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

Sunday August 12th 2012 - Welsh Mountain Zoo and Rhos-on-Sea

I woke at 8.15 that morning to something I didn't want, or expect, to hear - rain on the top of the tent. The previous evening had been lovely and clear and had given no indication that rain was likely - but then this is Britain, and after all the wet weather of the previous weeks a bit more of the same should really come as no surprise. I lay for a while hoping it would stop long enough for me to take the dogs out but it didn't, in fact if anything it rained even harder - no way was I taking the dogs out in that, and even if I did they wouldn't be happy, so I decided we would all have to stay put for a while longer. And it was while I was lying there planning my day that I noticed it - drip, drip, drip, there were drops of water dripping off the toggles above the door - and not only was it dripping over one door it was also dripping over the other, again running down the toggles used to hold back the door when it's rolled up. Now why on earth was it doing that? The tent was fine the last time I used it so where had all these leaks sprung from? A quick inspection of the rest of the tent confirmed that it wasn't leaking anywhere else so it seemed to be just the seams over the doors which were the problem - hopefully a dry day and some seam sealant would cure that.

The rain lasted for most of the morning and effectively put paid to my plans to visit Deganwy and Llandudno; I had to be off the pitch by noon anyway so I decided on a change of direction and have another ride inland, this time to the Welsh Mountain Zoo in the hills above Colwyn Bay - at least photographing animals didn't depend on blue sky. By the time I started the packing up process the rain had stopped and a bath towel took care of most of water droplets sitting on the tent surface; I'd just got the tent rolled up and back in its bag when the next occupants of the pitch arrived, so after a quick 'hello' and a look round for any stray tent pegs I reversed off the pitch and left them to their own setting up. Before I left the site completely though I wanted to take a few photos of the resident animals so I parked a little way down the lane then went back with my camera. When I stayed there at Easter I never actually looked round the different pens so I was quite surprised to see that as well as the various ducks and chickens, pygmy goats and pigs there were also a couple of very young wallabies. They were adorable, and came right up to the wire where they put their little paws in my hand - needless to say I fell instantly in love with them.

The weather had been brightening up for a while and by the time I left the site properly the sun had put in an appearance, so I decided to drive down to The Beach caravan site, park up and take the dogs for a walk before going on to the zoo. The area round the caravan site reception and the access road was a riot of colourful flowers in tubs and the island by the car park looked much more attractive than it was when I went down there at Easter - certainly worth a few photos before I took the dogs for a walk along the beach.

With the dogs happy after a good run and play I returned to the van and set off for the zoo - and although it wasn't that far from the coast itself it was really cloudy up in the hills. The first car park I came to was full and I thought I would have to park in the open but as I sat debating where best to go a car came out and I was able to reverse into a nice space in the shade of some tall trees - and the best part about it was that the car park was actually within the zoo itself so it would be easy for me to check on the dogs at any time while I was wandering round without having to go outside the zoo to do it. A path led downhill from the corner of the car park so I took that first and came across the enclosures with the deer, Przewalski's horses and ostritches, then back up the hill was the sea lion pool. One of the staff was just about to start the sea lion show so I watched that for several minutes before making my way over to the cafe for a much-needed coffee - and for once I didn't have any cake as they only sold pre-wrapped muffins and flapjack slices, which I thought were dear for what they were.

The cafe itself was situated up a flight of concrete steps and was a hexagonal affair with windows almost all the way round which made it look rather like an airport control tower, and sitting with my coffee I could see why it had been built like that - there was an all-round view towards the coast and over the hills and if the sky had been clear and sunny I could have got some great photos. With my coffee finished I continued my exploration and worked my way methodically round most of the zoo. There were several animals I didn't get photos of as they were either too far away, hiding in their dens or behind glass; the tiger was the one I most wanted to get a shot of but it was roaming through the thick undergrowth in its enclosure and though I tried from different places I just couldn't get a clear view of it. Some animals I missed out altogether as I wasn't interested in them; I didn't bother going to see the chimps but I spent quite a while watching the little cotton-top tamarins playing in their den. There was an adorable little baby in there which I wanted to get a shot of but it wouldn't stay still long enough so I had to be happy with a shot of its mum instead.

One thing which did impress me about the place was the amount of flower beds and vegetation. This wasn't just an animal zoo, it was also a botanical garden with many plants, flowers and shrubs from different countries making splashes of colour in various places around the grounds, and a little stream tumbling over a shallow waterfall into a lily pond just below, with a hump-back bridge leading across it; I took almost as many photos of the flowers and plants as I did of the animals themselves.

When I'd seen everything I wanted to see I made my way back to the van, released the dogs and took them for a short walk round the parking area before leaving the zoo and making my way back down to Colwyn Bay. At sea level the sun was shining and there was plenty of blue sky around, a big difference to up in the hills, and as I still had plenty of time before I had to set off for home I decided to make a return visit to Rhos-on-Sea which was only a few minutes drive away. It had been a very grey day when I went there at Easter so it would be interesting to see what it looked like in the sunshine - and very nice it was too. I parked up in a vacant (free) space on the promenade, clipped the leads on the dogs and set off to see what I could photograph; from the gardens above the promenade I could see that the tide was on the turn and gradually filling up the harbour so I made my way in that direction, stopping for a minute to photograph a lovely little cottage garden which I thought was very pretty.

I spent quite a while wandering about by the harbour, though unfortunately I couldn't go on the beach as dogs weren't allowed and I wasn't going to leave them tied up anywhere, so I had to take all my harbour shots from the promenade and the slipway but I still got several good ones. I must remember that if I ever go again, and I'll park closer to the harbour then I can leave the dogs in the van while I walk across the beach to the harbour wall. My final shot of the weekend was of the small garden on one corner of the promenade then I made my way back to the van for the journey home.

The drive home was trouble free and very pleasant in the late afternoon sunshine and with no delays I was back for 6.45pm. My weekend hadn't exactly gone according to plan, the very changeable weather had seen to that, but I'd come up with a couple of alternatives which had worked out well and I'd still got some nice photos - and the fact that I hadn't managed to get to Deganwy and Llandudno just meant that I had a good excuse for another impromptu weekend at Manorafon sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Saturday August 11th 2012 - An impromptu weekend, nettles and a horse fly

I woke in the morning to blue sky and glorious sunshine - after a long period of the great British weather giving us rain at some part of every day it had been fine and sunny for the previous three days and it looked like this was going to be the fourth day in a row. Just right for going camping - and no sooner had the thought entered my head than I was out of bed, showered and dressed. The van was already packed for camping - in fact it had never been unpacked since my weekend in Northumberland so all I had to do was put the dogs in the back after a quick walk and throw a few essentials into my beach bag. It was 7.30am when I woke up and by 8.15 I was on the road and heading south; my spur of the moment plan was to go to Manorafon Farm at Abergele where I'd stayed at Easter, as I wanted to explore Deganwy and Llandudno which I hadn't done back then - I just hoped I could get a pitch when I arrived at the site.

The journey down to North Wales was, as usual, very pleasant, and I arrived at Manorafon Farm at 9.45; checking in at reception I was happy to find that there was an ehu pitch available but it wouldn't be free until noon, so I paid my fee then drove down to the beach where I could park up in one of the free car parks and while away some time. As I didn't have any breakfast before I left home the first thing was to rectify that, so out came the suitcase stove, kettle and folding toaster and I was soon enjoying a mug of coffee and hot buttered toast. With breakfast over it was time to concentrate on the dogs - they deserved a decent walk after only having a brief one before leaving home so I took them on the beach and walked for quite a distance one way before heading back towards the van then going about the same distance the other way. The tide was out and there were plenty of pools left on the sand for them to paddle in, and even I got my feet wet at one point. Going back towards the van for the second time I came across a starfish lying on the sand - I remember when I was a kid my mother had some dried starfish as ornaments (heaven only knows why, or where she got them from) but this was the first live one I'd ever seen so I had to take a photo of it.

Back at the van I found I still had twenty minutes or so to kill so I drove up to Tesco and parked there while I had a look at the shops along the main street, and when I finally returned to the camp site it was just a few minutes after noon. One of the owners told me which pitch I was on - it was over by the back wall - and I drove round there, parked the van and started setting up the tent. Because I would only be there for one night I used the minimum of accessories and in less than an hour the tent was up, the bed sorted out and the dogs' bed and the rest of my possessions installed inside. The final job was to connect my hook-up cable to the nearby post but in doing so my right arm brushed against some tall nettles which were growing near the wall; at first I didn't think anything of it as nettle stings are something I get occasionally while walking the dogs in the countryside near home, but a while afterwards it started to itch like mad and when I looked the area round my elbow was quite visibly swollen. Flippin' nettles - there should be a law against them!

With everything sorted out it was time to think where I was going to go for the rest of the day; Deganwy and Llandudno were out of the question as I really needed a full day to explore them both properly and I only had half the day left, so I decided to leave those until the following day and instead drive inland to Bodnant Garden, a place I'd thought about visiting for a while and where I could make use of my National Trust membership. I remembered vaguely going there with my parents when I was a kid but couldn't recall anything about the place so it would be interesting to see what was there. There was only one thing wrong though - although it was only seven miles from the coast the weather was vastly different, and whereas on the coast it had been sunshining inland it was really cloudy and grey; not very good for taking nice photos and I felt rather disappointed, but I was there and it was costing me nothing to get in so it was still worth looking round. Unfortunately I couldn't take the dogs in, but I found a vacant space in the car park right by a thicket of tall dense conifers and I was able to reverse the van so that the back was right in the trees, providing lots of cool shade for them if the sun did decide to shine while I was away.

I started off by the hall itself and the lawned areas then wandered at leisure round all the various parts of the garden, and I have to say that I was well impressed. Many areas were a riot of colour and the Italian-style terraces and the lily ponds were really lovely; I got lots of photos but it was a just shame that the background sky was grey - a blue sky would have made all the difference, and though the sun did try to put in a couple of brief appearances it wasn't really enough to brighten things up very much. When I'd finished my wanderings I made my way back towards the exit and came across a cat curled up in one of the flower beds; it looked so much like Mouse, one of my own favourite cats, that I just had to get a photo of it. I was just getting ready to take the shot when I felt a sharp pricking sensation on my right wrist and when I looked I found that a horse fly had landed on me; I brushed it off but not before it had sunk it's fangs (or whatever it is these creatures have) into my skin, and sure enough, not long afterwards my wrist had swollen up and was itching like mad. Flippin' horse flies - there should be a law against those as well as nettles!

Back at the van I found the dogs curled up fast asleep though they soon woke up when I opened the driver's door; after driving forwards to get out of the trees I released them from the back and took them for a good walk round the grassy car park before starting back to the coast and the camp site. Part of the road ran alongside the Conway estuary and at one point I pulled into a lay-by; the view was good, it was just a shame the sky was so grey - with blue sky and sunshine the photo I got would have been lovely.

Back at Manorafon I parked up in front of the tent, put the kettle on and made a brew and a sandwich, then spent the early evening relaxing on the bed. With no tv to watch - it wasn't worth taking it just for one night, and there's only rubbish on on Saturdays anyway - I occupied myself with a few chapters of my latest book and a few games on my DS Lite. Just as the daylight started fading I realised I hadn't got anything for a bedtime snack to go with a brew, and as the dogs needed a pre-bedtime walk anyway I decided to go to Tesco, which was only five minutes away and open until midnight. I wasn't in there many minutes, just long enough to find and purchase a multi-pack of Kit-Kats, then I made my way back to the tent. With Sophie and Sugar settled in their bed I made a final brew and got into my own bed; it had seemed to be a long day somehow and though it was a relatively early bedtime by my usual standards, by the time I'd finished my brew I was more than ready for sleep, and if I'd been in the habit of counting sheep I wouldn't have got past two before I was in the land of nod.