having scrambled eggs instead.

When I got back to the camp site I found that the ground was rapidly becoming waterlogged with all the rain and the area just outside the tent was looking rather on the muddy side; it did cross my mind that maybe I should strike camp and go home but I didn't really relish the idea of another wet pack-up, plus I wouldn't be able to get a refund for that night as the site owner was away herself, so I decided to stick it out and hope that the following day would be dry. The wet weather had rather put a stop to another get-together round a communal camp fire so I spent the evening in the tent, alternately reading and playing games on my DS until it was time to take the dogs for their bedtime walk. It was actually a bit earlier than I would normally take them but I thought that rather than lie on the bed, which I had been doing, I may as well get in it, and once I was snuggled in there was no way I was coming out until the morning!

Saturday October 27th 2012 - Halloween Beach Party and Bolton Abbey

A very sunny autumn morning saw me leaving home at 9am for my second weekend at Riverside camp site, this time for the 'nutters group' Halloween beach party. Now being complete nutters, and liking to do things differently, two or three of the group (who shall remain nameless) had come up with this idea just previous to our Jubilee get-together, the suggestion being that as the Jubilee party had been late then every other themed meet should be late too, therefore we would have our summer beach party for Halloween and the Halloween meet would be at an even later date. When the idea had been put to the vote at the Jubilee party it was met with total agreement, especially when Dragon announced that our 'beach' would be the childrens play area, which had a sand surface, and beach wear should be worn even if it was over our warm clothes - it sounded like a lot of fun and it would give us all something to think about during the interim four weeks. Needless to say, whenever I'd mentioned it to anyone I got comments ranging from "Won't you be cold in this weather?" (No, I'll have warm clothes on) and "There are no beaches near Skipton" (There will be where I'm going) to "You're completely mad" (Yes, probably, but I don't care). So here I was, on the road to Riverside, and with the warm autumn sun shining through the van windows and a cd to sing along to it really did feel more like summer than late October.

It was a few minutes after 10am when I arrived at the site and quite coincidentally the song playing on my cd was Mungo Jerry's 'In The Summertime' from 1971, so on the spur of the moment I wound the window down and turned the volume up to signal my arrival - well you've got to get into the spirit of things haven't you?! - though I did turn it down again after a couple of minutes. I'd originally been given a hard standing pitch to accommodate my van and awning but had taken my small tent instead, and when I saw that the pitch was well away from the rest of the group I changed my mind about using it and decided to go on the grass nearer to everyone else, using the same pitch I'd had four weeks previously which fortunately was quite dry. It didn't take long to put the tent up, and with not much equipment to put in it I soon had everything sorted and the kettle on for a brew.

A chat with various other group members followed then a dog walk up to the village shop and back, and as it was too nice a day to waste I decided to go to Bolton Abbey and seek out some photographic opportunities. It only took about twenty minutes to get there and I parked in the first of the three car parks then walked a hundred yards or so across the road to where there was a 'hole' in the wall allowing access to the countryside around the abbey. Although I'd been there before on a few occasions I'd never walked along the far side of the river so I decided that's what I would do - cross the bridge near the stepping stones, walk up as far as the bridge near the cafe then cross back and walk down the near side. And photography-wise I couldn't have picked a better day for it; the river was a really deep blue, reflected from the sky above, and the sun shining on the trees really showed up the autumn colours of the leaves.

Once I'd got back almost to my starting point I spent twenty minutes or so wandering round the abbey ruins before returning to the car park to retrieve the van; the £6 car park fee was for the use of all three car parks so I drove up to the next one then I could leave the dogs in the van while I went in the cafe - it may have been a nice day but unfortunately the outside tables were in the shade so I preferred to sit in rather than out. It seemed that since my last time there, about four years ago, the cafe had changed to self-service for everything except hot meals so as I was only having coffee and cake I didn't need to queue at the counter; there was quite a good selection of cakes available so I was rather spoilt for choice, though I eventually opted for a slice of the coffee and walnut cake, and very good it was too.

With the coffee and cake finished I went for a quick look round the nearby gift shop then made my way back to the van; there was nowhere else I particularly wanted to go to and though it was still only mid afternoon I set off back to the camp site as I wanted plenty of time to chill out before the evening fun began. When I arrived back at my pitch I found various campers in the process of sorting out the party tent and setting out the tables for the food and drink, and though I went over to offer my help it seemed that everything was under control so I went back to my own tent to relax for a while. When I ventured out again it was to find the party tent decorated with various palm trees, monkeys, beach balls, bananas, pineapples and paper lanterns and heaven knows what else, and there were flower garlands twined round the guy lines and hanging from windbreaks and various other points.

The fires were lit as the daylight faded, the music went on and gradually all the nutters started to congregate. There were some very weird and wonderful outfits to be seen too - there was Neil in shorts and football t-shirt with the traditional British knotted hanky on his head, Fiona wearing a coloured sarong with a bikini top made out of plastic coconut shells, Matt and James with flourescent green mankinis over their outdoor clothes, various swimsuits, grass skirts and pairs of shorts worn over t-shirts, leggings and jackets, Andy wearing a grass skirt and a stetson, and Billy with his multi-coloured Hawaiian shirt, matching grass skirt and huge bright yellow sunglasses with green palm trees sticking up from the top rims. And me? A blue and gold swimsuit over my tracksuit, with my red and white sarong on top and a flower garland round my neck. Even Sophie and Sugar were dressed for the occasion in pink and black t-shirts.

Later in the evening, as yet another train went past on the nearby track, it crossed my mind that any passengers who happened to see us might wonder what the heck was going on - we were the only ones on the site and with the bright lights in and around the party tent we were lit up like a Christmas tree. Needless to say, it was a great night and a lot of fun was had by everyone; it was gone midnight when I finally said goodnight and after a quick dog walk round the site I went back to my own tent. As I snuggled into my bed a while afterwards I could still hear faint music and the occasional burst of laughter from the die-hards of the group but it wasn't enough to be disturbing, and after reading only one short chapter of my book I felt myself drifting off to sleep.

Monday September 24th 2012 - A very wet pack-up

Well so much for keeping my fingers crossed for a dry pack-up - after a night of continuous rain it was still at it when I got up that morning, and when I ventured out with the dogs I found that the ground, which had more or less dried out with the sunshine of Friday and Saturday, was now absolutely saturated again and probably worse than it was when I'd first arrived. Thank goodness I'd got those wellies, it looked like I was going to need them!

Having no reason to linger on site in weather like that I started the packing up process as soon as I'd had breakfast; everything went well at first, but the ground was so wet that by the time I was ready for taking the awning down water had seeped up through my double layer groundsheet and I was walking round in the makings of a decent sized paddling pool. There was nothing I could do but fold the groundsheet as best I could and prop it up against the hedge in the hope that the water would have run out of it by the time I needed to pack it in the van. And taking the awning down was an absolute disaster - disconnected from the van and with the side poles taken out it flopped forwards onto the grass, and once I'd removed the other poles it settled into the swamp on my pitch like a crocodile settling itself into a muddy river bed, which meant it was then just as wet on the inside as it was on the outside.

Now normally when I pack the awning away I take the time to fold it and roll it properly so it will go back in its bag but for once I didn't give a monkeys. The whole thing was just one great rain-sodden mass which wouldn't improve no matter how well I folded it so I just threw all the guylines into the centre, folded it once then bundled it up as it was and put it into a big heavy duty bin liner with the groundsheet squashed in on top of it - I could think about drying it out in a day or two. My next problem was getting off the pitch - with the van standing in the swamp and no traction on the wet ground I fully expected not being able to move it, however by taking it slowly I managed to reverse off and reach the gravel track without problem. By that time I both looked and felt like a drowned rat, and as I can't drive in wellies anyway I went along to the shower block to get changed into my trainers and some dry clothes.

Feeling a bit more human once I was warm and dry I set off for home and got back an hour later - and it was as I was getting some stuff out of the van about half an hour afterwards that I realised I'd left my jacket hanging up in the shower block at the site. Damn and blast! Now what should I do? I knew that Alison, the site owner, was away so I couldn't phone her to ask her to find it and put it to one side until I could collect it, and although there was no-one else camping on the site just then there was no way of knowing if it would be safe if I left it till the weekend - so there was nothing for it but to go back and get the darned thing, and looking at the clock I knew I would just about have time to get there and back before I had to go to work. Fortunately a substantial part of the route was motorway so I was able to put my foot down a bit and I was back at the site in just less than an hour; my jacket was still where I'd left it, so throwing it into the van I set off yet again and was back home in time to get to work with a few minutes to spare. Sheesh, I wouldn't like to do that too many times!

As I downloaded my photos to the pc later that evening I thought back over the weekend - it had been a good one even though it had rather a soggy ending; I'd been to some nice places and got some good photos and the Jubilee party had been a very enjoyable evening with a great bunch of people so I was really looking forward to the next nutters meet in a month's time. And the theme for that one would certainly confirm that we really are all nutters!

Sunday September 23rd 2012 - Skipton and a boat ride

I woke later than usual that day to the remains of an early morning mist, and though it was quite cloudy the sun was trying to get through so I hoped that eventually it would turn into another nice day. As usual the first task of the day was a dog walk, and when I went outside the awning I found I had visitors - four sheep were grazing contentedly on the grass just a few yards from the van. Not wanting to walk past them and disturb them I took the dogs through the gap in the hedge in front of the van and went a different way; they were still there when I got back so I grabbed my camera and took a couple of shots of them before they wandered off.

After breakfast I spent part of the morning wandering round chatting and saying goodbye to various other nutters; while I was staying another day they were all packing up to leave later on and would all be gone by the time I got back to the site from wherever I went to. It was getting on for lunchtime before I was ready for going out and the day was still very cloudy so I revised my initial plans to go to Bolton Abbey and decided to look round Skipton instead. Bolton Abbey is one of those places where, from a photography point of view, it's better to go on a sunny day and as the sun didn't seem to be putting in an appearance there was no point going just for the sake of it. So Skipton it was, and as I didn't know just whereabouts in the town I would be able to park I followed the signs for the canal - there had to be a car park somewhere near there and sure enough there was, just out of the town centre and right by the canal itself, so finding a space I collected a ticket from the machine and went for a wander round.

I had a look round all the shops first, though having the dogs with me meant I couldn't really go in any of them, then went up to the castle. Dogs were allowed in, which was good, but again there was no point going on a cloudy day so I changed my mind on that one, made my way back to the canalside and took a few photos round there. One of the firms which hire out narrowboats did short boat trips along one arm of the canal, £3 for for thirty minutes, and there was one ready for leaving so on the spur of the moment I decided to go. Once away from general civilisation the canal ran past the tree-covered lower walls of the castle and after fifteen minutes sailing we reached a dead end; the guy running the trip turned the boat round then stopped for several minutes while he told us a bit about the history of the canal and the castle, then we set off again and sailed slowly back to the starting point.

By the time I got off the boat I was just about ready for a coffee; there was a little cafe just by the boat moorings so I took the dogs back to the van, which was just over the other side of the canal, then went to get a brew and some cake. Sitting in the cafe and looking out of the window I could see the already grey sky getting darker, and just as I got back to the van again I felt the first drops of rain. There was no point thinking of going anywhere else if it was raining so I set off back to Riverside, and by the time I pulled up at the awning it was raining quite hard. So that was it for the rest of the day - all the other nutters had left the site while I was out and apart from one caravan over the far side I was completely on my own, so I stayed in the awning watching a bit of tv and reading some of my latest book. I didn't venture out again until it was time to take Sophie and Sugar for their bedtime walk and it was still raining, that fine but heavy drizzly stuff that wets you within minutes. Needless to say the dogs and I weren't out in it for very long, and after I'd settled them in their bed and made a final brew I retreated to my own bed with fingers mentally crossed for a dry pack-up the following day.