About Me

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Hi! I'm Eunice and I live in Bolton, Lancashire, with my two dogs Sophie and Sugar and an assortment of cats - well it used to be Sophie and Sugar, now it's Sophie and Poppie. I first began camping back in 1997 when my then partner took me to Anglesey for my birthday weekend. We slept in the back of the car - a hatchback - using the cushions off the settee at home as a mattress, and cooked and brewed up on a single burner camping stove. The site was good, the views were great, the weather fantastic and I was completely hooked. Following that weekend we got a two-man tent and some proper accessories and returned to Anglesey two weeks later, then over time we progressed to a three-man tent followed by an old trailer tent, then a new trailer tent, a campervan and finally a caravan. When my partner decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the street - literally - in April 2009 and I suddenly found myself alone after fifteen years, I decided there was no way I was going to give up camping and caravanning if I could cope on my own. This blog is the story of my travels, trials and tribulations since becoming a solo camper - I hope you like it

Monday April 21st 2014 - Part 1 - Horseshoe Falls & Valle Crucis Abbey

After the glorious weather of Friday and Saturday, Sunday turned out to be very dull and grey, and other than a ride to the big car boot sale at Chirk and a stop for lunch at the Tollgate Cafe on my way back I'd spent most of the day in the tent, with a couple of brief dog walks down the lane and across to the station and a chat to the site owner's wife on the way back. The sunshine and blue sky were back however, which meant I could visit and photograph a few different places round the outskirts of Llangollen, so with the breakfast things washed and put away and the tent tidied I loaded the dogs into the van and set off on my day out.

My first stop was at the Horseshoe Falls just off the A5 about 3 miles from Llangollen - I'd heard mention of the place several times in previous years, and only recently it had been featured in the tv programme Great Canal Journeys. It looked like a really nice beauty spot and well worth a few photos, but finding the way to it proved to be a bit confusing. I'd been told there was a car park nearby and the falls were a short walk from there; I found the car park with no problem, and a signpost near the entrance pointed right across the car park for the canal and left along the lane to the falls. Walking along with the dogs, and seeing the river way down below the lane, my sense of direction told me I was going completely the wrong way, but eventually I came to a church with a path by the side of the wall and a sign pointing down the hill. At the bottom I turned back in the direction I'd gone and after a few more minutes walking I finally reached my goal - and I have to say that I was totally unimpressed. 

The Horseshoe Falls is a crescent-shaped artificial waterfall designed by Thomas Telford to feed water from the River Dee into the beginning of the Llangollen Canal, and though it looks nice on photos and postcards I found the reality to be somewhat underwhelming. Just down below the waterfall itself was a grassy 'island' in the middle of the river, with the large trunk of a fallen tree at its edge. Another tree trunk lay further round, and caught up in the roots of both was a quantity of bare branches and other vegetation, lengths of blue rope and various other items of rubbish, presumably washed down during the very wet winter weather. It made the whole place look much less attractive than it should have been, and getting a good photo of the full sweep of the waterfall proved impossible but I managed a couple of shots of part of it; it's a pity that whoever holds responsibility for the land and river hadn't removed all the debris before the tourist season got underway.

I was just about to set off back to the car park when I got chatting to a couple with a little dog; they lived locally, and when I mentioned my walk along the road in my quest to find the waterfall they told me I'd only needed to follow the 'canal' sign from the car park and a short walk along the tow path would have brought me right to it. So that's the way I went back, and it was much quicker than the other way - and arriving back at the van I had to wonder why the waterfall wasn't signposted that way instead of along the lane, as it was a much simpler route and far more logical.

My second stop was at the ruined Valle Crucis Abbey, just off the A542 in the countryside just to the north of Llangollen. Arriving just after 11am I parked the van on the lane not far from the entrance and as I knew that dogs were allowed in I took them both with me, however when I got to the gate I found a notice on the door saying that the abbey wouldn't be open until noon. With almost an hour to kill I wandered into the nearby camping field to snatch a quick photo then went up to the tea room for a coffee - and all I can say about that is that I've had better elsewhere. 

It was just on noon when I got back to the abbey and it was still closed so I sat on a nearby wall to wait for a while, but even after another half hour there was still no sign of the place opening. While I'd been sitting there several people had arrived, hung around for a few minutes then left again, so I wasn't the only one wanting to go in. I didn't want to wait much longer myself as there were other places I wanted to go to, but neither did I want to miss a photo opportunity - drastic action was needed, so I put the dogs in the van, went back to the abbey entrance and climbed over the gate into the grounds. I made my visit fairly brief, forgoing the inside of the ruins and concentrating on walking round the outside to get the shots I wanted before clambering back over the gate and returning to the van. 

By the time I'd given the dogs a drink there was still no sign of anyone opening up the abbey but at least I'd got a few photos, and as I drove back up the lane any guilt I felt for not having paid the modest entrance fee was offset somewhat by the knowledge that, having seen another couple of people in there, I wasn't the only one to climb over the gate!

Saturday April 19th 2014 - Bala and Llyn Tegid

The dawn chorus was in full swing when I woke early that morning and I spent quite a while listening to all the tweets, chirps and chirrups before dozing off to sleep again. When I woke properly it was to blue sky and sunshine, and as the sun was in the right direction for taking more photos along the river I made that my first dog walk of the day. When I got to the field beyond the bridge I was able to let Sophie and Sugar run free for a while, but when I caught them being typical terriers and trying to roll on the carcass of a dead bird I very quickly put them back on their leads. That proved to be a good move as I came across several more dead birds dotted about on the grass and even the bloated and fleece-less body of a sheep washed up on the shingle at the side of the river - I didn't want them rolling on that, thank you very much!

Back at the tent I made a brew and some breakfast then sat for a time in the sunshine while debating where to go for the day. I needed to get a hot water bottle from somewhere but not wanting to go back into Llangollen I decided to have a look round the small town of Bala, have coffee and cake in the Loch Cafe overlooking the lake - Llyn Tegid - and take the dogs for a walk by the water's edge.

About three miles from the site, and just at the far side of Corwen village, I came across a small car boot sale on a bit of waste ground which was part of the Rhug organic farm, so I pulled in to take a look. There was nothing of any real interest to me until I got to the last stall where I saw a decent-sized collapsible metal dog crate for £20; I didn't really need one but it was new and was the type of thing that may come in handy sometime. Knowing how much these things cost to buy from pet stores I decided to have it, so handing over my cash I went to get the van while the lady on the stall collapsed the crate for me. It went in the van easily, and pleased with my purchase I continued the journey to Bala with no further stops.

Driving straight through the town I headed for the leisure centre car park on the outskirts, which is cheaper than the one by the lake, and finding a space in the shade of a tree I left the dogs in the van while I went in search of a hot water bottle. I was in luck, and managed to get a nice blue one from a pharmacy, then after a look round the shops - down one side of the street and back up the other - I went to retrieve the dogs from the van for a walk by the lake.

The lake side is a very popular place and being the Easter weekend it was very busy, with people enjoying various activities both on and off the water; the Loch Cafe seemed to be full and the ice cream van in the car park was doing a very good trade. I walked for quite a distance along a nearby path before returning to my starting point via the water's edge, where I got several good photos, then seeing that the Loch Cafe was by now virtually empty I left the dogs back in the van and went to treat myself to some coffee and cake.

I've been in that cafe many times during various camping weekends at Carrog and my favourite indulgence has always been their Caramel Apple Granny with cream, however I was disappointed to see that it was no longer on the menu and when I asked the lady behind the counter she hadn't a clue what I was talking about, so it seemed like it had been quite a while since they'd last served it. The small range of cakes they now had, which were on display at the counter, didn't look particularly exciting and most of them were pre-packaged, but I was ready for a brew so I ordered a latte coffee and a slice of caramel shortbread and went to sit at a table. To say that the place wasn't busy just then it took an age for my coffee to arrive and when it did it wasn't exactly mad hot, so I drank it quickly, wrapped the shortbread slice in the serviette provided, and took it back to the van feeling strangely let down - and from being a place I'd always liked going in the Loch Cafe would now be crossed off my list of coffee-and-cake eateries. 

After giving the dogs a drink I set off back through the town and round the top end of the lake to the far side, in a quest to find a nice little place at the side of the lake where my then partner and I had stopped for a picnic one year. Now I could remember parking up by the roadside and crossing over the miniature railway line to get to the water's edge, but eleven or twelve years on nothing looked familiar and the spot where I thought we'd parked was taken up by the entrance lane to a private sailing club. Thinking that maybe the place I was looking for was further down the road I drove on for another couple of miles but when the road veered inland slightly I knew we hadn't gone that far, so I turned the van round and went back to the sailing club entrance. That was the closest I could get to the railway line and I felt sure I was in the right place, but with no public access to the lake at that point I had to admit defeat. Driving round the edge of town I headed back towards Carrog, stopping off for a brief look at the shops in Corwen village, then back at the camp site I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the sun outside the tent.

When the warmth finally went out of the sun I retreated back into the tent and sorted out my evening meal, which was finished off with a brew and the shortbread slice from earlier, then as the daylight started to fade I took the dogs for their last walk down the lane as far as the bridge and back. And when I finally went to bed much later on it was with the comforting knowledge that my new hot water bottle would keep my feet warm and toasty all night.

Friday April 18th 2014 - Easter at Carrog

A sunny morning at 8.15am saw me setting off for Station Camp Site in the little village of Carrog, North Wales. Traffic on the roads was light and I made good time; by 9.45 I'd reached Llangollen and only had another eight miles to go, but as the camp site's website stated that pitches were only available from noon I decided to park up and while away a couple of hours looking round the town. Leaving the dogs in the van I went for a brief look round the shops, which didn't take long, then I collected Sophie and Sugar and my camera and went off in search of something to photograph.

Close to the car park was a pathway to a riverside walk, so never having been down that way before I decided to explore along there first. Passing first between the high car park wall and a couple of riverside properties the path opened up to reveal a lovely view along the river itself. Large slabs of stone channelled some of the water into shallow pools where kids and dogs played, and set up above the path was a large pleasant grassy area with bright flowers in tubs and a children's playground with lots of colourful equipment. I walked along until the path almost joined the main road at the far end then retraced my steps and headed back towards town, snapping several photos along the way.

Walking through the town centre I stopped to snap a couple of shots from the bridge which carries the main road over the river, then made my way up to the canal which runs behind the town. A walk along the towpath brought me to a marina set back off the canal itself, with several colourful narrowboats moored up against an attractive hillside backdrop. It was getting on for midday by then so another couple of shots taken and I headed back to the van to complete my journey to the camp site at Carrog.

Arriving at the site I was surprised to see that since my last brief stay there in 2010 a small office/reception area had been built, and in the barn which housed the toilets was a block of four obviously-very-new showers - it looked like this place was improving bit by bit. Booking in with Michael, the owner's son, I was shown a map of the site and given a choice of pitches - a new field had been opened up beyond the trees at the far end of the site and as it seemed like it would be a bit quieter I opted for a pitch over there rather than on the main part of the site. The field was on a slight slope but I picked the flattest bit and Michael linked my hook-up cable to an extension, then I set about putting up the tent and sorting out everything that went in it. 

By the time I'd got most things set up the dogs were ready for another walk, so not wanting to waste any of the good weather I grabbed the camera and set off to take some photos round the site and along the nearby river. On my last stay at the site the weather had been grey and rainy the whole weekend but now, with the sunshine and almost cloudless blue sky making the whole area look really lovely, I was reminded of why I've always liked camping there on previous occasions.

As I headed back towards the site I heard a steam train approaching the station; a photo of that was a 'must' but by the time I reached the bridge across the lane from the site the engine had turned round and gone to the far end of the carriages ready for the journey back to Llangollen. I still got a good photo though, and with several steam trains coming and going each day I had plenty of chances to take another.

By the time I'd returned to the tent it was late afternoon and I was feeling more than a little peckish so I sorted out a brew and something to eat then sat outside the tent to enjoy the rest of the sunshine before the warmth went out of it. The early evening was spent reading some of my book, then as the last of the daylight was on the point of disappearing I took Sophie and Sugar down the lane as far as the river for the last walk of the day.

It was while I was getting ready for bed later on that I discovered I'd forgotten to pack a very important item - my hot water bottle. Although the last few days had been reasonably warm with the sunshine the nights were still quite chilly and even though I had a fan heater in the tent having no hot water bottle to put my feet on in bed was a disaster of almost epic proportions. So I kept my socks on, and being wrapped up in my fleece blankets did keep my feet reasonably warm, but as I settled down to sleep I decided that the priority project for the following day was to find a new hot water bottle!