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.