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 September 10th 2013 - Going home day

I woke that morning to something I really didn't want to hear - rain on the tent; the good weather had finally broken and it was now grey, wet and miserable. The first dog walk was kept short and after a breakfast of coffee and toast, and with the van parked as close to the front of the tent as I could get it, I started the packing up process. By the time I'd got everything out of the tent and into the van the rain had stopped, the clouds were breaking up and the sun was coming through, so not wanting to pack the tent away wet I towelled off most of the raindrops then took the dogs for another walk in the hope that it would be dry by the time I got back. Luckily it was, so with Sophie and Sugar out of the way in the van I dismantled it and got it back in its bag; the last thing to take down and put in the van was the tv aerial, then after a quick look round for any stray tent pegs I took the dogs to the edge of the field for a last look at the sea then drove away from the site and said goodbye to California for this year.

By the time I'd got a couple of miles down the road the clouds had almost disappeared and the sunshine and blue sky were back, which made for a very pleasant drive back home, though yet again I got stuck for several miles behind a slow moving vehicle on the A17 - a tractor and trailer this time. My one and only stop was at the Cheerio Cafe for some lunch and a dog walk along the edge of the nearby field, and with a change of route taking me straight up the A1 and across the M62 I made up the time I'd lost on the A17. Going that way added about twenty miles to the journey but it shaved about half an hour off the travelling time and I arrived home before 4pm. With plenty of time to spare before I had to go to work I downloaded all my photos onto the pc, and as I flicked through them afterwards I was already getting ideas for places to visit and revisit on my California holiday next year. 

Monday September 9th 2013 - Stracey Arms Windmill & Ranworth Tower

I woke to yet more sunshine and blue sky and after the usual walk along the beach and breakfast I spent a leisurely morning in and around the tent while I thought about somewhere to go. Without wanting to drive too far I eventually decided to go over to the Stracey Arms windmill then head a few miles north east of there to Ranworth Tower, part of Ranworth Church; a visit to the tower had been recommended by my camping friend John as the views from the top were apparently well worth the climb up the inside.

The windmill was situated beside the River Bure and the A47 between Acle and Yarmouth, a stretch of road that I'd never yet been along as there was no reason to do so; I'd been told that the small parking area was right by the very busy road and to pull in there could be dangerous, but as the other alternatives to get to the mill were by boat or a walk of several miles along the riverbank I had no choice. Fortunately the road wasn't as busy as it could have been and with nothing behind me for several hundred yards I had no trouble pulling into the parking area. 

Access to the mill grounds was by a gate and a short grassy path leading up to the riverbank where several boats were moored. A small shop-cum-tearoom and a couple of outbuildings were set back in one corner, part of the land had been divided off into a couple of small enclosures and half a dozen very friendly goats were wandering around. For a small entrance fee it was possible to go up to the top of the mill but as I'd already been inside Horsey mill and the inside of one was very much like the inside of another I decided not to bother; I think my brain must have gone awol at that point though as it never occurred to me that I could probably get some good photos from up there - definitely something to remember for next year.

Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink and reversed round in the parking area, then with a suitably large gap in the traffic I pulled safely back out onto the road and headed up to Ranworth and St. Helen's Church. The inside of the church was lovely and I spent several minutes looking round before going up the tower. A handwritten notice on the door leading into the tower gave visitors an idea of what to expect, with a disclaimer added at the bottom, and as I climbed I realised why. The spiral stone staircase running up the centre of the tower was very steep and narrow, getting steeper and narrower the farther up I went; with just one small square window set in each wall there was very little light and there was no handrail - this was certainly not a climb for the faint-hearted.  

As I got higher up I could hear voices from somewhere above and just hoped that I didn't meet anyone on the way down as there was absolutely no room at all for two people to pass each other on that staircase. I reached the top successfully though and started the second part of the climb, a very steep ladder up to the next floor; this was followed by a second, almost vertical, ladder  which went up through a trapdoor and finally out onto the roof. Unfortunately by the time I'd got up there the clouds which had been gathering from the west had increased rapidly until the blue sky of earlier on was almost obliterated by an overhanging blanket of grey - not really the best sky for taking photos.

Down below and in front of me I could see part of Malthouse Broad and the tops of the boats on the River Bure beyond; to my right was another stretch of the broad and even farther to the right was Ranworth Staithe at the end of the broad. In the far distance was Caister water tower, which is only a mile from California, and I could even see the wind turbines at Scroby Sands off the coast. The views were just as good as I'd been told they were - or would have been if the sky hadn't been so grey - and they were definitely worth the climb up the tower; in sunshine I could have got some really good photos so a return visit during my next Norfolk holiday will definitely be on the cards. 

After spending some time studying the land and working out what was where I made my way slowly back down the tower. Going backwards down the ladders was no problem but descending the staircase wasn't easy; with a wall on one side only and no handrail there was nothing to aid the descent so it was a case of one step at a time, hoping that I wouldn't fall off and reach the bottom quicker than I intended. I got down safely though with life and limb intact and back on terra firma I decided that my little expedition deserved a coffee-and-cake break, so I headed to Latham's for the final Belgian bun of the holiday. 

On my first visit there at the beginning of the holiday I'd been given a card which was stamped each time I bought a coffee, and with five stamps the sixth coffee was free; at the risk of getting an expanding waistline from all the Belgian buns I'd managed to get the five stamps so this final coffee would be the free one - and maybe it was my imagination but somehow it seemed to taste better. After a last look round the store I drove out to Clippesby for my second visit to my friends Eileen and Ron then returned to the camp site where the sun was still shining. Making the most of it I took the dogs for a walk through the heath at the end of the site then after a sandwich and a brew I spent a couple of hours watching tv. The bedtime dog walk round the site came early that evening; the following day we were going home and I needed to get everything packed up in time to leave at 10am, so it was an early bedtime for all of us that night.

Sunday September 8th 2013 - Happisburgh & F.A.I.T.H

After spending Friday pottering about round the tent, walking the dogs on the beach and relaxing in the sun - there had been no aftermath to the previous night's lightning over the sea although there were more clouds around than before - and Saturday shopping for supplies and visiting my friends Jane, Ady, and Andy and Sue, I decided I would take my usual walk through the avenues up to Hemsby and back along the beach, then drive up to Happisburgh and call in at FAITH animal rescue on my way back. 

To say that it was almost the end of the holiday season and things were beginning to wind down Hemsby was as busy as ever and the beach area around the Gap was alive with families enjoying the day. By the time I'd walked up one side of the road and back down the other, looking at the various shop displays, a bank of grey cloud was gathering over the beach; the sun was still shining though and the clouds had petered out  by the time I'd got halfway back to California - it's surprising what a difference half a mile can make.

Back at the tent I put the dogs straight in the van, collected my spare camera batteries which I'd left on charge, and set off for Happisburgh. I was going for no other reason than to satisfy my own curiosity - I wanted to see if the ugly wooden staircase tower was still on the beach. Arriving at the new car park I got a ticket for an hour then headed along the nearby lane to the cliff top - and that's when I discovered a 'road to nowhere' similar to the one I went looking for a couple of years ago, except where that one has been created by cliff erosion this one had been created by man and machine.

The lane itself had originally ended in a small cliff top area which housed half a dozen fishing shacks and a handful of sheds and small workshops; as part of the beach and cliff top regeneration scheme these had all been demolished and removed, along with several yards of the cliff itself, and the lane had been blocked up to prevent access. And a bit farther along the ugly staircase tower had indeed gone, leaving the beach looking much nicer than before. The presence of a JCB working out near the water's edge told me that work on the sea defences was still ongoing so maybe I'll go back again next year to see what other changes have taken place.

After wandering through the cliff top camp site in the direction of the church - it always amazes me that the site has no fencing to stop people falling over the cliff edge - I made my way back to the van and set off for FAITH. A few miles inland the clouds had gathered to completely obliterate the blue sky and it was looking decidedly iffy, though I could still feel the warmth of the sun coming through. Leaving the dogs in the van, as I don't think it's fair to walk them past the sanctuary's 'inmates', I went for a wander round. One of the rooms in the isolation block contained seven adorable Springer Spaniel pups but as I wouldn't want a dog of that breed there was no danger of falling in love with one; there was nothing else with four legs which I would have wanted to take home so at least when I left I could do it without feeling guilty.

After a chat to one of the staff members I picked up a couple of newsletters from reception then headed back in the direction of California. I was beginning to feel rather peckish by then, though as it was still rather early for my evening meal I couldn't think of a better reason for having coffee and cake so I stopped off at Latham's for yet another of their divine Belgian buns. South of Potter Heigham the cloud started to break up and I got back to California to find the whole area still bathed in sunshine and blue sky. The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling out in the sun followed by a meal and a couple of hours of tv, then as the daylight disappeared I took the dogs for their last walk before we all settled into our respective beds for the night.

Thursday September 5th 2013 - Felbrigg Hall & Wells

I woke to another glorious morning and though it was still quite early it was far too nice to linger in bed; the beach was calling, and as soon as I picked up their leads Sophie and Sugar were eager to go out. Through the gate at the end of the site, down the path and we were on the sand where I walked along at the water's edge, throwing stones for them both and enjoying having the beach to myself. It was one of those mornings where I wished the weather would stay like that for ever and I could spend every morning for the rest of my life on that beach.

Back at the tent I had some breakfast, tidied away anything which needed tidying, then topped up the dogs' water container in readiness for my day out. By that time I could tell from his open campervan door that John was about so I took my chair and wandered across for a chat. It was lovely just relaxing in the sunshine and chatting about this and that and I was very tempted to not go out at all, but I had a place in mind to go to and knowing how unpredictable the weather can be, if it broke and I missed the opportunity I would be kicking myself for not having gone. So I took my chair back to the tent, put the dogs in the van and set off for Felbrigg Hall near Cromer. I wasn't particularly interested in the house itself, in fact I didn't even bother taking any photos of it when I got there; it was the walled garden I wanted to see and I wasn't disappointed.

Once through the entrance gate the garden was split into two by a central wall and a large and ornate wrought iron gate; gravel paths crossed each other in a large grid formation interspersed with areas of lawn, and the whole place was a riot of shrubs, bushes and flowers of every colour you could think of. A brick-built dove cote with a red-tiled roof and fancy windows was at one side of the garden and in the centre was a circular lily pond surrounded by fancy railings and with a small island in the middle on which stood the statue of a young boy. As a National Trust member it had cost me nothing to get into the garden but it was such a lovely place that if I had paid the modest entrance fee it would certainly have been worth it.

Set in the wall near the dove cote was a gate with a 'please keep closed' notice on it and when I went through I realised why; this part of the garden was set as an orchard and there were several chickens and a group of young turkeys roaming freely around. While the chickens just quietly scratched about the turkeys were making squeaking noises and running like mad all over the place, a group of half a dozen or so chasing one which had something dangling from its beak. Although I couldn't make out what this 'thing' was it seemed to be something edible but the poor creature had no chance of eating it as all the others wanted their share; eventually though the turkey dropped it but before it had chance to pick it up again another turkey snatched it and the chase began again. And that's when I saw that the 'thing' was a frog, and with the treatment it was getting it was presumably a very dead one; I didn't think turkeys ate frogs but obviously this lot did, unless they were just treating it as a toy and playing a game with it. I just wished I'd been able to video them as their antics were certainly very amusing.

Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink and took them for a walk round the large grassed area used for parking, then it was on to the second stop of the day, Wells-next-the-Sea. I arrived to find that the little town was extremely busy and the large car park near the beach was full, however I managed to tuck the van in a corner just about big enough for it and with a ticket in the windscreen I set off to explore the beach, part of which was dog friendly and which was reached by wooden steps and a boardwalk up through the pine woods and dunes which backed onto the car park. When I got to the far side of the woods I saw that the tide was out, leaving a vast expanse of sand with a channel running through it, and the sea was so far in the distance that I couldn't even see it. It reminded me very much of Holkham beach which I visited a couple of years ago, and as there wasn't a great distance between Wells and Holkham I suppose it could be said that one beach was just a continuation of the other.

With a handful of shots taken from various places I went back to the van and drove back towards the town, finding a space in the car park just off the main road and close to the harbour. By that time I was feeling quite peckish but any hope I had of getting something to eat quickly went out of the window when I saw that anywhere selling food was either full or had a long queue outside, such was the popularity of this little town. With half a dozen shots taken in the vicinity of the harbour I decided to call it a day and drive back to California for a meal at somewhere close to the camp site.

When I arrived back at the tent an hour or so later I saw that John was pottering about round his campervan and as it was his last night on site I went across to ask him if he wanted to join me for a meal. The answer was 'yes' and we agreed to go across the lane to the California Tavern - by that time the sun had moved round the field, the tent was in shade and any heat had gone from it so I knew the dogs would be okay in there while I was away. The meal, as on other occasions, was excellent and there was so much of the main course that neither of us wanted a dessert so I wasn't away from the tent for too long. 

It was later than usual when I took the dogs for their bedtime walk and when I got back I saw that John was still around. It was while we were standing chatting that we noticed a flash in the distance; far out to sea and beyond the horizon it was lightning, vivid flashes which lit up the clouds and made them stand out in relief against the dark night sky, though there was no thunder. We stood for quite a while watching it before we said goodnight and I retreated to the tent, and with the dogs curled up in their bed I made a quick brew and snuggled into mine. It was possible that the good weather was about to break and though I hoped it didn't I wouldn't be surprised if I woke during the night to hear rain on the top of the tent.

Wednesday September 4th 2013 - Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh & Thorpeness

A glorious sunny morning arrived with hardly a cloud in the sky - this weather was getting better by the day - and after the usual dog walk along the beach, breakfast, and a quick tidy up round the tent I put Sophie and Sugar in the van and we made an early start for our day out. After going to Aldeburgh last year then finding out when I got home that there was more there than I initially thought I was making a return visit, though first I was stopping off at nearby Snape Maltings.

Anyone familiar with the composer Benjamin Britten will no doubt have heard of Snape Maltings, an old malthouse and collection of other associated buildings which have been turned into a large concert hall, art galleries, studios, shops and apartments; I'm not into opera or art in any way but as this place was one of Suffolk's popular attractions and it was on the way to Aldeburgh I thought I may as well take a look. The Maltings complex itself was situated by the River Alde on the outskirts of Snape village, and even though it was a weekday it was still busy with holidaymakers. Parking the van in the shade of a large tree I went for a quick look round the complex; the art galleries and studios didn't interest me but I did have a look in the largest shop there. This seemed to be a more classy version of a Dunelm Mill and there was some really lovely stuff in there but the prices were rather OTT; I took a liking to a rather nice dressing gown but £75.00?? No way!

Back at the van I clipped the leads on the dogs and went for a wander along the riverbank; with large grassy areas and boats moored alongside the wall it was a very pleasant place and I got a few good photos, though I had to admit that I couldn't figure out the significance of the road sign 'sculpture' - unusual to say the least, but it looked rather incongruous stuck right by the river.

Once I'd seen all I wanted I went back to the van and headed the few miles to Aldeburgh; driving straight through the main street I made my way towards the river estuary and was pleased to find that I could park for free on top of the built up bank which separated the estuary itself from the shingle beach. Right at the far end was a strange-looking and oddly-shaped Martello tower; somewhere to explore I thought, but when I got there I was disappointed to find that it was a private property used for holiday lets and therefore not accessible to the general public. It wasn't a particularly attractive building so I didn't bother photographing it but with hindsight, and when it was too late to go back, I somehow wished I had done. I was also disappointed to find that most of the lower riverbank was given over to the local sailing club and was therefore private, so any photo opportunities along there were somewhat limited; with a heat haze over the estuary itself I only managed to get a couple of decent shots.

Staying on the beach side of the riverbank I headed towards the town and the narrow road which served as a promenade. There were some lovely houses along there, painted in many different colours and shades, and I could have got a really nice photo but the line of parked cars and vans rather spoiled the view. I think maybe the only time I would get a photo without all the cars and vans would be at 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning with no-one around, unless of course they were all residents' cars in which case I'd have no chance whatever time of day it was. I did find a row of cottages down a side street though which I thought looked quite pretty so I took a shot there and was happy with that.

After wandering along the main street I made my way back to the van and headed out along the seafront road to my third stop, Thorpeness; my visit there last year had impressed me so much that before I'd got home from that holiday I'd decided that I would be going back for another look round. Managing once again to find a parking space in some shade I collected a ticket from the nearby machine then as dogs weren't allowed on the beach I went for a walk along there first. I'd gone quite a distance and was just about to turn round and head back to the van when I came upon a row of quirky and brightly painted houses - well worth a photo and I snapped a couple before heading back the along the shingle.

Back at the van I released the dogs, gave them a drink then set off to explore the village itself; there aren't many roads and lanes round there and I think I went up, down, and along near enough every one in my quest to find something to photograph. Up near the 'house in the clouds' I came across a very strange looking place - a square-shaped bungalow with an apex roof and what was possibly the upper part of an old grain mill 'balanced' at a slight angle on top of it. There was no indication of the house being occupied or what the bit at the top was for but it was certainly a very quirky-looking place and worth a photo.

Continuing my wanderings I explored the area round by the almshouses and the country club then worked my way back to the village green and the Meare. By this time the breakfast I'd had hours ago was just a distant memory - time for coffee and cake so I found a table outside the cafe where I could sit and watch the boating activities on the lake and ordered a slice of jam and cream sponge and a latte coffee, both of which were very nice, then satisfied that I'd got all the shots I wanted I made my way back to the van. It was only 3.45pm and I could have quite easily stayed in that quaint and lovely little village for longer but there was somewhere else I wanted to go to and I didn't want to leave it too late.

My last stop of the day was a visit to someone who I've kept in contact with in the years since my partner disappeared off the scene. She lived in a cottage near Beccles but had a static caravan on a site which wasn't far from my route back along the A12 so I thought I would take a chance at calling in; if she wasn't there I could always drive over to the cottage. Now I'd only ever been to her caravan once before, five years previously, and I didn't even know the name of the site, but my memory and good sense of direction found the turning off the main road and took me straight there. The car parked outside her caravan told me she was in and after she'd got over the surprise of seeing me she put the kettle on and made a brew. It was good to chat, and though I'd only intended staying for an hour or so she invited me to have a meal with her and I ended up staying for three hours. I could quite easily have stayed longer but I still had a long way to drive back to California and I wanted to get most of the journey done before it went completely dark. 

When I did finally get back to the camp site I parked up in front of the tent, went across to John's van for a quick chat then fed the dogs and took them for their last walk of the day. When they finally got into their bed they curled up straight away and were asleep within minutes; all the walking and wandering had obviously tired them out and apart from the occasional snore from Sugar I didn't hear a peep out of them for the rest of the night.