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 October 29th 2012 - I'm not a celebrity, get me out of here!

It was fine when I woke that morning, though when I took the dogs for their first walk up the lane it was obvious from the saturated ground that it had rained for most of the night - thank goodness I got those wellies last time and decided to keep them in the van, I really needed them now. Back from the dog walk I made some breakfast then once that was out of the way, and with no reason to linger on the site, I made a start on packing up. Unfortunately though, the state of the ground didn't help matters and as I went to and from the van the mud which was outside the tent quickly transferred itself to the inside via my feet, which didn't exactly make me a happy bunny. I almost wished I'd opted for the hard standing pitch I should have been on instead of changing my mind and pitching on the grass - I should have remembered from last time what it would be like in wet weather, but then it had been a glorious day when I got there.

By the time I'd got to the stage of taking the tent down there was mud everywhere - it was on the carpet in the van, on the tent, in the tent, on my new tent carpet, on me, on the dogs even though they'd not been off the lead, on their bed, and worst of all on my duvet where they'd brushed against it on their way in from our earlier walk. As I pulled out the tent pegs, getting my hands filthy in the process, I just wanted to get away from there as soon as I could - this mud wasn't funny and I wasn't in the mood for much more of it. Fortunately once all the pegs were out it didn't take long to remove the poles, fold the tent and get it back in the bag, then after saying a quick goodbye to the other nutters who were also in the process of packing up I was finally ready for off. The next problem was driving off the waterlogged pitch and as I reversed slowly I didn't think I would make it but I did, and once I'd got onto the gravel road through the site I drove round to the shower block to give my hands a good wash and change from my wellies to my trainers.

As I left the site I realised that although I was the last of the group to start packing up I was actually the first to leave, which was unusual for me, but for once I was just glad to get away. As I left the village behind and headed down the main road I relaxed a bit, and with a cd to sing along to my mood improved with the drive. It was still only lunchtime when I arrived home, and as I pulled up outside the gate I felt almost human again. Later on, as I downloaded my photos onto the pc, I thought over the last couple of days - my trip to Bolton Abbey had produced some good pics, I'd met up with a good crowd and the beach party evening had been good fun and very enjoyable. I'll say one thing for Riverside though - it's a lovely site in a lovely area and though this was probably my last camp of the season I have every intention of staying there again in the future, but not if there's any chance of wet weather!

Sunday October 28th 2012 - Scrambled eggs in Skipton

I woke that morning to the sound of rain on the tent; hard to believe after the previous day had been so lovely but I suppose not totally unsurprising for this country. According to my phone it was 8am but the hour had gone back overnight which meant it was still very early; I was lovely and cosy in my bed with no desire to go out in the wet, and as the dogs weren't exactly rushing to the door I awarded myself the luxury of a long lie-in. By the time they'd got to the point of looking rather cross-legged the rain had stopped so I took them for a walk up to the village and back; those members of the group who had school-age kids were in the process of packing up to leave so I wandered round and had a chat to them all then went back to my own tent and put the kettle on for a brew. By this time it was raining again, so with no chance of any good photography and no tv to watch I spent a couple of hours reading my book, then when I got fed up of looking at four blue walls I decided to go into Skipton for a look round the shops.

When I got into town I pulled into the car park by the canal and with a couple of hours on the ticket went for a wander round. Having the dogs with me meant I was confined mainly to window shopping though I did go in a couple of charity shops and bought a cd from one of them. By the time I returned to the van I was feeling quite peckish, so leaving the dogs to curl up in the back I went across the canal to the Boathouse cafe. The menu there isn't terribly extensive, though they do have a 'specials' board, and though I was tempted to have coffee and cake I decided for once to have something different and ordered scrambled eggs on toast. It took a while for it to arrive as there was only one woman serving and one man doing the cooking but it was well worth the wait. The scrambled eggs were absolutely divine, really smooth and creamy and cooked to perfection, and I have to say they were the best scrambled eggs I've ever had - and I'm including my own in that comparison. So if I ever go there again - which no doubt I will - I think I'll be ignoring the cake and having scrambled eggs instead.

When I got back to the camp site I found that the ground was rapidly becoming waterlogged with all the rain and the area just outside the tent was looking rather on the muddy side; it did cross my mind that maybe I should strike camp and go home but I didn't really relish the idea of another wet pack-up, plus I wouldn't be able to get a refund for that night as the site owner was away herself, so I decided to stick it out and hope that the following day would be dry. The wet weather had rather put a stop to another get-together round a communal camp fire so I spent the evening in the tent, alternately reading and playing games on my DS until it was time to take the dogs for their bedtime walk. It was actually a bit earlier than I would normally take them but I thought that rather than lie on the bed, which I had been doing, I may as well get in it, and once I was snuggled in there was no way I was coming out until the morning!

Saturday October 27th 2012 - Halloween Beach Party and Bolton Abbey

A very sunny autumn morning saw me leaving home at 9am for my second weekend at Riverside camp site, this time for the 'nutters group' Halloween beach party. Now being complete nutters, and liking to do things differently, two or three of the group (who shall remain nameless) had come up with this idea just previous to our Jubilee get-together, the suggestion being that as the Jubilee party had been late then every other themed meet should be late too, therefore we would have our summer beach party for Halloween and the Halloween meet would be at an even later date. When the idea had been put to the vote at the Jubilee party it was met with total agreement, especially when Dragon announced that our 'beach' would be the childrens play area, which had a sand surface, and beach wear should be worn even if it was over our warm clothes - it sounded like a lot of fun and it would give us all something to think about during the interim four weeks. Needless to say, whenever I'd mentioned it to anyone I got comments ranging from "Won't you be cold in this weather?" (No, I'll have warm clothes on) and "There are no beaches near Skipton" (There will be where I'm going) to "You're completely mad" (Yes, probably, but I don't care). So here I was, on the road to Riverside, and with the warm autumn sun shining through the van windows and a cd to sing along to it really did feel more like summer than late October.

It was a few minutes after 10am when I arrived at the site and quite coincidentally the song playing on my cd was Mungo Jerry's 'In The Summertime' from 1971, so on the spur of the moment I wound the window down and turned the volume up to signal my arrival - well you've got to get into the spirit of things haven't you?! - though I did turn it down again after a couple of minutes. I'd originally been given a hard standing pitch to accommodate my van and awning but had taken my small tent instead, and when I saw that the pitch was well away from the rest of the group I changed my mind about using it and decided to go on the grass nearer to everyone else, using the same pitch I'd had four weeks previously which fortunately was quite dry. It didn't take long to put the tent up, and with not much equipment to put in it I soon had everything sorted and the kettle on for a brew.

A chat with various other group members followed then a dog walk up to the village shop and back, and as it was too nice a day to waste I decided to go to Bolton Abbey and seek out some photographic opportunities. It only took about twenty minutes to get there and I parked in the first of the three car parks then walked a hundred yards or so across the road to where there was a 'hole' in the wall allowing access to the countryside around the abbey. Although I'd been there before on a few occasions I'd never walked along the far side of the river so I decided that's what I would do - cross the bridge near the stepping stones, walk up as far as the bridge near the cafe then cross back and walk down the near side. And photography-wise I couldn't have picked a better day for it; the river was a really deep blue, reflected from the sky above, and the sun shining on the trees really showed up the autumn colours of the leaves.

Once I'd got back almost to my starting point I spent twenty minutes or so wandering round the abbey ruins before returning to the car park to retrieve the van; the £6 car park fee was for the use of all three car parks so I drove up to the next one then I could leave the dogs in the van while I went in the cafe - it may have been a nice day but unfortunately the outside tables were in the shade so I preferred to sit in rather than out. It seemed that since my last time there, about four years ago, the cafe had changed to self-service for everything except hot meals so as I was only having coffee and cake I didn't need to queue at the counter; there was quite a good selection of cakes available so I was rather spoilt for choice, though I eventually opted for a slice of the coffee and walnut cake, and very good it was too.

With the coffee and cake finished I went for a quick look round the nearby gift shop then made my way back to the van; there was nowhere else I particularly wanted to go to and though it was still only mid afternoon I set off back to the camp site as I wanted plenty of time to chill out before the evening fun began. When I arrived back at my pitch I found various campers in the process of sorting out the party tent and setting out the tables for the food and drink, and though I went over to offer my help it seemed that everything was under control so I went back to my own tent to relax for a while. When I ventured out again it was to find the party tent decorated with various palm trees, monkeys, beach balls, bananas, pineapples and paper lanterns and heaven knows what else, and there were flower garlands twined round the guy lines and hanging from windbreaks and various other points.

The fires were lit as the daylight faded, the music went on and gradually all the nutters started to congregate. There were some very weird and wonderful outfits to be seen too - there was Neil in shorts and football t-shirt with the traditional British knotted hanky on his head, Fiona wearing a coloured sarong with a bikini top made out of plastic coconut shells, Matt and James with flourescent green mankinis over their outdoor clothes, various swimsuits, grass skirts and pairs of shorts worn over t-shirts, leggings and jackets, Andy wearing a grass skirt and a stetson, and Billy with his multi-coloured Hawaiian shirt, matching grass skirt and huge bright yellow sunglasses with green palm trees sticking up from the top rims. And me? A blue and gold swimsuit over my tracksuit, with my red and white sarong on top and a flower garland round my neck. Even Sophie and Sugar were dressed for the occasion in pink and black t-shirts.

Later in the evening, as yet another train went past on the nearby track, it crossed my mind that any passengers who happened to see us might wonder what the heck was going on - we were the only ones on the site and with the bright lights in and around the party tent we were lit up like a Christmas tree. Needless to say, it was a great night and a lot of fun was had by everyone; it was gone midnight when I finally said goodnight and after a quick dog walk round the site I went back to my own tent. As I snuggled into my bed a while afterwards I could still hear faint music and the occasional burst of laughter from the die-hards of the group but it wasn't enough to be disturbing, and after reading only one short chapter of my book I felt myself drifting off to sleep.

Monday September 24th 2012 - A very wet pack-up

Well so much for keeping my fingers crossed for a dry pack-up - after a night of continuous rain it was still at it when I got up that morning, and when I ventured out with the dogs I found that the ground, which had more or less dried out with the sunshine of Friday and Saturday, was now absolutely saturated again and probably worse than it was when I'd first arrived. Thank goodness I'd got those wellies, it looked like I was going to need them!

Having no reason to linger on site in weather like that I started the packing up process as soon as I'd had breakfast; everything went well at first, but the ground was so wet that by the time I was ready for taking the awning down water had seeped up through my double layer groundsheet and I was walking round in the makings of a decent sized paddling pool. There was nothing I could do but fold the groundsheet as best I could and prop it up against the hedge in the hope that the water would have run out of it by the time I needed to pack it in the van. And taking the awning down was an absolute disaster - disconnected from the van and with the side poles taken out it flopped forwards onto the grass, and once I'd removed the other poles it settled into the swamp on my pitch like a crocodile settling itself into a muddy river bed, which meant it was then just as wet on the inside as it was on the outside.

Now normally when I pack the awning away I take the time to fold it and roll it properly so it will go back in its bag but for once I didn't give a monkeys. The whole thing was just one great rain-sodden mass which wouldn't improve no matter how well I folded it so I just threw all the guylines into the centre, folded it once then bundled it up as it was and put it into a big heavy duty bin liner with the groundsheet squashed in on top of it - I could think about drying it out in a day or two. My next problem was getting off the pitch - with the van standing in the swamp and no traction on the wet ground I fully expected not being able to move it, however by taking it slowly I managed to reverse off and reach the gravel track without problem. By that time I both looked and felt like a drowned rat, and as I can't drive in wellies anyway I went along to the shower block to get changed into my trainers and some dry clothes.

Feeling a bit more human once I was warm and dry I set off for home and got back an hour later - and it was as I was getting some stuff out of the van about half an hour afterwards that I realised I'd left my jacket hanging up in the shower block at the site. Damn and blast! Now what should I do? I knew that Alison, the site owner, was away so I couldn't phone her to ask her to find it and put it to one side until I could collect it, and although there was no-one else camping on the site just then there was no way of knowing if it would be safe if I left it till the weekend - so there was nothing for it but to go back and get the darned thing, and looking at the clock I knew I would just about have time to get there and back before I had to go to work. Fortunately a substantial part of the route was motorway so I was able to put my foot down a bit and I was back at the site in just less than an hour; my jacket was still where I'd left it, so throwing it into the van I set off yet again and was back home in time to get to work with a few minutes to spare. Sheesh, I wouldn't like to do that too many times!

As I downloaded my photos to the pc later that evening I thought back over the weekend - it had been a good one even though it had rather a soggy ending; I'd been to some nice places and got some good photos and the Jubilee party had been a very enjoyable evening with a great bunch of people so I was really looking forward to the next nutters meet in a month's time. And the theme for that one would certainly confirm that we really are all nutters!

Sunday September 23rd 2012 - Skipton and a boat ride

I woke later than usual that day to the remains of an early morning mist, and though it was quite cloudy the sun was trying to get through so I hoped that eventually it would turn into another nice day. As usual the first task of the day was a dog walk, and when I went outside the awning I found I had visitors - four sheep were grazing contentedly on the grass just a few yards from the van. Not wanting to walk past them and disturb them I took the dogs through the gap in the hedge in front of the van and went a different way; they were still there when I got back so I grabbed my camera and took a couple of shots of them before they wandered off.

After breakfast I spent part of the morning wandering round chatting and saying goodbye to various other nutters; while I was staying another day they were all packing up to leave later on and would all be gone by the time I got back to the site from wherever I went to. It was getting on for lunchtime before I was ready for going out and the day was still very cloudy so I revised my initial plans to go to Bolton Abbey and decided to look round Skipton instead. Bolton Abbey is one of those places where, from a photography point of view, it's better to go on a sunny day and as the sun didn't seem to be putting in an appearance there was no point going just for the sake of it. So Skipton it was, and as I didn't know just whereabouts in the town I would be able to park I followed the signs for the canal - there had to be a car park somewhere near there and sure enough there was, just out of the town centre and right by the canal itself, so finding a space I collected a ticket from the machine and went for a wander round.

I had a look round all the shops first, though having the dogs with me meant I couldn't really go in any of them, then went up to the castle. Dogs were allowed in, which was good, but again there was no point going on a cloudy day so I changed my mind on that one, made my way back to the canalside and took a few photos round there. One of the firms which hire out narrowboats did short boat trips along one arm of the canal, £3 for for thirty minutes, and there was one ready for leaving so on the spur of the moment I decided to go. Once away from general civilisation the canal ran past the tree-covered lower walls of the castle and after fifteen minutes sailing we reached a dead end; the guy running the trip turned the boat round then stopped for several minutes while he told us a bit about the history of the canal and the castle, then we set off again and sailed slowly back to the starting point.

By the time I got off the boat I was just about ready for a coffee; there was a little cafe just by the boat moorings so I took the dogs back to the van, which was just over the other side of the canal, then went to get a brew and some cake. Sitting in the cafe and looking out of the window I could see the already grey sky getting darker, and just as I got back to the van again I felt the first drops of rain. There was no point thinking of going anywhere else if it was raining so I set off back to Riverside, and by the time I pulled up at the awning it was raining quite hard. So that was it for the rest of the day - all the other nutters had left the site while I was out and apart from one caravan over the far side I was completely on my own, so I stayed in the awning watching a bit of tv and reading some of my latest book. I didn't venture out again until it was time to take Sophie and Sugar for their bedtime walk and it was still raining, that fine but heavy drizzly stuff that wets you within minutes. Needless to say the dogs and I weren't out in it for very long, and after I'd settled them in their bed and made a final brew I retreated to my own bed with fingers mentally crossed for a dry pack-up the following day.

Saturday September 22nd 2012 - Pateley Bridge, Brimham Rocks and Fountains Abbey

I woke that morning to blue sky and glorious sunshine and the sounds of various other 'nutters' starting their day. It looked like it was going to be another good day for photography so I wasn't going to waste a minute - there were places I wanted to go and the sooner the better then I could be back in good time for the Jubilee party later on. First off was a dog walk up the lane to the village and back followed by a breakfast of tea and toast then I had a wander round and a chat to various other nutters. A few of them were going into Skipton later on and I was invited to join them but I declined - although I would like to explore Skipton properly I could go there anytime, even if it was raining, but I needed the good weather for where I planned to go and the day's blue sky and sunshine were just too good to miss. So with the dogs in the back of the van, the awning disconnected and my camera loaded with fully-charged batteries mid-morning saw me setting off for the A59.

My intended destination was Brimham Rocks just off the road to Ripon and the drive took me through some lovely countryside. Away from the A59 the road became very twisty and winding with some long steep inclines going down, and as I negotiated the third one I could see it and smell it - smoke coming from somewhere underneath the van. Holey Moley! Burning rubber or overheating brake drums? - I wasn't sure, but remembering my near brake failure twelve months ago it didn't exactly inspire me with confidence. Fortunately there was a small lay-by at the bottom of the hill so I pulled in there and sat for twenty minutes or so to let things cool down before I went any further. Just round the next bend was a steep uphill incline and I was dreading what I might find at the top but luckily the descent from that one wasn't as steep and I arrived at the village of Pateley Bridge in one piece. Phew, thank goodness for that!

As I passed through the village itself I thought it looked so nice it would be worth making a stop, and anyway after last few hairy minutes of my drive I decided I deserved some coffee and cake. There was a car park just off the main road so I pulled in there and with a ticket duly purchased and stuck in the front windscreen I collected the dogs and my camera and went for a wander. Just across the road from the car park was a very pleasant-looking cafe with a terrace overlooking the nearby river so I hitched the dogs to the railing near a vacant table and went inside to order, and not long afterwards I was enjoying a mug of coffee and a decent-sized slice of Victoria sponge cake. With the warmth of the sun and the sound of the river flowing just down below the terrace my sanity gradually returned, and once I'd paid the bill I went to see just what Pateley Bridge had to offer.

There was just one main street, the road going right through the village which had shops on both sides, and at the top of the hill I came across a small and very pleasant lawned area with the flower-covered Fox's Head Well set back off the pavement, so called because the spout is in the shape of a fox's head. Back down the hill and across the bridge over the River Nidd was a large and attractive-looking park with a childrens play area, bandstand, a riverside walk and a war memorial surrounded by a pretty little garden, and I got several photos before making my way back to the van.

Back on the road again it wasn't long before I came to the turn off for Brimham Rocks, and as I drove along the single track road with bracken and ferns growing tall along each side I almost felt as if I was venturing into the jungle, though eventually the foliage petered out and the road became more open with views across the nearby countryside. Finally I arrived at the entrance to the rocks area itself; it was a National Trust place and as I drove up the track towards the car park I had my membership card at the ready. The guy issuing the car park tickets had already noticed my NT sticker in the windscreen so hardly glanced at my card; "Members car park on the right at the top" he told me, pointing further up the track, and as I drove on I felt quite privelaged being able to park in a 'special' car park - there's definitely something to be said for this National Trust membership! 

With the dogs on their leads and the camera round my neck I set off to explore, and as I walked round I was both surprised and amazed at what was there. Quite a while ago someone on UKCS had posted a picture of a few of the rocks, suggesting it as somewhere to go, and I had the impression that what was in the photo was what you get, but not so - the area was far bigger than I imagined, with natural rock formations all over the place. There was a designated wheelchair-user-friendly path all the way round but other paths led off from that and meandered between and around the rocks, with grassy areas here and there where people were having picnics or just sitting in the sun. Many people, kids and adults alike, were climbing up and on the rocks, which is allowed (and tough if you fall off and hurt yourself), and the views over the countryside from some of them were fantastic. Towards the top end of the site a few tables with bench seats were set out on the grass and there was a kiosk selling snacks and drinks; steps up the nearby slope led to a viewing area from where you could see for miles. The rocks themselves had been eroded over time into many weird and wonderful formations, and some of them looked like they were balanced so precariously on top of each other that the next gust of wind would surely cause them to topple over.

I wandered round for well over an hour taking shot after shot and found the place so fascinating that I could have stayed all afternoon, but there was somewhere else I wanted to go to so I finally made my way back to the van and set off to my third port of call, Fountains Abbey just outside Ripon. This was another National Trust place and dogs on leads were welcome so at least I didn't need to leave them in the van while I explored, though I still found a shady spot to park in. The abbey itself was several minutes walk from the entrance, past a couple of fields and through a wooded area and when I got there I found that just like Brimham Rocks the place was bigger than I'd thought. There was also a water garden somewhere but it seemed to be another good walk away and as I didn't want to be too late setting off back to the camp site I decided against going to find it and just stick to looking round the abbey.

After spending well over half an hour wandering round the abbey ruins I made my way back up to the car park and once I'd given the dogs a drink I set off back to base. I didn't follow the 'B' road back through Pateley Bridge though, I headed about three miles east to the outskirts of Ripon and the A61 which would soon take me back to the A59. It was much easier and less twisty going that way and once I was on the A59 itself I could go at a reasonable speed, and I was back at Riverside for 6pm. By that time everything had been set out for our party evening and once the daylight started fading the camp fires were lit, the music was put on quietly and everyone started to congregate round. Two of the tables were laden with all sorts of food which various nutters had contributed, someone had made a big pan of chilli and John was supplying hot dogs from a table in one corner.

Once we'd all got some food and drink of some description Dragon - aka Neil - announced the plans for future meets which will take us up to June next year - and if anyone needed convincing that we really are nutters then those plans would definitely confirm it. Needless to say, we'll be having a lot of fun in the coming months and will certainly be living up to our unofficial title of 'the nutters group'. It was just after 11pm when my day out in the fresh air caught up with me and I was ready for my bed so after saying goodnight to the rest of the nutters I took Sophie and Sugar for a quick walk round the site and retreated to the van. I'd had a good day and a very sociable evening - our next get-together was to be in a month's time and I was already looking forward to it.