A very damp morning at 6am saw me leaving home for a return visit to Honeysuckle Cottage, but with one big difference - this time I wasn't alone, I was taking a camping companion. I've known Janet for ten years and she was just getting her life back after several years of illness - a few weeks previously I'd suggested she might like to come camping with me some time and she had taken me up on it, so with a new tent and a few accessories she and her young dog Aphra were joining me on my second trip to Honeysuckle Cottage. She didn't have the confidence to drive a long distance though so we were all going in my van and I was doing the driving - not that I minded as I enjoy driving anyway. I had packed most of her stuff in the van during the week - which had meant unpacking and reorganising my own stuff twice - so all I had to do when I arrived at her house that morning was throw in her bits and pieces, put Aphra in the back with Sophie and Sugar and we were off.
By the time we had got across the M62 to the A1 the damp had turned into proper rain and the further up the A1 we got the worse it became. About halfway into the journey we pulled into a service area for a much-needed coffee and as we both like carrot cake Janet got us a piece each - it was a bit of an odd thing to have for breakfast but nevertheless it was very welcome. Back on the road again it was raining harder than ever - the visibility was so bad at one point that I could see very little in front of me for several miles and my windscreen wipers were working overtime. That didn't bode well for the weekend and I certainly didn't relish the prospect of setting up camp in that sort of weather, but eventually the heavy rain slackened to a fine drizzle and by the time we reached the camp site it had stopped completely and the sky was brightening up. After booking in with the owner's daughter and getting our keys for the toilet block I parked the van on my pitch - I was in the same place as before but a few yards further up - then helped Janet to take her tent and some of her stuff to her pitch, which was about twenty yards away in the paddock just the other side of the fence.
Now although Janet had been camping before it was several years ago prior to becoming ill, and as she hadn't had chance to test-pitch her new tent since its purchase I thought I'd better give her a hand to put it up before I sorted out my own awning. Luckily the poles and the sleeves were colour co-ordinated so it was easy enough to erect, though at one stage I did wonder why one pole wouldn't go all the way through its sleeve, until I realised that Janet was kneeling on that part of the tent! Finally though it was up and pegged down, and next came the airbed but that's when we hit a slight snag - the valve on it was the wrong type for the nozzle on my power pack compressor and we couldn't inflate it. Now although I've got fairly strong lungs there was no way I was even attempting to blow up the wretched thing manually, so unless we could find an alternative it looked like Janet would be sleeping on the floor. However, salvation came in the form of Les, the site owner, who found us a pump with a nozzle which would fit, so leaving Janet to sort out the bed for herself I went back to my own pitch to put up the awning. I was part way through doing it when Janet came over to help and between the two of us it wasn't long before it was up, attached to the van and pegged down, then it was time to take the dogs for a short walk down the lane before I set up all my stuff inside and made up my bed, which I hadn't been able to do earlier in the week.
All the time we'd been setting up camp the weather had been improving to the point where it actually started sunshining, and as I needed to get some dog poo bags from somewhere I decided to show Janet the delights of Amble, so with the three dogs in the back of the van I disconnected the awning and off we went. It didn't take long to get there and as by then it was quite late in the afternoon there was plenty of space in the free car park so I had no trouble finding somewhere to leave the van. We went up the main street first and I managed to get what I wanted from a hardware/pet shop just before it closed for the day, then we wandered down round the harbour and the little beach before returning to the van. By that time our carrot cake breakfast was a long-distant memory and we were both ready for a meal so on our way back to Honeysuckle Cottage I pulled in at the Widdrington Inn, the pub/restaurant nearest to the site. It wasn't really warm enough to sit outside with the dogs though so leaving them in the van we went inside and found a table, then after a brief study of the menu Janet went to the bar to place our order - scampi for herself and home made steak pie for me. I must admit though that neither of us were impressed with our meals when we got them; I got a very small piece of pie which contained dry and overcooked meat and with a crust which was so hard it needed a chainsaw to cut it; Janet's scampi was also overcooked and hard. The vegetables were bland and watery and the 'chips' were thin and anaemic-looking with lots of little hard ones - obviously frozen oven chips of the type dished up in schools, and not a favourite of either of us. I suppose really we should have complained and asked for either a fresh meal or a refund but having been awake since 3am by that time I was feeling too tired to be bothered. The place had actually been recommended in a camp site review on UKCS, but I have to say that on the basis of that meal I certainly wouldn't dine there again.
When we got back to the camp site I released the dogs from the back of the van and Janet took Aphra back to her own tent, then after reconnecting the awning I settled in for the rest of the evening. I did go over to Janet's tent later on with a mug of coffee for her, then I gave Sophie and Sugar their suppers and took them for a short walk along the lane before settling them in their bed for the night. It had been a long day and I was more than ready for an early bed - fingers crossed that the following day would be nice and I would be able to get out and about with my camera.
- 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