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 September 10th 2012 - Hickling and F.A.I.T.H

It was the last full day of the holiday and yet again the weather was glorious; I'd half expected that as it had been nice every day since the beginning of my break it would surely let me down on the last day but no, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and it was still extremely warm. As my daily travels weren't, for once, taking me very far I spent the morning either pottering about round the awning or sitting outside it reading my book and it was lunchtime before I went out. My immediate destination was the village of Hickling and Brambly Hedge, the home of F.A.I.T.H animal rescue, followed by a last coffee and cake at Latham's and finally another visit to my friends Eileen and Ron.

As I drove through Hickling and past the staithe I couldn't help stopping for a wander round; it was such an attractive place and I'd got some great photos on my previous visit two years ago, so with the current lovely weather I was sure I'd be able to take some more. And I did; even though the main holiday season was winding down there were still lots of boats moored up there and activity both on an and off the water so plenty for me to photograph. As I wandered round I got to thinking that if ever I'm lucky enough to have a boat of my own then I think I would have it moored at Hickling as it's such a lovely little place.

My next stop was at F.A.I.T.H - which stands for 'For Animals In Trouble there's Hope' -  and although it's okay for visitors to take their own dogs in I don't really think it's fair on the rescue dogs who are resident there so just for once my two had to stay in the van. I went to the cat section first and spent a while in the enclosure with the adult residents, then moved on to the kitten section where most of the younger ones were in their own individual sleeping compartments. Each compartment had a small viewing space covered by a mesh grille and I was just about to take a closer look at the two little residents of one compartment when I was suddenly met by a hissing, spitting ball of black fur which launched itself from nowhere and clung to the grille with an evil look on its face - had I been a few inches closer my own face would have been severely scratched. It was obviously the mother cat and she didn't take kindly to me looking at her babies so I moved on from there and went to see the dogs. Thankfully, although there were several nice-looking dogs in the enclosure, there were none I could have fallen in love with so for once I didn't feel guilty about leaving without taking one with me. The pigs were next, and as I scratched the noses and talked to the three very friendly ones in front of me I was reminded of why, many years ago, I gave up eating pork.

When I'd seen or spoken to just about every animal there was in the place and chatted to a couple of the staff I collected a newsletter from reception and made my way back to the van; by that time I was ready for coffee and cake at Latham's, and after taking the dogs for a quick walk round the car park when I got there I went in to indulge in my last treat of the holiday. Then it was on to Eileen and Ron's cottage and a good chat over another mug of coffee; Eileen doesn't get out much so she really enjoyed me telling her where I'd been over the last ten days. All too soon though it was time for me to leave so with hugs and promises to send cards and letters at Christmas we said our goodbyes till next year.

Back at the awning I briefly thought about starting the packing up process so I wouldn't have as much to do the following morning, but then decided against it - packing up means the end of the holiday and I'd had such a good time and great weather that I didn't really want to go home. Anyway I didn't have that much to pack up so it could wait; instead I spent a relaxing evening watching tv and reading my book until it was time to take Sophie and Sugar for their bedtime walk round the site, then later as I snuggled into my own bed for the last time I kept my fingers metaphorically crossed that the good weather would continue and wouldn't let me down at the very last minute.

Sunday September 9th 2012 - Bungay Castle and friends

I woke to yet another beautiful early morning, and though on Sundays I would normally have a lie-in for a couple of hours there was no way I was wasting a minute of this lovely weather. The dogs were as eager to start the day as I was and as soon as I picked their leads up they were ready to go out. My walk this time took me down the lane to the road and along past the chalet site and Land's End, and as is my custom I stopped to look for rabbits but there were none, so I continued to where the the small parking area was on the clifftop then went down onto the beach. The tide was going out, leaving a long stretch of clean firm sand to walk on, and the warmth of the sun was clearing away the last remains of a light early morning mist. It was just after 7am and I had the beach almost to myself, seeing only another couple of early morning dog walkers in the time it took me to get to the path back up to the site. With nothing but the sound of the waves as they lapped the sand and the occasional squawking gull flying overhead it was one of those mornings that made me feel glad to be alive.

Back at the awning I sorted out some breakfast and went to sit outside with it, having a leisurely read of my book before clearing away the breakfast things and generally getting ready to go out later on. There was one place I wanted to go to but I needed to find out about it first if I could so as soon as I knew that reception was open I went across to ask if they knew anything about it. The place I had in mind was the seal hospital up at Winterton which was supposed to be open on Sundays, but when I'd gone there last year on two separate occasions it had been well and truly closed and looking rather derelict. Having done a bit of research since then and found out some startling facts I'd come to the conclusion that it was closed for good, but the poster advertising it was still on the wall in reception so maybe it was still in existence. The site owner's son didn't really know anything about it though when I asked, but just as we were discussing it one of the occupants of a static caravan came in and on overhearing our conversation he confirmed that the place had definitely closed down, and it had been round about the time I was there last year. So my conclusions were correct, I'd saved myself a pointless journey, and the poster on the wall was taken down and put in the bin. I won't say on here why the place closed, only that by Googling 'Winterton Seal Hospital' and reading the third entry down the reason will be obvious.

It was late morning when I finally left the site and as I wasn't going up to Winterton I only went as far as Hemsby for the market, but once I got there I wished I hadn't bothered. There were only two rows of stalls and nothing of real interest on sale so in just two minutes flat I'd seen it all, but as I'd paid for an hour's parking I thought I may as well look round the shops - and I was glad I did as in the window of one of them I saw a mouse ornament which I hadn't yet got. There was nowhere to leave the dogs though while I went in the shop so I took them back to the van, ran back to the shop and a few minutes and ten quid later I'd added a new mouse to my collection.

I was just about to leave the car park when I encountered what could have been a disaster; I'd reversed out of the parking space and was making my way slowly forwards between the rows of parked cars when a young child about three years old suddenly broke away from his family group and for some reason ran straight towards the front of my van. Luckily I'd seen him and stopped straight away but then he slipped and fell down right in front of me; I don't like to think of what could have happened if I'd still been moving. When his mother had stopped screaming she grabbed his arm and dragged him away, no doubt giving him a good telling-off in the process, and I was free to drive on. The mother did apologise to me as I passed them but the child didn't seem too bothered that he could have been squashed by a couple of tons of moving metal - I hope he doesn't make a habit of doing things like that, next time he might not be so lucky.

My next port of call was a car boot sale down at Yarmouth racecourse, it's quite a decent sale with lots of stalls on a nice day but though I spent quite a while browsing and wandering there was nothing interesting enough for me to buy so my loose change stayed in my pocket. Next came a visit to the Asda petrol station to fill the van up - I only had one more full day of my holiday left and I didn't plan on going too far for that one so filling up then would save time on going home day. Then it was off down to Bungay and a visit to the Otter Trust place at nearby Earsham. Now although it's several years since my previous visit there I could remember exactly where it was and what the entrance looked like, but could I find the place? No way, no-how. I drove up and down the road a couple of times and even went further than I knew I needed to go but I still couldn't find it, so coming to the conclusion that for once my good memory had let me down and the place must be further away than I thought I gave up looking and decided I would go to see my friends Jane, Andy and Sue, and Ady.

As usual I went to see Ady first and parked in the private parking space at the front of his flat, but just like last year he wasn't in. Leaving the van where it was I took the dogs for a walk round the nearby common then did something I've been meaning to do for a long while and went for a look round the castle. Now I may very well be dreaming but I'm sure that at one time there was a moderate charge to go in there, however there isn't now, and to be honest I would have felt cheated if there was as there's absolutely nothing there except the shrub-covered remains of the inner walls with a flat grassy bit in the middle. The outside looked really attractive though with all the flower-filled planters on the railings and I got some of the nicest photos I've ever taken round there.

Back at Ady's flat he still wasn't in so I thought I would treat myself to coffee and cake at the Buttercross Tea Rooms - which despite the name is actually a down-to-earth cafe - but when I got there the place was closed. When I checked the opening times I saw that it now closes an hour earlier than it used to do and I'd missed it by half an hour, so after taking a couple of photos of the Buttercross (the ones I've taken on previous occasions were on rather dull days) I went back to the castle and had coffee and cake at the cafe there, sitting at a table in the sunny little courtyard. Ady still wasn't in when I went back to the van but I knew Jane would be in so I drove round to her house just a few minutes away on the outskirts of the town.

I spent a very pleasant hour or so chatting to Jane, during which she told me that Ady now has a girlfriend who lives in Beccles and he spends much of his time there which accounts for him not being in. She also managed to shed some light on the Otter Trust - it had been where I thought it was so my memory wasn't playing tricks on me, but it had closed to the public a few years ago and there was now nothing to indicate where it had been. So, the mystery was solved, and from Jane's I went to see Ady's twin brother Andy and his wife Sue. The early evening sun was still very warm so we sat outside on their patio until the shade covered that part of their garden then we said our goodbyes and I set off back to California.

The sun was still shining for the first half of my journey but once it started sinking in the sky it disappeared quite rapidly and by the time I got back to the camp site the daylight was already fading. At least I still had enough light to see to reverse the van into the right position for connecting the awning, and once I'd done that I fed Sophie and Sugar and took them for a walk round the site. As pre-bedtime walks go it was still quite early for them but I didn't really want to go out again once I'd got settled in for the rest of the evening, and once they'd got curled up in their bed I don't think they wanted to go out again either. I spent an hour or so watching tv then with a mug of hot chocolate to hand I retreated to my own bed and read a few chapters of my book before settling down for the night.

Saturday September 8th 2012 - Reedham, Beccles and a perfect half hour

It was yet another gloriously sunny day and extremely warm, in fact the temperature had been increasing daily and it was now bordering on hot, and having worn nothing but cyling shorts and a vest top over the last few days I was getting quite a suntan just from walking about and driving. For once I wasn't setting out till lunchtime - I was getting to the stage where I was running out of places to go to without repeating myself, unless I went quite a distance inland, so I decided to split my day into two. First I would walk up to Hemsby through the avenues and dunes then back along the beach, and later I would go to Latham's for coffee and cake then drive round the country roads to Reedham.

The walk up to Hemsby was very pleasant, and I noticed along the way that one or two of the original chalet bungalows were having building work done to extend them and make them larger, which was a shame really as they would lose the quirky individuality which was common around there and morph into the type of properties you could see more or less anywhere. When I reached Hemsby itself I resisted the temptation to look round the shops and just went straight onto the beach, letting the dogs off their leads when I got away from the more populated area. Throwing stones for the two of them while I walked along, and with Sugar running in and out of the sea, I made my way at a leisurely pace back to the camp site where I pottered about round the awning while Sugar dried out from her soaking in the sea.

It was 1pm when I set out for Latham's, my breakfast had long since worn off by then so I was looking forward to yet another of their cream-filled Belgian buns - and any guilt I may have felt about consuming all those calories was offset by having just had a good long walk with the dogs. The coffee and bun were just as good as always and after a quick walk round the store I returned to the van and set off for Reedham. My first intention was to go to Pettits Animal Adventure Park on the outskirts of Reedham but when I got there I didn't stay - for a start the entrance fee was very pricey and secondly dogs weren't allowed in. Now on a cool dull day that wouldn't have been too much of a problem, they would have been okay in the van, but the weather was boiling hot and the only car parking available was in an open field with no shade - and as cooked dog was definitely not on the menu I abandoned that part of my plan and drove on to the village itself, where I managed to find a parking space overlooking the river in the shade of a couple of nice trees. The parking spaces were only supposed to be for customers of the Lord Nelson pub across the road so to justify being there, and because a refreshing drink would be a good idea, I hitched the dogs to one of the outside tables and went to get a glass of Coke, which I drank while watching the passing boats on the water.

With my drink eventually finished I went for a wander along the riverside and was surprised to see that since my last visit there two years ago a nice little cafe had opened up - in my opinion it was just what the village had been short of and I'll certainly try it next time I'm there. When I got to the Ship Inn at the far end of the road I found the front of it completely covered in flowers and certainly worth a couple of photos; the garden overlooking the river looked very colourful too, and as I walked back to the van I passed a cottage with a very pretty garden full of brightly coloured flowers - and with the flower tubs set at intervals along the grass by the river the village was looking the brightest I'd ever seen it.

My next stop was half a mile along the river at Reedham ferry where I could take the dogs for a good walk along the riverbank; there was a small car park just below the riverbank near the end of the lane, luckily with a couple of free spaces, so I pulled in there and with dogs and camera in hand went to see what I could photograph. The nearby pub looked to be very busy and the tables on the riverbank patio area were all full with people enjoying a drink in the sunshine. Between the lane and the top of the riverbank was a narrow strip of garden planted with a profusion of roses and smaller flowers in a riot of different colours and I couldn't resist taking a photo, then I set off to see what was along the riverbank itself. The footpath was separated from the pub area by a post-and-rail fence and a gate, and only a couple of hundred yards away from there, and just down below the top of the riverbank, was a converted windmill with a wrap-around sun room halfway up and with stairs leading down from an outside balcony into a small neat garden; the whole thing looked very quirky so that was another photo to add to my collection.

Beyond the windmill there was nothing but open fields stretching to the edge of the village in the distance, and as I walked along I experienced what must have been the most perfect half hour of my life. Even though I was on a public footpath not far from a busy pub there wasn't a single person around, and the wide expanse of reeds which separated the main river from the bank deadened the noise of any passing boats. With the hot sun shining from an almost cloudless blue sky, and nothing but the sound of the breeze whispering through the reeds and the calling of various birds as they flew overhead the peace and tranquility was almost tangible. It was as if I'd been transported to my own little paradise and time had stood still once I got there - it's almost impossible to describe, but that short period of time somehow seemed so special that if I could have bottled it and kept it for ever then I would have done so.

Although I was very tempted to find a patch of grass and sit there for the rest of the afternoon I decided against it as there was somewhere else I wanted to go to so I retraced my steps back to the van. I remember that several years ago the actress and singer Martine McCutcheon sang a song called 'My Perfect Moment' - well this had been my perfect half hour, so it was with a touch of regret that I went back through the gate at the end of the path and left my little bit of paradise behind.

Back at the van I gave the dogs a very welcome drink then set off to my next port of call, which involved going across the river on the nearby ferry. It only takes two vehicles at a time - three if you're lucky - and I expected to wait in a queue for it, but when I drove out of the car park and up to the waiting point a few yards away there was no-one else there so I was the first in line. The ferry was already on its way across from the other side and once it had pulled in and disgorged its cargo of two cars plus passengers I was free to drive on, stopping the van where the ferryman indicated. It only took four minutes to trundle across to the other side, so not even worth me getting out of the van, and once the front was lowered to the bank I was able to drive off and be on my way. My next stop was Beccles marina and the River Waveney and by using the ferry instead of going all the way round by road I reckoned I'd saved about twenty miles on the journey.

The A146 crossed over the Waveney on the outskirts of Beccles and there was a rather handy lay-by just after the bridge, with a path leading down to the riverside - on several previous occasions I'd intended to take some photos from that bridge but never had, so I pulled in there and went to rectify the matter, first taking a few shots from the bridge itself then going down to the riverside and taking a few from there. The marina itself was beyond the bridge on the other side of the road though it was easier to go round by road rather than walk along the riverbank, but surprisingly once I got there, and even though there were boats all over the place, there was very little of interest to take photos of.

By the time I'd finished wandering round I was feeling quite peckish; there was a Morrisons supermarket not far away so I drove there, parked in a far corner of the very pleasant car park, and went to see what I could find in the way of food. I came out with a pack of sausage rolls, and after making a quick brew using my suitcase stove I ate a couple of them while watching the comings and goings of the various Morrisons customers.

My final stop of the day was a visit to someone I knew who lived at the far side of Beccles; I hadn't seen her when I'd called last year as she hadn't been in, and I didn't even know if she would be in this time but she was and she was quite surprised to see me. It was a bittersweet visit in many ways though as her husband had passed away only seven weeks before, and as much as I would have liked to attend his funeral certain circumstances had prevented me from doing so. She was quite happy to sit and chat though and before I knew it a couple of hours had passed and it was time for me to go. The daylight was fading rapidly when I left; it was a forty minute drive back to the camp site and before I'd got even halfway there it had gone completely dark. That in itself wasn't a problem, but when I arrived at my pitch and had to reverse the van into the right place to connect the awning I couldn't see properly what I was doing; it took four attempts before I got it right, and even then I was a bit closer than I should have been.  So, note to self - always get back to the awning before dark!!

Friday September 7th 2012 - A drive to Hunstanton

It was another glorious morning and after the first dog walk of the day I set my table and chair outside the awning and had a very pleasant al fresco breakfast while I decided where I would go for my day out this time. As I had gone south the previous day I opted to go north and pay a visit to Hunstanton on the north Norfolk coast. This was another place I'd been to a few years before where I hadn't been impressed, but it had been the Easter weekend at the time and therefore very early in the season, plus it had been rather an overcast day so I probably hadn't seen it at its best; in the currently glorious weather it must surely look better than I remembered it. Looking at the map book to plot my route I did at first consider going in a north westerly direction across country but having been along the coast road last year I knew it was a very pleasant drive so decided to go that way instead, via Sheringham and Wells.

By the time I was ready for leaving camp the day was already very warm and it was getting warmer; with my cycling shorts, vest top and beach sandals on, and the van windows right down as I drove along the A149 it was hard to believe that this was now September - it was more like the summer we should have had when it was summer. And as driving in weather like that is always a pleasure I put a cd on to sing along to, belting out the likes of Young Girl, San Francisco and You Don't Have to Say You Love Me - and if the dogs had their paws over their ears I couldn't see them as they were behind me.

When I reached the outskirts of Hunstanton I followed the signs for the seafront, the road taking me past a lighthouse and a long and very pleasant grassy area and some gardens on the clifftop, and following the relevant signs I finally came to a car park just off the promenade. With a ticket duly purchased and my camera slung round my neck I clipped the leads on the dogs - who were probably very deaf by then - and set off to explore. I'd noticed the riot of colour in the promenade gardens as I'd driven past so that was the first place I headed for and I wasn't disappointed. The gardens sloped down from the clifftop road to the lower promenade and there was colour everywhere I looked; this was far better than when I'd been there before and I was already very impressed. There was so much to take photos of that I ended up taking a couple of dozen, and I make no apologies for posting many of them on here.

By the time I'd finished wandering round the gardens I was ready for some liquid refreshment; at the far end of the gardens were a couple of bowling greens and beyond those was a nice-looking little cafe so I went to see what they had in the way of coffee and cake. Although there were no tables outside there were a couple of bench seats so I hitched Sophie and Sugar to one of those while I went in to place my order, then with my coffee and carrot cake on a tray I went back out to sit in the sunshine with them, taking my tray back in when I'd finished. At the end of the path which ran past the cafe were some steps leading down to the lower promenade, and when I got to the bottom I found that the promenade itself actually ended a bit further along. The cliffs at that point were made up of two colours, the lower layer being brick red and the top layer being white, with piles of boulders and small scree lying at the base after falling from the cliff face itself.

Heading off in the other direction I walked back past the lower end of the gardens and for quite a distance southwards. The promenade at that point was just a long wide expanse of concrete backed by various buildings including a large leisure centre, and with a handful of fast food stalls and a big funfair stretching along one section of it . The tide was on its way out and there were quite a lot of couples and families with very young kids enjoying themselves on the beach. Although this part of the promenade wasn't as attractive as up by the gardens it wasn't that bad, and it certainly looked better than when I'd seen it a few years previously, although it was let down somewhat by a derelict-looking area in the centre of the funfair. I didn't go any further than the end of the fair as there didn't seem to be anything much beyond there so I turned round and headed back towards the van, stopping for a few minutes to watch the Wash Monster coming in from the sea.

Now although the Wash Monster might sound like a giant washing machine it's actually an amphibious vehicle which takes passengers for trips out in the sea, along the coast as far as the lighthouse and back. The Wash is that particular bit of the North Sea, and the vehicle itself has been painted to resemble a monstrous Great White shark; from a distance it doesn't look too bad but close up it's hideous and actually quite scarey-looking. It was fascinating to watch it though as it came out of the sea and trundled up the beach, stopping nose-on to the promenade where the front opened up automatically and a walkway folded out to allow the passengers to disembark.

When I finally got back to the van I gave the dogs a drink, settled them in the back and set off to have a look round the area near the lighthouse, which I'd seen on my way into the town. Not far from the lighthouse, and close to the seafront road, was the wall and archway of an ancient ruined chapel, originally built by the monks of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk to commemorate St. Edmund's landing at that spot after crossing the North Sea from Germany. A few yards away was a small garden area with a large wolf sculpture in the centre which signified a connection to St. Edmund, and round the other side of the archway was a garden of rest, created in memory of the local men who died in the First World War. Beyond the lighthouse a large car park was situated on the sloping clifftop and in the distance I could see a beach but it was too far away for me to want to walk there so I just took a few photos round where I was then set off to my next port of call.

Going back along the A149 my next stop should have been the beach at Holme-next-the-Sea, but when I got to the car park, which was just a private grassy area set back off the lane, I found out that the charge was a flat rate of £4 - which would be okay for anyone staying all day but I wasn't, so I just turned round and drove straight out again to continue my journey back towards Sheringham. The next place along was Brancaster beach, and although I'd been to Brancaster Staithe last year I hadn't been to the beach so I thought I'd see if I had more luck there. The beach itself was down a long lane off the main road and when I got almost to the end I found that yet again there was a car park with a stupid fee to pay, however there was a wide grass verge along the side of the lane at that point so I parked there for the few minutes it took me to walk down to the beach and take a photo.

Back on the road again I decided that while I was in the vicinity I would make a brief return visit to Brancaster Staithe and Burnham Overy. The kiosk at Brancaster Staithe was still open when I got there and as the late afternoon was still very warm and I needed some more liquid refreshment I bought a can of Coke and drank it while sitting in the van and looking at the boats. At Burnham Overy I took the dogs for a walk along the high bank above the staithe then set off once more, making my third and final stop at Wells. By this time it was gone 6pm and the sun had taken on its early evening glow, meaning I didn't have much photography light left, so with just a couple of shots of the boats moored along the creek I returned to the van and continued my journey, not stopping again until I got back to the camp site.

It had still been daylight for most of my drive back to California but once the light started to fade it disappeared quite rapidly and by the time I drove onto my pitch it was almost dark. With the awning re-attached to the van and the dogs fed I settled in for the rest of the evening, only going out again to take Sophie and Sugar for their bedtime walk round the site. As I lay in bed later on my mind went back over the last few hours; it had been a long drive to Hunstanton and back but I'd been quite pleasantly surprised by the place and I'd got some good photos so it had all been worth it - and I may even be tempted to make a return visit another time.