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

Tuesday April 30th 2013 - Z is for Zoo

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love animals, both domestic and the wild version, and over the three years I've been a solo camper I've visited a few zoos while on my camping travels. Two of these zoos were exceptionally well set out and very interesting and it was at each of these I was able to get up close to some of the animals.

Africa Alive in Suffolk has an area called Lemur Encounters, a huge open enclosure where the public can walk among the many ring-tailed lemurs which live there, and my time spent in there was without doubt the best part of my visit to that particular zoo. There were dozens of them, from small babies to older adults, playing games of 'tig' amongst themselves, swinging on ropes, jumping onto fence posts and leaping in and out of the trees. One came to sit on the fence post right next to me and spent several minutes there before it jumped down and ran off to join its friends. It was fascinating watching them and I could have stayed there for hours.

My second close encounter of the furred kind was at Banham Zoo in Norfolk, where I booked a special fifteen minute 'meerkat feeding experience' with one of the keepers. Before going into the meerkat enclosure the keeper explained the do's and don'ts, then once inside the entrance area she produced a small plastic tub containing - horror of horrors! - a wriggling mass of brown mealworms. Urgh!! I absolutely hate anything which wriggles and squirms and I could feel my skin crawling just at the sight of these things - and I was supposed to feed them to the meerkats!

No way was I putting my hand in that box, so the keeper said that if I sat on the tree trunk in the enclosure she would drop the mealworms onto my lap and the meerkats could take them from there. I wasn't too keen on that idea either but she said the meerkats moved so fast that the mealworms would be gone in seconds. Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound - I was just glad I wasn't wearing shorts! So I sat on the tree trunk and waited for the onslaught - and true enough, as soon as the mealworms landed on my lap the meerkats dived in and they were gone before I knew it. I started to enjoy myself after that - the meerkats were fascinating, comical, and very cute little creatures, it was brilliant having them swarming all over me and some of them even allowed me to stroke them. And for a souvenir of my experience the keeper took several photos which I collected from the zoo reception about half an hour later.

It's a couple of years now since my encounter with the meerkats so I'm thinking that a return visit to that particular zoo may very well be on the cards for one day during my next Norfolk camping trip, but this time I might have a change and feed the giraffes instead!

Well, this post concludes the A to Z Challenge; I must admit that on a couple of days I've found it hard to think of something to write about, though strangely the most awkward letters have been the easiest, however I've stuck with it and like many others I've survived. So thank you to all those who took the trouble to stop by, read and comment on my ramblings, I hope I haven't bored you too much. And to those new followers, now I've finished the challenge I can finally find the time to write about my Easter camping trip and my next one this coming weekend, so I hope you'll check back soon to read about more of my travels.


Monday April 29th 2013 - Y is for Young at heart

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

A lot of people say that having kids around keeps you young and gives you an excuse to act like one yourself sometimes; well I don't have young kids now but I still have the odd 'mad moment' sometimes.

One occasion was a couple of years ago while camping in the western Lake District - I had met up with some camping friends and another family with a couple of kids and one evening we all went to the nearby village pub for a meal.  After dining we all went out to the garden and while the rest of the group sat round a table on the patio one of my friends and I went down to the play area with the two kids. At first I was just watching them playing but then some little invisible devil on my shoulder prompted me to join in - and so began one of the maddest half hours I've had in a long while.

First I went up the climbing frame and down the slide, then I tried the mouse swing, the other slide and the rope swing and finally wriggled through a tunnel at almost ground level. Then it was the dogs' turn to go through the tunnel and down the slide with one of the kids, and somewhere along the line I ended up with my head and hands in the ornamental stocks while my friend took a photo. Finally the kids and I did the landlord's egg and spoon race - the 'eggs' being pool balls - over an obstacle course which consisted of stepping through the swings, going up the climbing frame and down the slide, and up and over several tables and benches. I don't know who won - I don't think anyone was really counting - but it was darned good fun!

I remember that several years ago I once said that I had every intention of growing old disgracefully - I think my antics that day rather proved that I meant what I said!

Saturday April 27th 2013 - X is for ?

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

There are actually more words than you would think which begin with 'x' but there are none which relate to camping - maybe someone should invent one?! - so here are some other words which I've adapted to fit the theme.

Xtras - Those items which I take 'just in case'. Extra clothing, extra batteries for the camera, an extra dog lead in case I lose one, an extra chair for if I have a visitor, extra guylines and more importantly extra tent pegs. It's often the case that when pegging down the tent I'll hit a stone under the surface of the pitch and bend the tent peg, so if that happens a few times I need a supply of extras.

X marks the spot - When I arrive at a site I don't put the tent up straight away; I walk round the pitch a couple of times, see which direction has the best view, look which way the sun shines, check for any dips in the ground, and in the case of the drive-away awning I make sure I'll have enough room to drive in and out alongside it. When I'm happy that I've got the right spot on the pitch I'll put the tent/awning up; some people might think I'm being fussy but I do like things to be right!

Xmas - To be honest, one of my pet hates is this abbreviation of the word 'Christmas' but in this case it fits the theme. For many years I've wanted to go camping at Christmas but something has always prevented it - usually our very unpredictable British weather. Long before I ever learned to drive I often said that if I could drive I would never attempt it in snowy or icy conditions and so far I haven't. I can cope with cold and have done so a few times, but I would hate to be somewhere miles from home if the weather turned to snow and the roads were bad. So unless the weather gods can guarantee me an absolutely snow, ice and frost free Christmas sometime in the near future then I may never get my tinsel and turkey in the tent.

Xcitement - Not so much me but the dogs. You know when kids get all excited at the prospect of going away? Well my two dogs are very much the same. I don't know how it is - maybe they have a sixth sense for these things - but somehow they know when I'm packing up the van ready for camping even if they can't actually see me doing it. Their tails wag more than they normally do and on the morning of departure Sophie bounces about like she's on a pogo stick, and the pair of them rush to the door eager to be off. They always lie quietly on the journey but when we get close to the site the sixth sense kicks in again and they are up and looking through the window as if they know we're almost there. Once the tent is pitched I take them for a good walk somewhere where they can run off-lead and their joy is obvious, especially with Sophie who will run round and round in mad circles. It's as if they are saying "Yippee, we're camping again!" - and who knows, if I can get away with it without being seen then one day I might do the same myself!

Friday April 26th 2013 - W is for Wind and Water

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

On many occasions during my camping years I have, like all campers, experienced windy weather ranging from a gentle breeze to full-on gale force (as previously mentioned in my 'G' post) and so far I've come through it all with my tent or awning totally unscathed. Not so some of my possessions within said tent or awning though!

On one occasion three years ago, while camping at a lovely site in Cambridgeshire, I got back from a day out to find my flat screen portable tv lying face down on the groundsheet. What had been a very light breeze when I went out had increased to a wind during my hours away and I could only surmise that the side of the awning had blown inwards just enough to touch my tall larder unit on top of which was the tv; the unit must have rocked and the tv fallen off. Surprisingly the screen was okay so I plugged the set in and tentatively switched it on, fully expecting it to have suffered irrepairable internal damage, but against all odds it worked perfectly and continues to work to this day - not bad, considering it had fallen 4ft onto gravel hard standing!

Another occasion when my belongings were affected by the wind was back in 2011 on a lovely site right out in the east Yorkshire countryside. The site itself was just a huge level and very open field and yet again the wind struck while I was out for the afternoon. When I got back to the tent (the Kampa Minnis this time) it looked just like it had been ransacked - the two small tables were lying on their sides, the fridge was face down on the floor, the kettle, toaster and cutlery in a heap and the washing-up bowl face down, with the water which had been left in it soaking the tent carpet. Luckily nothing was damaged and I was able to dry out the carpet in the sunshine while I mopped and dried the groundsheet. And ever since then I do try to remember to move things away from the tent walls whenever I go out!

As far as water is concerned, this really links back to my previous post about views as it plays a big part in my photography. During my camping years I've taken many photos, especially on Anglesey, of harbours and beaches when the tide has been out, purely and simply because that's how it was at the time I was there, but one weekend a couple of years ago I deliberately revisited several places on the island when the tide was in. And what a difference water made; it filled what had, at other times, been empty stretches of sand, it floated the boats which had previously been beached at crazy angles, and it gave a whole different perspective to the views I was seeing. That weekend I must have got some of the best shots I've ever taken on that island and it reinforced one thing I already knew anyway - Anglesey is one of my two most favourite places in this country!

Thursday April 25th 2013 - V is for Views

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Being a very keen amateur photographer my one great passion is views and I'm always on the lookout for good ones. Lakes, rivers, beaches, fields, hills or harbours, if it's got a good view then I'll photograph it. And I've often gone to what some may think are ridiculous lengths to get the best shots of some views; I've 'trespassed' on peoples' gardens and driveways, stood on top of walls, fought my way through dense bushes, paddled into knee-deep freezing cold water, climbed trees, and at one point held one-handed onto a railing while leaning out over a rushing river torrent, all to get that really good shot. Most of the time I've achieved my aim, and best of all I've done it without losing life or limb in the process.

My penchant for good views isn't just reserved for when I'm out and about with the camera though, I like a good view when I'm on a camp site too if I can get it. Although due to the location and layout of some sites it's not always possible, the majority of the sites I've stayed on have had a view of some sort. One site I've been to in North Wales has lovely views of the surrounding hills, another has a view across the neighbouring golf course to the sea beyond, and my favourite place on Anglesey has panoramic views of the coast from almost every part of the site; waking up on a sunny morning to a view of the sea beyond the site is absolute bliss.

There are some sites though which have been recommended to me but which I haven't so far stayed at because of their location. One such site is on Anglesey and I went for a look round a couple of years ago; although it looked like a nice little site, the prices were good and it wasn't far from a beach it was the view to one side which put me off - a huge factory building with a towering steel chimney only a few hundred yards away from the site. Not so much a view, rather a definite blot on the landscape, and not one I would want to see on a regular basis, so I'll be sticking to my favourite site.

I've been asked more than once the reason why I like certain sites so much that I return time after time, and to those who ask the question the answer is simple - the location and the views!

Wednesday April 24th 2013 - U is for Unexpected Bargain

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

I guess everyone loves to get a bargain when shopping; I know I do, and I'm especially pleased when that bargain is totally unexpected.

As you will remember from my 'N' post I recently got a new tent which I used for the first time at Easter; although I'm really pleased with it, and the weather was dry for the whole of that weekend, I felt that it would benefit from having some form of canopy to keep any rain away from the door. With my little Kampa Minnis I would just throw a cheap 6ft x 4ft blue builder's tarp over the top, peg it down at the back and prop up the front with the two canopy poles supplied with the tent; it did the job and kept the rain off the door but I thought my new tent deserved something a bit more professional-looking than that so my internet search for a matching canopy began.

Although I checked out many places advertising canopies for my make and model these things came at a price. Rather than being simple canopies they looked more like small porches with their own door and enough room for a small table and chairs, and while they looked very nice I couldn't really justify paying £100 or more just for something to keep the rain off the door. So it looked like I would have to revert to the builder's-tarp-propped-up-on-poles idea; I already had a large blue tarp which would match the tent and do the job, all I needed were the king poles so last weekend, on a very rainy Sunday afternoon, I went to a couple of camping stores in search of the right ones.

Neither store had the right size poles but an assistant in the second store said they had something which was more the type of thing I really wanted - and that's when I got my unexpected bargain. It's a standard-size universal sun canopy of the same make as my tent and about half the size of the 'official' ones for that model; easy to put up and should keep the rain off the door nicely. It's a different shade of blue though, being described as 'mallard' rather than the surf blue of my tent, so rather than matching it will be contrasting, but that's not really a bad thing. And the cost? Original price £25, reduced to just £9.99! I would have been happy to pay the full price, which I thought was reasonable anyway, but that price was most definitely a bargain.

So guess who came out of that store a very happy bunny?! Even the miserable rainy weather couldn't dampen my mood and I had a smile on my face all the way home. Now I can't wait for the next bank holiday weekend to put my tent up on site and use my new purchase - and for once I hope it rains then I can test how good it is!

Tuesday April 23rd 2013 - T is for TV in the Tent

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Televisions in tents are a subject which crops up regularly on camping forums and opinion seems to be firmly divided into two camps (pardon the pun) - those for and those against. Those for say that it's a good way of stopping their kids from getting bored, while those against say that surely the idea of camping is to get away from all you do at home. Then of course there's the noise factor and I do agree with this - keep it down. No-one wants to listen to the sound of someone's tv blaring out from a tent, but very often tent campers forget that a thin layer of canvas or polyester isn't the same as a solid brick wall.

Now although I don't watch much tv here at home there are a few certain programmes which I do enjoy so I always take my portable tv when I'm camping. My days are spent out and about, exploring places and taking photos, and though I enjoy reading and will mainly spend my evenings with my nose in a book it's sometimes nice to watch a bit of tv or a dvd by way of a change. As far as the noise factor is concerned my one rule of thumb is this - with the tv on I walk all round the edge of my pitch and if I can hear it from there I turn it down. If I can't hear it then I know it's quiet enough for no-one else to hear it either, and very often it's so quiet that even from just a couple of feet away within the tent I can't hear it. 

Camping means different things to different people, there's no right or wrong way and what suits one may not suit another. If having a tv in the tent is what some people enjoy then there's no reason why they shouldn't, as long as they remember to have some consideration for their camping neighbours - after all, not everyone wants to hear the theme tune to Coronation Street or Match of the Day! 

Monday April 22nd 2013 - S is for Stars and sillyness

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

I've never been particularly interested in astrology or astronomy; as far as astrology goes I think if there was any truth at all in horoscopes you could pick up any magazine or newspaper on any given day and they would all say the same thing, but as they don't then I'm afraid I just think they are a complete waste of time and only useful to those who want to believe what they read. 

Where astronomy is concerned, while I don't doubt that it's a fascinating subject for many people I've never really been 'into' it - I can just about recognise The Plough because of its distinctive shape and I can list the planets in order but that's about as far as my interest goes. I must admit though that I do enjoy staying on a camp site where there is little or no light pollution; there's something slightly mystical about a late night dog walk round a quiet site underneath a star-filled dark clear sky, and I could sit outside my tent for ages and gaze at them even though I don't know their names. I do have a friend though who is very into astronomy and it was she who caused a lot of hilarity several months ago.

She had accompanied me on a camping trip to Northumberland last August and one night came to join me in my awning for a couple of hours chat over a glass or two of wine. At the end of the evening we stood outside the awning for several minutes gazing up at the sky while she named almost every star and planet up there before she set off back to her own tent at the other side of the nearby hedge. I was just about to take the dogs for a quick walk a few minutes later when I heard her voice outside the awning, and the conversation went like this - "Are you still there?" "Yes, why?" "I can't find my tent" "What d'you mean, you can't find your tent?" "Well I went to where I thought it was but it's not there and I've just walked into a tree!"

Now had I done the same thing myself I could have blamed the wine as I don't normally drink and I'd had two large glasses, but though I was perfectly okay my friend, who drinks the stuff regularly and only ten minutes before had named all the stars in the sky, seemed to have suddenly gone completely woolly-headed. We blamed the large dose of fresh country and sea air we'd had that day and once we'd stopped giggling I escorted her back to her tent and made sure she went in it. When we met for breakfast the following morning we had another laugh about the previous night's events and I told her that with all her knowledge of the stars she should at least have been able to follow them back 'home'!

Saturday April 20th 2013 - R is for Renewing old friendships

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Years ago, when my son was quite young, we would have two weeks holiday in June and a week in September in a chalet on a site just down the lane from the Norfolk camp site where I now stay; this happened every year for eleven years and over time we got to know many of the locals. When my son reached his mid teens we got to know an older couple who lived in the countryside a few miles from the chalet site and had a boat moored in a backwater of the Broads; they, like me, were great animal lovers and supporters of several animal charities and we became firm friends. Every time we holidayed there they would take us for days out on their boat and we spent many happy hours cruising the Broads and just generally messing about on the water. Eventually though, my son left his teenage years behind, my life changed when I met my partner, and through circumstances I lost touch with my friends. Then three years ago, after a chance discussion on an internet boating forum revealed that their boat had been sold on but then lost in a fire at a boatyard, I decided that on my next Norfolk camping holiday I would try to track them down.

I didn't think it would be easy as I only had the vaguest idea of how to get to their cottage and didn't even know if they would still live there after all this time, but it was worth trying. And when I did, I experienced one of the biggest coincidences of my life. I'd managed to find the right area but after fifteen years there was nothing which looked familiar; there was a man walking a dog down the lane so I decided to stop and ask him for directions and he turned out to be the very person I was looking for! So I was invited back to the cottage, which was only across the lane, and his wife was really surprised and pleased to see me; she didn't go out much after suffering a stroke a few years ago so she liked having visitors. Catching up on all the news from the last fifteen years it was as if we had never lost touch, and I could have stayed there all day. 

When it was time for me to go I made a promise to call in every time I'm down that way in the future - which so far I have done - and I left with a big hug and an old friendship well and truly renewed.

Friday April 19th 2013 - Q is for Quirky

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

I've always been a lover of unusual and quirky things, especially houses, and if I ever see one which strays away from the normal four-walled property which most people live in it really fires my imagination and inquisitiveness, and I have a great desire to get in there and look round.

One such property is on Anglesey and I've driven past it many times. The original part of the house is the bottom half of an old windmill with a flat roof; there's an arched doorway at ground level and an arched double French window and small balcony above it. Above that is a large semi-circular balcony stretching about halfway round the building, with continuous floor-to-ceiling windows to the room beyond. The rest of the house is built up onto a stone terrace adjoining the side of the windmill, making the ground floor almost level with the first floor of the mill. Rectangular in shape, the end wall has been set at an angle and has three huge single-pane windows; the upper floor, which is much smaller than the ground floor, has weather-boarded walls and a small balcony and looks rather like a tiny bungalow built into the roof. Apart from the weather boards, which are a pale blue, the whole house is painted white and is set in a lovely garden, and it all looks extremely attractive.

The second quirky property I like is another old windmill, this time near a riverbank in the Norfolk countryside. Again it's the bottom half of the mill with a flat roof, and unlike the Anglesey property has no extensions built on. About halfway up the terracotta-coloured building is a glass-walled room which encircles the whole mill and has a small enclosed balcony with outside stairs leading down into the small neat garden. There are two small white-shuttered windows set high up near the top of the building and a door and one window at ground level; the whole thing is very simplistic compared to the Anglesey property but still quirky in its own way.

Taking quirky to a whole new level - literally - is the House in the Clouds in Suffolk. Originally built in the 1920s as a water tower with living accommodation, the huge storage tank at the top was made to look like a house so that it would be in keeping with the rest of the village. When it came out of use in the late 1970s the living accommodation was gradually extended over five floors, and the 'house' at the top is now a huge games room. To add to the quirkiness there's no landline phone inside the property itself, calls are made from an old red telephone box in the garden. As the building is so tall the 'house' is above the surrounding trees and from a distance it really does look like it's in the clouds, hence its name. The whole property is available for holiday rental, but at a price in excess of £3,000 per week in high season it would take a decent lottery win before I could ever hope to stay there. You can check this one out from my House in the Clouds link on the right of this page.

So there you have it - three uniquely different properties which I've discovered while camping and whose quirkiness gives me the great desire to go in them and have a look round, though I've as much chance of that as plaiting sawdust or knitting fog!

Thursday April 18th 2013 - P is for Perfect Moment

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

I guess many people have, at some point in their lives, had what they could describe as their 'perfect moment' - an instance which, for whatever personal reason, was special to them. The very nature of camping can often bring a 'perfect moment' and I've experienced more than one over the last few years, the last two being just a few months ago.

I was camping in early September last year at my favourite site in Norfolk and one day went to explore and take photos round a little village situated on the Norfolk Broads. A footpath from the village to where the small chain ferry crossed the river a mile away ran between open fields and the riverbank, and as I walked along with the dogs I experienced what must have been an absolutely perfect half hour.  Even though I was less than half a mile from the village there wasn't a single person around and I could have been a world away from civilisation. A wide expanse of reeds separated the main river from the bank and deadened the noise of any passing pleasure craft; 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's almost impossible to describe, but that short period of time somehow seemed so perfect and so special that if I could have bottled it and kept it for ever then I would have done.

A few days later I experienced my second perfect moment. I had wakened early to a morning filled with sunshine and blue sky and had taken the dogs for a walk along the nearby 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 sea mist. With no-one else around I had the whole beach to myself, and 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 times when I felt glad to be alive.

So there we were, just me and two little dogs walking along in our own little bit of paradise, and it was one of those perfect moments which I'll remember for many years to come.

Wednesday April 17th 2013 - O is for Overseas Camping

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

One of the best camping experiences I've ever had was back in 2008. Every year since 1995 my partner and I would have two weeks holiday at Lake Garda in Italy, always staying in the same hotel in the same small town on the north east side of the lake. Several times over the years we had hired a couple of scooters and ridden right round the lake - providing we didn't stop too many times we could do it in a day and it was great fun. Then prior to our holiday in 2008 we decided we would do something a bit different and cycle all the way round the lake. Now Lake Garda is a big lake, being 34 miles long, 18 miles across at its widest point and 98 miles all the way round by road, so there was no way we could cycle round in one day - and so our cycle-camping trip was planned.

Cutting down on our normal luggage we took a small 2-person tent, a couple of self-inflating mattresses, two lightweight sleeping bags and four sets of cycle lights, two for each bike; we wouldn't need cooking stuff as there would be no shortage of places to eat. After five days at our hotel we took an 8 mile bus ride to a good cycle hire shop where we collected two brand new road bikes then cycled back to the hotel - we counted this as Day 1 of our trip, only another 90 miles to go! The rest of the day was spent fixing the lights to the bikes and strapping everything we would need onto the rear carriers, then after breakfast the following morning we set off on Day 2. 

Going in a clockwise direction so we we cycled next to the lake we covered 37 miles that day, stopping several times for photographs and refreshments.  Wearing nothing but cycling shorts and tops over swimwear, when we got too hot we just parked the bikes on a lakeside beach and went for a swim to cool off; a quick towel down afterwards and the sun dried us out in no time. As early evening approached we found a camp site next to the lake; although there were no tent pitches available we were able to pitch in the motorhome area which had a gravel surface but was fine for just one night, and we were able to use all the site facilities including a lovely pool and good showers.

Day 3 saw us breakfasting at a little cafe-bar a short distance from the camp site before embarking on the next leg of our trip. Another 42 miles covered that day, with lots more swimming and the consumption of copious amounts of Coke, and a few hairy moments riding through some long, dark and very busy tunnels - which is why we needed the lights - then as evening approached we found a lovely camp site on the north west part of the lake. Our pitch was just ten yards from the water and the view across the lake was fabulous; we dined on the terrace built out over the lake and went to sleep to the sound of gentle waves lapping the beach near our pitch.

Day 4 saw us breakfasting on the terrace then taking the lights off the bikes. We completed the final 11 miles of our trip with another lake swim about halfway along, and ended our marathon journey back at the cycle hire shop where we unstrapped our stuff and returned the bikes. A bus ride back to the hotel and our cycle-camping trip was over. We'd had a brilliant time and experienced something a bit different to our normal summer holidays; straight away we said we would repeat the trip the following year, but by then we had gone our separate ways so it wasn't meant to be. I've never forgotten that time though, and hope to do it all again on my own in the not-too-distant future.

I've tried to keep this post reasonably short for the purposes of the Challenge but there was far more to the experience than I've written. I can remember everything about it as if it was yesterday so maybe during the coming winter when I'm not camping and I have more time I'll write about it all in much more detail.

Tuesday April 16th 2013 - N is for New Tent

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Well here's the little twist to my letter K post - in spite of having enjoyed many weekends in my Kampa Minnis, three weeks ago and just a few days before Easter I bought myself a new tent!

This wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing but a well-considered decision based on a fair amount of internet research and several visits to various camping stores within a reasonable distance from home. I didn't really want to buy a new tent but I needed to get a new one; the Minnis has served me well over the last three years but it has one fault - I can't stand up in it properly. At just less than 5ft tall I'm already halfway to being a midget, and as the top of the tent touches the top of my head I've found myself stooping when moving around in it, so much so that not only am I in danger of becoming a complete midget I also get dreadful backache which has become worse the last few times I've used the tent.

So, a taller and more spacious tent was needed and my research led me to the Vango Midas 400. Again this is a 4-person tent and the same vis-a-vis design as the Minnis but with larger bedrooms, a larger living area, and a height of almost 6ft; my local camping store had a blue one in stock at a good price so the purchase was made and I pitched it for the first time at a site in North Wales at Easter. It was really easy to put up and though it's not a big tent compared to the size of some the space inside is enormous compared to the smaller Minnis; in fact if I left out the bedroom pods I could easily pitch the Minnis inside it.

I spent four very pleasant and sunny Easter days in my new Midas and was really pleased with it, in fact I felt rather like a kid with a new toy - and with the new-found space and height I didn't suffer one single twinge of backache at any time, so I'm now looking forward to spending many more weekends in it. I must admit to feeling a bit guilty though - while I enjoy future camping trips with the Midas my cute little Minnis will be left lying in its bag, unloved and unwanted in a corner of the garage!

Monday April 15th 2013 - M is for MPV

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Over the last three years I've been asked several times why I drive a big vehicle, the implication being that as I live alone a small car would be much better for me and more economical, but the simple answer is it suits my current lifestyle. I must admit that had I originally been intending to buy a car for myself I would never have thought about getting one so big, but this was a 'legacy' from the break-up of my last relationship and even though I couldn't drive at the time it was one of the things I insisted on keeping. 

It's a Japanese import - a Toyota Granvia, which is basically a Landcruiser 3.0 turbo diesel engine in a Hi-Ace Power Van body with windows all round. It's fitted with (among other things) electric curtains and lacy blinds, and very comfortable captain's seats with arm rests (the driver's seat is electric) and being automatic it's an absolute dream to drive. It's 15ft long, although it doesn't look it, and the space inside is enormous, even more so with the centre seats pushed back. And while it won't do zero to sixty in only three seconds it certainly moves, especially when the turbo kicks in.

When we first got it my partner took out the rear three seats and built a platform 12 inches above the floor, with a ceiling-high heavy duty dog guard separating it from the rest of the van and with grilles over the back and side windows at that point. With an old cot mattress on the platform this makes a good safe area for the dogs when travelling and has enough storage underneath for a trolley jack, fuel can and any number of things I want to put in there. As a normal day-to-day vehicle it can only take three passengers as opposed to the original six but it's very rare that I have more than two anyway.

The best thing about it though is it's versatility. If I'm tent camping I can pack any amount of stuff in it, and if I'm using the drive-away awning I can make up my double bed in the centre and still have plenty of under-bed storage. It's also great for transporting animals; as well as pet-sitting other peoples' dogs when their owners go away I also do volunteer transport runs for a couple of animal charities, transferring rescue dogs to temporary foster care or places of safety - with the seats pushed right back I can fit one large or two smaller dog crates in the centre. And when my son moved house a couple of years ago I transported several items of furniture and heaven knows how many boxes of stuff from his old place to the new one.

So, ask me why I drive a big vehicle? - those are just some of the reasons. It may be thirsty on fuel but it's one of the best things I've ever owned, so parting with it just isn't an option!

Saturday April 13th 2013 - L is for Laughter....

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

There have been many times during my camping years that things have occurred which have reduced me to fits of giggles or tears of laughter, and though there are too many instances to post on here one certain occasion is well embedded in my memory.

I was spending a few days on Anglesey with my partner at a site with no ehu points available, so unable to use our camping fridge it was his idea to keep the milk cool by putting the carton on the ground in the shade under the van. This worked quite well until one day when we were about to go out for the afternoon; we disconnected the drive-away awning and while I secured the back of it with a couple of tent pegs he started up the van. Unfortunately, before I even had chance to think about it, he put the van into gear and moved forwards - straight over the carton of milk, which promptly exploded in spectacular fashion and showered both me and the back of the awning with two pints of pasteurised. It went everywhere, including in my eyes and in my hair, and while I stood there literally dripping with the stuff and looking decidedly stunned he sat in the van trying not to look at me. And then he did - and realising what I must look like my sense of humour got the better of me and I laughed so much that my tears mingled with the now-drying milk on my face.

It took a while to sponge the milk off the awning and once I'd showered, washed my hair and had a change of clothes we did finally go out, but for the rest of the holiday we checked and double-checked that the milk had been moved before we drove off anywhere in the van. We laughed about that incident many times after that, and ever since that day we always made sure we had a pitch with an ehu point so we could use the fridge!

Friday April 12th 3013 - K is for Kampa

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

As a solo camper my first major purchase - albeit an unintended one - was a Kampa tent which I saw on display at Camperlands camping store. Camperlands is a forty minute drive from home and is a great place for anything camping related; I hadn't been there since before the break-up of my relationship, which was well over twelve months previously, and as I needed some new tent pegs I decided that a drive out there for a look round one Saturday afternoon was long overdue.

Having browsed round the accessory shop and purchased the tent pegs I went for a wander round the tent display, and there it was - the Kampa Minnis 4. I wasn't really looking for a tent, had never even thought about buying one, but there was just something about this particular one which attracted me and the more I looked at it the more I liked it. A small 4-person vis-a-vis design in dark blue with just four flexible poles and a 4000 HH, which is excellent in terms of waterproof-ness, it looked easy to put up and would be ideal for weekends and short breaks instead of using the large drive-away awning. I could have one bedroom and I could put the dogs' bed, the loo, and anything I wanted to store in the other - and the more I thought about it the more it made sense to have one. Unfortunately though I didn't have my debit card with me or enough cash to buy one there and then - which is a good way of preventing any spur-of-the-moment purchases! - so there was nothing for it but to go back home.

I spent all weekend trying to talk myself out of buying one of these things - did I really need one? - then on the Monday morning I went back to Camperlands with enough cash and got one. It's been used many times over the last three years and has been a great little tent, and if other Kampa tents are of the same excellent quality then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. However, there's a twist to this little tale which won't be revealed until later in the blog!

Thursday April 11th 2013 - J is for June, Journeys and Juice

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

The month of June is of great significance in my camping life - not only does the start of the month bring my birthday, it's also the 'anniversary' of when I began camping in 1997. My birthday happened to fall on a weekend that year, so wanting to do something a bit different and never having camped before I asked my partner to take me to the site on Anglesey where he used to go fishing before he met me. We had very little to camp with and no tent so we slept in the back of the car; the site was basic but the weather was great and I immediately embraced the whole idea of camping and outdoor living. The rest, as they say, is history, but I often wonder if my birthday had fallen in an earlier month would I have ever gone camping at all?

Having only passed my test three years ago at an age when most people have been driving for donkeys years the one thing which initially worried me was motorway driving. Although I'd been on the road for years on a small motorbike I'd never been on a motorway as the engine size of the bike meant I wasn't legally allowed, so to say I was apprehensive is an understatement. However, the whole idea of learning to drive in the first place was so that I could continue camping now I was on my own, and I could hardly spend the rest of my life avoiding motorways, so immediately after passing my test I booked four extra lessons with my instructor so I could get some confidence in my own vehicle. And it really did help; my first solo motorway journey to the coast about thirty five miles away from home went without a hitch and after that I never looked back.

My camping life has since taken me to many different places, driving on many different roads, and I now absolutely love motorway journeys; my longest one yet will be in a couple of months time when I drive up to the Scottish Highlands. And on a warm sunny day with the window down and a cd to sing along to you can't beat a bit of speed! Of course all this driving around in a vehicle with a big engine takes juice, and lots of it. It's certainly not a commuter vehicle; for short daily journeys to and from work it drinks diesel like you wouldn't believe, but it suits my camping lifestyle and on long journeys at a constant speed it's reasonably economical. With today's fuel prices though it's a pity I can't run it on proper juice - the flavour wouldn't matter as long as it worked out cheaper than diesel!

Wednesday April 10th 2013 - I is for Indecision

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

I'm not normally an indecisive person; if I have a decision to make over anything, whether it's the socks I put on in a morning or where my next camping break will be I make it and most of the time I stick to it, though sometimes this has led me to doing things which I may not otherwise have done - like buying new tents which I don't really need just because I saw them on display, liked them, and decided it would be a good idea to have them. Recently though, when faced with a choice between two different camp sites for an overnight stay on my forthcoming long drive up to the Scottish Highlands I just couldn't decide between the two.

Both sites are in the right area, both have pitches with ehu, and neither is very far from a shop should I need any provisions. There are two major differences though - one is right on the shores of Loch Lomond and cost-wise is quite cheap but is adjacent to the very busy main road along the loch side; the other is in a much quieter location but cost-wise the nightly fee is three times the price of the first. As I don't 'do' noise when I'm camping my first thoughts were to book the quieter site but then I thought of the cost - going to the cheaper site would leave me more spending money for when I got to my final destination. So, cheap noise or expensive peace, which should I choose? I really couldn't decide - until, that is, I looked on Google Earth.

Although the expensive site looks nice I don't think it really justifies the cost, and it also seems to be about a ten minute walk from there to the loch and any nice views, whereas the cheaper site really is right at the side of the loch. Zooming in on 'street view' I found a small road leading through the village to a lochside pier and the views - WOW! And an internet search told me that boat trips across the loch leave from that pier several times a day - they accept dogs, for which there's no charge, so a trip across the loch is something I could build into my itinerary.

So, the indecision was no more - the cheaper site it was and to hell with any road noise, the views would more than make up for that. And as soon as I decided, I picked up the phone to book not one but two nights on that site - and I'm really looking forward to it, road noise or not!

Tuesday April 9th 2013 - H is for Holidays

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

What's the difference between a holiday and a break? Most people will have their own ideas of what constitutes a full-blown holiday and what is merely a break, but here's my personal rule of thumb - to me, a break is six days or less and is a temporary respite from the treadmill of work, whereas a holiday is seven days or more and feels far more permanent.

In my pre-solo camping days my partner and I would have several short camping breaks during the year with a 2-week holiday to Italy in June or July; things changed somewhat when I became a solo camper, and though I knew I would miss Italy I made the conscious decision to spend a few years holidaying in this country and so far I haven't regretted it. 

The nature of my job means that I work early mornings and for a couple of hours in the early evening, Monday to Friday, but I'm lucky in that I can change some of my hours to suit myself - if I want to go camping on a weekend I'll do my Monday morning's work on Friday evening and leave home for a site very early on Saturday morning. Having no work to do until Monday evening means I get a good weekend's break as I don't need to come home until Monday afternoon; during the spring and summer months the van is permanently packed for camping so I can take off at a moment's notice if I want to and I very often do.

When it comes to actual holidays, instead of taking a full two weeks at once I split them into two separate 5-day weeks, taking one in early June and the other in late August/early September. If I use the weekend at each side of the week plus another Monday morning I get a 10-day holiday for only five days off work, and as I usually camp somewhere where the pace of life is slower than at home then that 10-day holiday can feel like a month.

So, holiday or break? What does each mean to you? I may eventually decide to resume my annual two weeks in Italy, but for now I'm quite happy as I am - I reckon I've got my camping life ticking over nicely with both holidays and breaks so long may it continue!

Monday April 8th 2013 - G is for Gale Force Wind

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Over the sixteen years I've been camping I think I've mainly been very lucky with the weather; most of the time my camping days have been very sunny, and though there have been a few dull and rainy days here and there I can only think of two occasions where I've experienced really bad weather.

The first of these was Easter 2003 when my partner and I went to a Norfolk site which is on a cliff top. We arrived on the Good Friday morning in brilliant sunshine and proceeded to erect the trailer tent which was an old 1970's model. The canvas had seen far better days, and as my partner tightened one of the poles the canvas stretched too far at a weak point, resulting in a foot long tear which was impossible to sew up, so we stuffed the gap with a towel and hoped it would be okay. Then late in the evening the wind came; it started as a gentle breeze at first but got stronger and stronger, making the canvas flap wildly and the trailer rock so much it was almost lifting off the ground, and we were worried that if it got through that tear in the canvas it would just rip the whole lot to shreds and completely destroy our 'home'. To be honest, with the wind howling with such force we were more than worried, we were scared, and rather than go to bed we spent most of the night sitting up and watching the canvas. The wind did eventually die down as daylight arrived so we were able to get some sleep, and when we woke again the sun had returned. In spite of everything the canvas had survived and we went on to have an enjoyable and sunny break, but when we got back home we went to the nearest camping store and invested in a new trailer tent - we didn't want to go through that again!

My second experience of gale force wind was on Anglesey last year (2012) during the Queen's jubilee weekend. My first two days on site were absolutely glorious but I woke early on the third day to pouring rain and a stiff breeze which gradually turned into a roaring gale, battering my awning with such force that I wondered if it would survive the onslaught. Taking it down in such a high wind wasn't an option though so I just had to sit it out and hope for the best. A walk round the site that evening showed just how much damage the gale had done - windbreaks uprooted and blown across the grass, becoming lodged under cars; a gazebo with sides which had large holes blown straight through them; the main field, which only the previous day had looked like a smaller version of Glastonbury, now resembled the aftermath of the holocaust. The grass was littered with collapsed and damaged rain-soaked tents, bent and broken tent poles and gazebo frames, and rubbish was strewn everywhere, testament to the force with which the gale had hit. Fortunately my awning survived and the wind eventually died down, but I felt really sorry for the families whose weekend had been ruined. British weather certainly has a lot to answer for!

Saturday April 6th 2013 - F is for Footprint

And I don't mean the sort you make when walking in snow or on wet sand!

I must confess that in my first eleven or so years of camping I'd never heard of a footprint - it was only when I joined the forums of UKCampsite that I began to read about them and how they were recommended for anyone getting a new tent, and I finally realised that a footprint is a groundsheet which is an 'extra' to any particular model of tent and is the exact size and shape of said tent.

Like many people my first thought was 'why would you need one, is it so important?' but when, as a now-solo camper, I bought my small 4-berth tent which came with one as part of the deal I began to realise the advantages. Pegged down on a pitch before erecting the tent it shows just how much ground space the tent will use (ideal if you're trying to fit a large tent on a small pitch) and if you don't like it in one place it's easy enough to move it to another before putting the tent on top of it. It acts as a layer of insulation between the ground and you, and if you happen to be pitching your tent on a wet or muddy pitch it helps to keep the actual tent groundsheet clean and dry - when your camping break is over it's far easier to clean a footprint than it is to clean the groundsheet attached to a large tent.

So, from initially being fairly sceptical about these things I have, over the last three years, completely changed my mind about them, and the future purchase of any new tent will definitely include a footprint - and to anyone in any doubt, speaking from experience I can highly recommend them!

* Well there's no post tomorrow folks as Sunday is a day off from blogging, but I'll be back on Monday with G - if I can think of something to write!

Friday April 5th 2013 - E is for Ehu

Or 'electric hook-up' for those who don't know much about camping.

In my very early camping days I would quite happily camp with my partner for two or three days without any form of heat or light, but those days were usually restricted to warm and sunny summer weekends; the onset of cooler evenings towards the end of September would signify the end of our camping season, and camping during winter months wasn't even thought of never mind carried out. Fast forward a few years and the eventual purchase of a hook-up cable, a fan heater and a decent light meant that we could camp in a bit more comfort and also extend our season to the end of October if we wanted to do.

Since becoming a solo camper I've camped a few times without electric, but only in summer and mainly because certain places I've been to had no provision for it; normally, whenever I phone a site to book a pitch I always ask for one with electric as it makes my life so much easier and it also means that I can camp in relative comfort during cold winter temperatures if I so wish. 

Now I know there are many campers who say that camping isn't 'proper' camping if you have the 'luxury' of electric, but to be honest I really don't see the point in spending chilly days and evenings wearing several layers of clothes and sitting huddled up in a blanket, then going to bed wearing hats and gloves and more layers of clothes - that's not my idea of fun at all. If being able to use a fan heater means I have a warm tent and can go to bed without having to dress like I'm on a polar expedition then it's ehu every time for me.

Thursday April 4th 2013 - D is for Dogs

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Right from my very first camping weekend back in 1997 I've always been accompanied by a couple of four-legged friends. The first two were Skippy, my own little white Jack Russell, and Sandy, a little brown Jack Russell/mongrel rescue dog belonging to my then partner. They went on many camping trips with us and loved it so much that on going home day they would stage a sit-in on some of the camping stuff to stop it from being packed away. When Skippy sadly died in early 1999 her place was taken soon afterwards by Sugar who was only eight months old at the time; she became a good companion to Sandy and took to camping like a duck to water.

In March 2003 two dogs became three when Sam came along; he was a German Shepherd/Border Collie rescue dog and at only four months old was a complete clown but loveable with it. He soon got into the camping way of life though and was always happy whenever we took him on the beach. Then in January 2006 Sandy passed away; she was almost twenty years old and had camped with us for nine years. So we were back to two again, with Sam and Sugar continuing to enjoy our camping trips and being constant companions to each other.

April 2009 saw my partner disappearing for new horizons and taking Sam with him, something which had a profound and detrimental effect on Sugar. She went off her food, didn't want to go for walks, and was generally a very unhappy little dog, so something had to be done, and soon. Enter Sophie, found on the internet and my third little Jack Russell. She was with a family who lived in south Derbyshire and I couldn't drive at the time so a friend took me down there, and the minute I saw her I knew I was bringing her home. Small and dainty she definitely had the cute factor, and though she still looked like a pup she was actually just one day away from her second birthday. Sugar accepted her new friend straight away and went back to being the happy little dog she had always been; Sophie took to camping and the rest, as they say, is history. The two of them are constant companions both to each other and to me, and camping just wouldn't be the same without them!

Wednesday April 3rd 2013 - C is for Colour Co-ordination

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

In my earlier camping years I never gave much thought to the colours of tents or accessories; most of the things were purchased from different sources and were bought because they were needed, and colour didn't come into it at all. That all changed in 2008, in my pre-solo camping days, with the purchase of a 1989 2-berth caravan - although perfectly serviceable the interior looked very dated, with dark mustard-coloured velour curtains and pelmets, brown and beige seating and a grotty brown carpet. It wasn't really a caravan you would want to spend much time in so a complete refurb was needed. The purchase of a roll-end of cotton material in a lovely shade of yellow produced matching curtains, blinds, cushion covers, duvet cover and pillowcases, and re-covered the pelmets and seat back rests, and a light orange carpet completed the transformation. It was, therefore, a natural progression to add colour matching accessories; mugs, bowls and plates in yellow, yellow towels, a yellow tablecloth and even a small vase of artificial yellow flowers - all found their way into the caravan and added to what had become a very sunny and pleasant place to be.

The first drive-away awning was purchased because I liked the style of it and again colour didn't come into it; it just so happened that it was two-tone grey trimmed with red, which matched the interior of the van to which it would be attached. At first I didn't give much thought to colour matching but a charity shop purchase of a pair of red curtains to use as blinds in the van, and a red storage box to keep all the camping bits and pieces in, started the trend. I already had a red moon chair which was very rarely used so that was dragged out of hibernation, and one of my first purchases as a solo camper was a red duvet set which is only ever used when sleeping in the van; with red mugs and plates, cutlery with red handles, red checked tablecloth, red lamp and red throw to cover the portable loo, and even a red bag to pack my personal bits and pieces in, the van-and-awning set up is now completely co-ordinated.

The tent camping side of things has become very much the same; with the purchase three years ago of a tent which only came in blue I've collected together blue bedding, blue and cream patterned tent carpet, blue chair, blue storage box and other blue accessories which will only be used with the tent; even the washing up liquid is blue! My most recent purchase was a new and larger tent, which of course is blue - any other colour just wouldn't do. Now I'm not saying I'm particularly obsessive about this colour co-ordination thing but I've come a long way since my early camping days and mis-matched colours now just look so wrong. I just hope that I never buy a tent or awning in a completely different colour - green for instance - as the collection of a fourth set of matching accessories will probably confirm what some people already think - that I'm ever-so-slightly mad!

Tuesday April 2nd 2013 - B is for Beds

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

I suppose like most campers I like my sleeping arrangements to be as comfortable as possible, and when I first became a solo camper I tried a few different combinations of beds and bedding until I finally found something I was happy with - and the one thing I will never camp without is the double mattress from an old Conway trailer tent. Made out of four inch thick foam it's thicker than most, if not all, modern trailer tent mattresses and even though it's donkeys years old it never shows any signs of wearing out.

The first few times I tent camped I just used the mattress on the floor of the tent with a foam mat underneath it for insulation, but eventually I decided I'd had enough of sleeping so close to the ground and I would treat myself to a proper camp bed. A trip to Camperlands followed and though the double bed I really wanted would have been too big for the bedroom pod I came away with two single beds which just fit nicely together and which are fastened together with a couple of bungees. To combat the ridge down the middle made by the two adjoining sides I spread a duvet across both beds followed by two side-by-side single self-inflating mattresses, and these are then topped by the old trailer tent mattress; and the whole lot is certainly very comfortable. As far as bedding is concerned I find sleeping bags are too restrictive so I use the proper stuff; a fleece blanket instead of a sheet and a second fleece blanket plus a duvet for over the top mean that even in very cold weather I'm lovely and cosy.

When it comes to sleeping in the van, instead of the camp beds I have a double bed base made out of interior ply and which is in two halves for ease of packing. The centre seats are put into horizontal mode, the bed base is laid across them and the two halves slotted together, then the rest of the bed is made up the same as when I'm using the tent and it's just as cosy. The one big difference here though is the height - in the tent I'm just over a foot off the floor but sleeping in the van is almost like sleeping in a top bunk and I need a caravan step to climb up into bed. Needless to say, once I'm in there I make sure I slide the door shut - I'm not in the habit of falling out of bed, that's what kids do, but if it did happen for any reason I would probably do a fair amount damage to myself, so the door makes a great safety barrier!

Monday April 1st 2013 - A is for Awnings

Welcome to my first post in the A - Z Challenge - I hope you enjoy reading this and subsequent posts as much as I (hopefully) enjoy writing them.

When it comes to drive-away awnings there are several different makes and models to choose from, and in my own opinion not all of them are attractive. The way I see it, there are proper awnings and there are contraptions which pretend to be awnings - these are basically just square dome tents, probably with a window (or two if you're lucky) and an extra bit on the back, and to be honest I think the majority of them are downright ugly; they don't even look like awnings. So a few years ago, before I became a solo camper and the first drive-away awning was at the 'thinking-about-getting-one' stage, the main criteria was simple - the make and model didn't matter as long as it looked like an awning and not a square tent.

Eventually, after much internet research, I found the ideal one - a Rodeo Sprint. At the time there was only one place in this country which sold them as they are made in Germany and were only just beginning to be supplied over here, but the cost, although not cheap, was reasonable compared to some of the ones I'd looked at so I took the plunge and ordered one, which arrived three days later. A previously arranged camping weekend a couple of weeks later was the ideal time to try out the new purchase and once it was erected and attached to the van I was more than impressed with it. In two-tone grey with red trim (which coincidentally matched the van's interior) it looked very smart indeed, and there was more than enough space inside for two people, two dogs and their beds, and all the various accessories and bits of equipment which go with a camping lifestyle.

Over the space of five years and many camping trips, most of which have been solo, that awning has stood up to some really rough weather conditions and has never once let me down - a testament I think to its excellent quality and robustness. So last year, when damage done by other people's kids on four different occasions meant that it was beginning to look past its best and I should really get a new one, I had no hesitation in buying an identical replacement. And if Rodeo Sprint No.2 serves me as well as No.1 did then I'll be more than happy.

Now this has nothing whatsoever to do with camping, but to celebrate the start of the A - Z Challenge I'd like to say a big THANKS to ARLEE (LEE), the founder of the challenge, for thinking of it in the first place and making it happen - and long may it continue.