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

Tuesday May 8th 2012 - Going home in the sunshine

In complete contrast to the previous day I woke that morning to blue sky and sunshine and the promise of a lovely day; it was just typical that our crazy British weather should decide that it would be nice on the day I was going home. My first job was to get rid of the pools of rainwater from the mudwalls and the top of the canopy connecting the awning to the van so everything would be dry by the time I had to pack up, then I took the dogs for a good walk round the site. A leisurely breakfast followed, then with my mug and plate washed and put away I started the packing up process - I think Sophie and Sugar must have known it was going home day as they stayed curled up in their bed and wouldn't come out, though when I got to the stage of taking the awning down I had to put them in the back of the van out of the way.

The awning was completely dry when I took it down, and even though there was quite a breeze blowing I had no trouble folding it up and getting it back into its bag, then with a check round the grass for any stray tent pegs I was ready for leaving. It was only 1pm and I had plenty of time so as is my personal 'tradition' I drove down to the promenade and took the dogs for a good walk on the beach before starting the homeward journey. With a cd to sing along to and the van window partly open it was a very pleasant drive in the sunshine, and as I'd set off a bit earlier than on previous occasions I was well ahead of the early evening rush hour by the time I reached Manchester, so there were no traffic tailbacks and no delays.

It was a few minutes after 4pm when I got home, with well over half an hour before I had to go to work, so I'd made good time and got back in just slightly over two hours. In spite of the previous day's rain I'd had a good weekend, and as I had nothing booked for the next bank holiday there was every likelihood that I would be going back to where I'd just come from - and sometimes I think I should just buy a house down there and live there permanently, it would save a whole load of to-ing and fro-ing!

Monday May 7th 2012 - A wet and miserable day

For the second morning running I woke to the sound of rain on the van roof and the sight of a very grey sky - I could hardly believe that after the previous day and evening had turned out to be so glorious it was raining again, though I hoped that once I was ready to go out later on it would be fine. Unfortunately it wasn't to be - several times it stopped raining and I thought I would have the chance to go out but within minutes it had started again; even the dogs didn't enjoy their walk round the site and were glad to get back in their bed again afterwards. So with my planned photography expedition for that day put on hold until sometime in the future I resigned myself to the fact that as long as it kept on raining I wasn't going anywhere, and I whiled away the time by reading my book and watching a bit of tv. However, by 3 o'clock that afternoon I was thoroughly fed up of staying in so just for something to do I decided to drive across the Menai bridge and go to Bangor, a place I'd never been to before.

It didn't take long to get there and as I had no interest in going into the town itself I followed the signs for the pier and eventually arrived at the end of a narrow street with a small public garden on a corner and a private car park by the pier entrance. There was an automatic barrier across the car park and a notice on the nearby pay machine said it was £1 to park all day - very cheap if you were staying all day but I wouldn't be there long, though as there were no vacant parking spaces on the road there was no alternative, so I put my money in the machine, the barrier let me through and I parked up facing the water. I sat for a while looking out over the water, with Anglesey just across the straits, and I came to one conclusion - Bangor is just as miserable as anywhere else when it's raining.

Having seen a sign for a cafe somewhere along the pier I thought I would have a walk down there and get a coffee - as it was still raining, and I wouldn't be away that long anyway, I left the dogs in the van for once. As it turned out, my walk along the pier was a total waste of time - the cafe right at the end was closed and the kiosk halfway along was so small that with the four people already in there it was full, so my idea of getting a coffee was abandoned. Under the shelter of my umbrella I got three shots of the pier from the car park then as there was no point exploring anywhere else in the rain I returned to the van and set off back to Anglesey.

When I got back to the camp site I found that most other campers had gone, and in the field where I was pitched there was just one other tent and a campervan left; if the previous evenings had been quiet because of the power shortage then it would certainly be quiet that night. After a quick dog walk and a much-needed brew and something to eat I spent the evening watching tv, and as there was hardly anyone left to overload the site's electricity supply the power actually stayed on - I was glad of it too as yet again it was a very chilly evening. It was 11pm before I took Sophie and Sugar for their last walk of the day and it was still raining, although maybe not as much as before - and when I finally settled down into bed a while later I realised something; Louise's weather forecast the day before had been right!

Sunday May 6th 2012 - Penrhos and Holyhead

I woke that morning to the sound of light rain on the van roof and when I looked out of the window it was to see a very cloudy and grey sky, however by the time I'd taken the dogs for a walk and had some breakfast (the power was back on again) it had come fine and the sky was brightening up a bit. My first port of call that day was the car boot sale over on the Anglesey showground then I intended to make my way up to Holyhead - there were some good photographic suggestions in my book and it was also one place I hadn't so far explored.

My mission at the car boot sale, apart from looking for mice, was to find some aerosol-type gas canisters for my portable stove; I usually have half a dozen in my camping box but only had two left so I needed to top up my supply. However, the camping accessory stall where I would have got them from wasn't there and though I walked all round the sale twice there was no-one else selling them so I was out of luck; there were no mice either, but I did find a murder mystery book which looked very interesting so that was my one and only purchase. By the time I left the showground the clouds were clearing, the sky was turning blue and the sun was shining, and with hardly any traffic on the road (everyone uses the A55) my drive up the A5 was a very pleasant one. My next stop was the Stermat store up at Valley, I was sure I would get some gas canisters there as they sold camping accessories, but once again I was out of luck - and I think of all the times I've been in there that's the very first time I've not actually got what I went in for. I did find some spare guy line though, a vast quantity on a roll for only £1.69, and as I needed some anyway it meant that my stop wasn't a total waste of time.

From Stermat I drove the relatively short distance to Penrhos coastal park and as I approached along the causeway I could see that the board advertising Pete's Burger Bar was on the pavement near the entrance - that would do for me, a visit to that part of Anglesey just wouldn't be right without having a cheeseburger from there. First though was a dog walk, so with the van parked facing the view of the bay I let Sophie and Sugar out from the back and set off along the path, stopping every so often to take a photo. By the time I'd reached the bay at the far side of the white house built out on its rocky promontory I was feeling ready for a coffee and a cheeseburger so I turned round there and made my way back to the van.

When I went over to the catering van to order my cheeseburger and coffee I noticed that the printed extract from one of my last year's blog pages was still stuck in the side window - I hadn't expected that after all this time, I thought it would have been taken out ages ago, but Pete (who isn't actually called Pete) said he'd had quite a lot of people reading it so he'd left it there. I had to wait while my burger was freshly cooked and prepared but it was worth the wait; it was, as always, excellent, and if there ever comes a time when Michelin stars are awarded for cheeseburgers then Pete's Burger Bar deserves a top rating. And for anyone reading this and wondering what's so good about these things, I can only suggest that you go to Anglesey and try one - you won't be disappointed!

Back on the road again I drove along towards Holyhead and followed the streets and avenues down towards the ferry terminal - I was hoping to get a couple of photos of one of the huge passenger ferries but without going into the terminal itself I couldn't find anywhere convenient to park, so I drove down to the fishing dock to see if there was anything interesting there. A handful of fishing boats made a splash of colour in the harbour and after taking a few shots - which were nothing to do with my book - I set off again, this time to Breakwater Country Park at the far side of Holyhead marina.

I hadn't heard of Breakwater Country Park until I read the book so I was looking forward to seeing what was there, if anything, and also re-creating one of the featured photos. The approach to the park was via a long country lane which made a for very pleasant drive, and when I finally got to the end I found an information centre and car park - and it must have been my lucky day as the ticket machine was covered over, and when I went to ask in the information centre I was told it was out of order so parking was free that day. With the dogs on the lead and my book in hand I set out to walk round the nearby lake, and almost immediately I came to the spot where one of the book's photos was taken from - although there was a difference in the time of day, and the surface of the water was rippled in places by the breeze instead of being still, I nevertheless managed to get a photo near enough identical to the one in the book, then with the camera at the ready for shooting any other scenes I thought looked nice I set off on a circuit of the lake. It wasn't a big lake so it didn't take very long to walk round but I got several goods shots from various points, and I have to admit I was quite impressed with the place.

Close to the spot where I'd started from was a gate leading onto a lane and a short distance along was a rough steep track leading up to the top of Holyhead mountain; according to the book there were some spectacular views from up there so, nothing ventured nothing gained, I decided to walk up and take a look. However, when I was only part way up I turned to look back and the view I got from there was good enough - immediately below me on the left was a patchwork of fields bordered by the very rocky coastline, and on the right was the country park. In front of me I could see the marina and the one-and-a-half mile long breakwater with its lighthouse at the end, and in the distance to the right the silver-white chimney of Anglesey Aluminium rose up above the roof tops. With a couple of photos taken I made my way back down the path and returned to the van - the next stop was the breakwater itself, although I had no intention of walking right out to the end; I would save that for another time.

The breakwater was reached down a bumpy track off the lane leading from the country park, and just before I got to the breakwater itself I pulled up and parked at the side of the track. Another lane emerged onto the track just there and on the corner was a motley collection of derelict stone buildings - they looked like two rows of small cottages set at right angles to each other and what would have been a much larger house, and they were bordered on two sides by a high ivy-covered stone wall with towers set at strategic points. There was no indication as to what they would once have been - a manor house maybe with adjacent servants' quarters? - and as they were surrounded by steel mesh security fences I was unable to take a photo so I had to make do with a shot of one of the towers. With a few shots of the marina taken from the beginning of the breakwater I retraced my route down the track and the lane and found somewhere to park so I could look round the marina from the other side.

Those were to be my last shots of the day as time was getting on and I was ready for a brew, however as I drove through Holyhead towards the A55 - I was going back to Benllech the fast way for once - I suddenly decided to call on Louise who I had visited last year. I didn't really expect her to be in; with it being a bank holiday weekend she would quite probably be away camping herself, but it wasn't really out of my way to call. With the route remembered from last year I found her house easily and I was quite surprised when I found she was in; I think she was just as surprised to see me too. She invited me in and with a mug of coffee to hand we sat down for a good chinwag; time flew by and before I knew it it was 8pm and time to leave if I wanted to get back to the camp site before it went dark. I'd spent a good couple of hours in good company, with the only 'downside' being that as I left Louise told me it would be raining all the following day - I wasn't sure if she was joking or being serious but it wasn't something I really wanted to hear!

Going down the A55 and through Llangefni was the quickest way back to Benllech; it was a pleasant drive in the remains of the evening sunlight and in half an hour I was back on the site with the awning connected to the van. The evening had turned quite chilly once the sun went down though so I was happy to find that the power was on and I could use my fan heater, however it wasn't to last; just before 9.30 the light went off and the fan heater and fridge died a death, and I knew that once again I would be having an early night. So with the dogs walked for the last time that day and my hot water bottle to keep me cosy I was snuggled into my bed by 10pm. And thank goodness I'd bought that book from the car boot sale - I'd finished my other one at breakfast that morning, so at least with the light from my camping lantern I'd have something to while away the time until I drifted off to sleep.

Saturday May 5th 2012 - In the footsteps of a photographer

I woke that morning to blue sky, hardly any cloud and lots of sunshine, and in spite of a chilly breeze when I took Sophie and Sugar for their first walk it was a perfect day for photography. I'd brought with me from home the book about photographing various locations on the island which I bought last August, and my intention was to visit some of those locations and try to get the same shots as in the book, but first I was going to the car boot sale about three quarters of a mile up the road from the village.

After a leisurely breakfast - the power had been restored by the time I got up so I was able to use my toaster - and with things washed up and put away, I put the dogs in the back of the van, disconnected the awning, and headed off to see if I could find any bargains. As usual I was looking for mouse ornaments to add to my collection but though many of the stalls did sell ornaments there wasn't a single mouse to be found and it was only when I'd gone back to the village that I did find a bargain - but it wasn't a mouse. Stopping at the Spar shop to get a morning paper I had a look in the charity shop next door and found a computer keyboard, brand new and in its original sealed and undamaged box, for the 'extravagant' sum of £2. I'd needed a new keyboard for a while as some of the letters had worn off the existing one and my spelling mistakes were getting ridiculous, so this was a bargain too good to miss. 

Driving out of Benllech I headed along the road towards Moelfre, though at the top of the road leading down to the village I turned off in the direction of Lligwy beach and soon came to my first port of call - Din Lligwy ancient chapel and settlement. The chapel was just across a field and not far from the lane, so with the van parked in a convenient lay-by, the dogs on their leads and my book in hand I set off to explore. Walking round the outside of the chapel and studying the book it wasn't hard to figure out where the author had taken his photos from and I was able to get three almost identical shots plus several good ones of my own. There was nothing inside the chapel except a small underground burial chamber in one corner with half a dozen stone steps leading down to it - no skeletons down there though! - so it only took a couple of minutes to look round.

The settlement itself was across the far side of the field, and being surrounded on three sides by trees it was rather hidden away from the outside world; with the sun shining and the birds singing it was a very peaceful place to be. A couple of information boards gave the history of the place and after reading them both I wandered round taking my photos, with the first one being taken from the same position as the one in the book, then satisfied that I'd seen everything I made my way back to the van.

My second stop was Moelfre; although I'd taken several photos there during the last couple of years there was a view featured in the book which I hadn't yet taken, and as the sun was shining from the right direction the opportunity was too good to miss. I parked in the free car park behind the road through the village; between the car park and the road itself is a small row of cottages with a stream flowing past the front gardens and a very pleasant alleyway leading down towards the beach - it looked quite attractive in the sunshine and worth a couple of photos. I'd intended to take some last year but had forgotten, so I decided to rectify that before I went any further.

Down near the beach I consulted my book to see exactly where I needed to be and I found the right spot, and with the sunshine and blue sky I could have got a good photo but someone had parked a large 4 x 4 vehicle right on the edge of the beach and it really spoiled the shot. I did take a couple though, then decided to walk along the cliffside path to the end and back in the hope that the 4 x 4 would be gone when I returned. It was, but it had been replaced by several people and a couple of kids' buggies, although they didn't ruin the shot like the 4 x 4 did. Then down at beach level I took a shot of the fishing dinghies pulled up on the shingle and piled up with a hotch potch of colourful fishing stuff - that particular photo wasn't in the book but I thought it was too good to miss. It was only a couple of minutes later that the first 4 x 4 was replaced by a second one so with that I gave up trying to get the perfect shot according to the book and decided to retrieve the van and go back to the camp site.

The rest of the afternoon and early evening were spent in and around the awning then just after 7pm I decided to go out with the camera once more; evening sunlight is often good for photography so I thought the short drive to Red Wharf Bay might be productive. The tide had gone right out when I got there, leaving vast stretches of sand broken by channels of water which were quite deep in places and with boats dotted about here and there. The evening was so clear that Pentraeth and Llanddona across the other side of the bay seemed to be little more than touching distance away; unfortunately by then there was a very chilly breeze blowing so I didn't linger too long - half a dozen shots and I was on my way back to the camp site.

I had only been back in the awning for about half an hour when for the second night running the power went off; now although some people might actually enjoy sitting around in the cold, trussed up in several layers of clothing with woolly hats, scarves, gloves and heaven knows what else, it's certainly not my idea of fun, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would be having another very early night. With the hot water bottle warming my bed up I took the dogs for a final walk round the site then settled them in the back of the van; it was far too early for sleep though so with a mug of coffee and a KitKat to hand I snuggled into my own bed and spent a couple of hours reading my book by the light of the camping lantern. With no power on anywhere the site had gone very quiet soon after 10pm and apart from the occasional hoot of a nearby owl the only other noises were Sugar's snores as she chased rabbits in her sleep.

Friday May 4th 2012 - Return to Anglesey

The sun was shining as I left home at 7 o'clock that morning for a long bank hoIiday weekend - I had left the van packed up from my Easter break so all I'd needed to put in were the dogs' bed and food, my own food and the few personal items I would need. Having had no phone call from the site owner at Manorafon in Abergele I assumed there had been no cancellations so Anglesey would now be my destination. The drive was pleasant and trouble free and the weather was really nice until I was on the A55 coast road and approaching Colwyn Bay then it clouded over and became really grey, but as I got past the Llandudno area and looked across the water towards Anglesey I could see that the island was bathed in sunshine - that would do for me!

It was 9.30 when I pulled into the parking area near the camp site entrance; the warden, in her static caravan next to reception, saw me arriving and by the time I'd got out of the van and walked across the few yards of grass she was standing by the door with my receipt already written out apart from the amount I would be paying - now that's what I call service! With my site fees paid for four nights and a pass for the barrier I drove through to find myself a pitch; it was too much to hope that I would be able to get in the same small field I'd been in for several weeks last year, but when I got there I was in luck - although I couldn't get in the corner I'd been in previously, as a nearby large tent would have made getting the van in and out difficult, there was plenty of space along the hedge line with a vacant hook-up point nearby, so picking my spot I parked the van and started to set up camp. In less than two hours I had everything done, and by the time I'd walked the dogs I was more than ready for a brew and an hour of relaxation. 

Having gone to bed late the night before and got up very early that morning I didn't really feel like going too far that day so I decided just to walk into the village and back. On my way out of the site I noticed that Dave, the relief warden, was on duty in reception so I called in to say hello, and was totally surprised and overwhelmed by the welcome I got. He came out from behind the counter and it was hugs and kisses all round, you'd have thought I was a long-lost relative the way he greeted me. So I ended up spending an hour sitting on top of the fridge in reception chatting to Dave, and my walk into the village was forgotten for the time being. And yes, I know it's a bit of an odd place to sit but there were no chairs! All the time I'd been chatting to Dave there had been a steady stream of campers arriving at the site and by 3pm all the hook-up points had been taken, so I was glad I'd got there early - if I hadn't arrived until the following day, or even later that same day, I would have had no chance of getting one.

When I got back to the awning I saw that two families with a couple of young kids each were halfway through setting up their tents just across the field from me, and the kids were riding about on scooters and bikes. Now this wouldn't normally bother me but for some reason, although there was plenty of space in the rest of the field, they decided to ride up and down close to the front of my awning. I ignored it for a while but eventually decided that enough was enough - my previous awning had been damaged more than once by kids playing and I wasn't risking anyone damaging my new one so I needed to take preventative measures. Although I wouldn't normally use a windbreak it was the only thing I could think of which would protect the awning, so with the dogs in the back of the van I drove to the hardware shop in the village and bought one - a 15-pole 25ft one, plenty long enough for what I wanted. At £26 it wasn't cheap but it was a small price to pay in comparison to what it would cost to repair or replace another damaged awning. And I think the families across the field got the message when they saw me putting it up, as their kids didn't come anywhere near after that.

With that done I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening relaxing and reading a book - it was lovely in the sunshine but as the day wore on it began to get very chilly so I was glad I had my fan heater for the awning, though as it turned out it was no advantage. Just after 8.30pm it suddenly went off, along with the fridge - a quick check of the hook-up point told me everything was okay there and as I could hear other nearby campers talking about it it seemed to be the whole site which had lost its power. Leaving the dogs in their bed I went to report it to Pete, the warden's brother, and he said he would sort it out - twenty minutes later the heater and fridge came back to life but unfortunately it was only for a brief ten minutes before they went off again. By this time it was almost dark and far too cold to sit around, so with my rechargeable lantern for light I boiled the camping kettle on my portable gas stove and filled the hot water bottle for my bed, then took the dogs for their pre-bedtime walk round the site. It was too cold to leave them in the awning overnight so I tucked them up in the back of the van, made myself a mug of coffee and retreated to my own bed with the lantern and my book - and at only 10pm that must have been the earliest I've been to bed in many many years!