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 May 6th 2014 - Going home day, and guess what??....

After three very grey and cloudy days the sun was shining and the sky was blue!

I woke just after 6am and the sun was already warming up the tent; I wanted to make the most of this glorious morning so I made a very quick breakfast of tea and toast then fed the dogs, and by 7am we were on our way through the camp site and down to the beach. The tide was out, and with only another couple of dog walkers in the distance we had most of the vast expanse of sand to ourselves. With nothing to rush for I wandered slowly along at the water's edge while Sophie and Sugar explored a couple of rock pools and found various interesting stones and bits of seaweed. I often wonder what, from a dog's point of view, makes one stone or bit of seaweed more fascinating than any others, but as they can't exactly tell me it will forever remain a mystery.

We were on the beach for almost an hour before I decided it was time to head back to the camp site, and walking back up through the caravan site next door, which is a mixture of chalet bungalows and static vans, I was struck by a couple of very attractive-looking areas. Now I've walked along that access road through the site many times over the years so maybe I've taken my surroundings for granted, but for some reason this time things seemed to be a little different and, to my mind, well worth a couple of photos.

Back at the camp site I put the dogs on their line outside the tent then got my chair and spent quite a while relaxing in the sun before I had to start the packing up process, and with no-one else in the field except one couple in a small motorhome across the other side it was lovely and quiet. All good things have to end however, and after taking my time packing the van and dismantling the tent I was ready for leaving the site at 1pm. I don't think the dogs wanted to go though - when I finally put their bed in the back of the van and put them in it they didn't look very happy about it.

The drive back home in the sunshine was very pleasant and with just one brief stop about halfway along, to get a snack from a roadside catering van, I made good time and was back home by 4pm. It was a shame that the weather over the weekend hadn't been as good as it was that day but at least it hadn't rained, and as I took some of my things out of the van later on it was with the certain knowledge that before long I would be going back to Anglesey for yet another camping break.

Monday May 5th 2014 - Llanddwyn Island and the Hidden Gardens

It was another grey and cloudy day, not really good for photography, but rather than waste the time staying on site I decided to resurrect my previous day's plans to explore a couple of places which would normally, given better weather conditions, give me some good photos. My first port of call was Llanddwyn Island and Newborough beach on the far side of Anglesey; I'd been to Newborough beach three years previously but had missed out Llanddwyn island as dogs aren't allowed on there after May 1st and it had been too warm to leave them in the van, but with the current cool and cloudy weather I knew they would be okay if I left them for a while.

After a brisk one mile walk from the car park through Newborough forest and along part of the beach I finally reached Llanddwyn; although it's technically a peninsula at the northern end of Newborough beach it does actually become an island at times of high tide. I'd timed my visit just right though and the tide was on its way out, so I was able to walk straight off the beach and onto the island itself. Now having previously seen various photos of the island I have no doubt that on a sunny day with blue sky it looks quite nice, but with the grey clouds and chilly wind I found the place rather depressing. A footpath crossed the centre of the island, passing the remains of the old church, and at the far end was a terraced row of boat pilots' cottages, now used as an information/exhibition centre, a derelict boathouse and two old lighthouses, the oldest of which is actually in use. After a fair bit of wandering, and with half a dozen of the best shots I could get in the grey conditions, I made my way off the island and back along the beach to the car park.

After a quick drink and a walk through part of the forest with the dogs I set off back across Anglesey to the outskirts of Menai Bridge village; my destination this time was the Hidden Gardens, part of the Plas Cadnant private estate. Of all the times I've been to Anglesey I knew nothing about this place until a few weeks previously when I came across the website while searching the internet for something else - and 'hidden gardens' described it perfectly.

A short lane leading from the main road took me to the estate entrance gates from where a private driveway wound uphill through woodland then downhill through parkland to the grassy parking area and gardens at the bottom. For obvious reasons dogs weren't allowed in the actual gardens so once again it meant leaving Sophie and Sugar behind but with a couple of chews to keep them occupied for a while I don't think they minded. On paying my entrance fee I was given a map of the gardens, and though I could have joined an organised group walk I decided to go it alone and just wander at leisure - and I have to say that I was more than impressed.

Just beyond the entrance was a quaint stone cottage with a pretty little garden of its own, and a large walled garden with manicured lawns and trees cut into conical shapes sloped down to a pond at the bottom. Beyond the wall gravel paths meandered along and down the extensive rocky slope to a river where a waterfall tumbled through the trees into a deep pool below; rustic benches were set in little nooks just off the pathways and rhododendrons and azaleas were in full bloom, turning one large part of the garden into a riot of colour. With birdsong coming from the trees, and being well away from any populated areas, the whole place had an air of peace and tranquility and was, to my mind, certainly well worth the entrance fee.

When I'd finally finished my wanderings I returned to the van and took the dogs for a walk round the perimeter of the parking area, then not wanting to go anywhere else I set off back to the camp site. It was a shame that the weather hadn't been better - blue sky would have made all the difference to my photos - and though I wasn't sure if I would bother going to Llanddwyn Island again I knew I would definitely return to the Hidden Gardens in the not-too-distant future, and hopefully on a much nicer day.

Sunday May 4th 2014 - Scree running without the scree

Well all the previous night's finger-crossing for nicer weather clearly hadn't worked as it was another cloudy, breezy and very grey day. The place I'd planned on going to was somewhere which I knew would look far nicer in sunshine than in cloud so I abandoned that idea and after a couple of hours pottering about round the tent and chatting to my neighbours I took myself off across the island to the car boot sale at the showground. As usual I was on the quest for mouse ornaments to add to my collection but there wasn't a single one to be had anywhere; I did manage to find a couple of books though - true life animal stories which I'm a sucker for - so I didn't leave empty-handed. Then it was a drive up the A5 to Penrhos Coastal Park for a good walk with the dogs, and as I turned into the entrance lane to the park I noticed that the nearby toll house had re-opened as a cafe after being closed for several years - I would check that out later on. 

Even on such a grey day the car park was busy but I managed to find a space overlooking the water then the three of us set off to explore, and once away from the populated area I let them both off the leads. A distance through the woods was a sloping headland and field with a well-mown grass path round the perimeter and a stone seat at the top end, overlooking the bay. Keeping the sea on my right I walked up to the seat then back down the far side of the headland to where there was a nice beach down below. I hadn't really intended going down onto the sand - beaches are for when it's sunny - but Sugar had other ideas; I only took my eyes off her for a couple of seconds and when I looked again she'd gone down the steep grass-covered slope, crossed the beach and was paddling along at the water's edge. 

Now I don't know if she was deliberately ignoring me or she just couldn't hear me, but no matter how much I called she just carried on paddling, heading for the far end of the beach. I knew if I walked to where there was easy access to the beach and I got out of her sight she might decide to go looking for me and I didn't want her to get lost, so there was only one thing for it - I had to somehow get myself down that slope. Easy enough to do if you have four legs for good traction - Sophie bounded down like a gazelle - but not so easy if you only have two. There was a bit of a 'rabbit track' of bare earth going down through the grass, presumably made by other people climbing up and down the slope, so I decided I would go down there - and that's where I executed my own version of scree running, but without the scree.

Crouching down on my haunches, moving one foot at a time and grabbing at the grass to slow down the momentum I slid down the slope; the last couple of yards went faster than I intended but by some miracle I stayed upright and managed to reach the beach without landing in an inelegant heap. When I finally caught up with Sugar she was still paddling so I found a large stick and threw it for her a few times before making my way back to the woods using the more sensible route from the beach. Back at the van I towelled Sugar down then went to get a cheeseburger and coffee from Pete's Burger Bar - and it was just as good as the first time I had one, so needless to say I wouldn't be visiting the Toll House Cafe.

With the cheeseburger well and truly demolished and my rubbish in the bin I decided to pay an impromptu visit to my camping friends Louise and Derek who lived not far away. I didn't really expect them to be in - they could very well have gone away themselves - but they were, and when Louise opened the door she was really surprised to see me. It was great catching up with everything that's going on in our lives and before I knew it a couple of hours had passed and it was time for me to go, with the promise that I would call again next time I'm over that way.

It was early evening by the time I got back to the camp site; the weather was still cloudy and with no reason to go anywhere else I settled down in the tent to watch a bit of tv before taking the dogs for their last walk of the day. As I lay in bed later on I thought back to my 'scree running' escapade that afternoon and wondered if I should really start acting my age and not my shoe size - but then if I did that my life would be much less interesting, so I think I'll stay as I am for a while longer!

Saturday May 3rd 2014 - Off to Anglesey

A very early morning at a time when most sensible people would still be in bed - 5.30am - saw me leaving home for my first break this year at my regular site on Anglesey. With very little traffic on the roads and just one brief stop to get a can of Coke the journey was very pleasant, made all the nicer by the blue sky and glorious sunshine. That was until I reached the turn-off on the A55 for Llandudno, then it just looked like someone had drawn a line across the sky with the north side being blue and sunny and the south side grey and cloudy. Looking across the water to Anglesey it didn't look great, with the whole of the island shrouded in thick grey cloud. Not ideal, but as long as it didn't rain I could live with it.

It was just before 8am when I pulled into the camp site entrance and I was just about to see if my barrier pass from last year still worked when the warden, Denise, poked her head out of her caravan door so I went across to pay her, exchanged the pass for a new 12-month one, then drove through to see if I could find a space in my favourite small field. Being still fairly early in the season the site wasn't busy so I was in luck - the space I occupied last time was vacant and there was a hook-up point available so I parked the van and leaving the dogs in the back out of the way I made a start on setting up my home for the weekend. Inspecting the hook-up post, which was new, I found that pre-payment meters had now been installed so I would have to buy a card from reception, however there was some credit left on from the previous user so at least I could plug in my cool-box to keep it running until later.

With everything finally set up I took Sophie and Sugar for a walk round the site then made a quick brew before deciding to check out the car boot sale on the outskirts of the village. There were plenty of stalls and though I walked round the whole place twice nothing caught my interest so I drove back to the site to chill out for the rest of the day - except the chilling out part didn't happen for quite some time. 

On my way past reception I'd stopped to buy a pre-payment card for the hook-up meter but when I put it in the slot the amount wouldn't register no matter how many times I tried it. So it was a walk back to reception where Denise exchanged the card but even that didn't work, and by that time the remaining credit from previously had been used up. Back to reception again, and this time Pete came with me to check out the meter, and having tried himself to insert the card with no success he decided the meter was faulty. I had visions of having to spend the next three-and-a-half days with no power but Pete called out Nigel, the electrician, who arrived about twenty minutes later. After removing the front of the hook-up post he soon found the problem - someone had tried to insert a cardboard card which had broken off and jammed the meter. Removing the bits of cardboard from the very narrow slot proved near enough impossible so there was nothing for it but to install a new meter. With the amount now registered from my own card I finally had power, and once Nigel had gone and I'd taken a photo of the very grey view I could finally chill out as I originally intended. 

With a chilly breeze blowing and the still-cloudy sky it wasn't really nice enough to sit outside so I retreated into the tent and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening alternately reading my book and watching a bit of tv. By 9.30pm my very early morning start and long day were rapidly catching up with me so it was time for an early bed; a dog walk through the site to reception and back made sure Sophie and Sugar would be okay for the night then I snuggled into my own bed with fingers metaphorically crossed for nice weather the following day.

Tuesday April 22nd 2014 - Going home day - dull and grey

I woke at 6am to hear rain on the tent - not what I wanted when I had to pack up and go home but by the time I got up a couple of hours later it had stopped, and it stayed fine for the rest of the morning. Having wiped the worst of the raindrops off the tent with a spare dog towel it was bone dry by the time I got to taking it down, so at least I could pack it away and not have to open it out again when I got home. It was just gone noon by the time I was ready for leaving the site, and all that remained was to take the dogs for their final walk before the journey home.

As I was walking back towards the site entrance I heard the whistle of the approaching steam train; if I wanted to get a photo with the engine at the right end of it I would have to be quick, so with the dogs almost dragging behind me I ran back to the van for my camera and made it back to the bridge on the lane just in time to get a shot of it before it was uncoupled and shunted up the line to the other end. That was my last photo of the weekend, so with Sophie and Sugar finally settled in the back of the van I pulled away from my pitch and set off for home.

The drive back was trouble-free and had no delays, and an hour and fifty minutes after leaving the camp site I was pulling up outside home. I had a couple of hours before I had to go to work but there was no point in unpacking the van as I would no doubt be away again in less than a couple of weeks. I had no idea where I would be going, but even though I'd only just arrived back from one bank holiday I was already looking forward to the next one.

Monday April 21st 2014 - Part 2 - I don't scare easily but I did this time

The next place I wanted to visit was the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran (Crow Castle), perched high on top of a hill overlooking Llangollen. I'd been told that on a clear day the views from up there were amazing but getting to the top involved a long steep climb up the hillside via a zigzag path. That would be no problem for me or Sophie but Sugar is almost 16 now, and though she can still walk good distances on fairly level ground there's no way she could have tackled such a long steep climb, so I would have to park up in the town and leave them both in the van while I did the climb on my own. 

Finding somewhere to park though was easier said than done - Llangollen is a very popular place and on a bank holiday Monday just about every parking space was occupied. I lost count of the number of times I drove round and round the two car parks in the town centre but spaces just weren't becoming available, and whenever one did it was in a tight corner which I'd no chance of manoeuvring my 15ft long van into; there are times - and this was one of them - when I wish I had a much smaller vehicle. After over an hour of constantly driving backwards and forwards and round and round I was rapidly losing the will to live and was almost on the point of giving up completely and going back to the camp site when I made a decision which I would soon regret - I would drive up the hill.

While chatting with the site owner's wife the previous day I'd mentioned where I wanted to go and she'd told me it was possible to drive most of the way up the hill via a back lane. That would take me about two thirds of the way up, where I would be able to park up and walk the rest, so abandoning the car park idea I drove out of town and found the lane at the far side of the canal. The first part of the drive was fine but as I got further away from the town the single-track lane really started to climb, getting steeper and narrower the further up I went and ending up not much wider than the van. It also gained several bends and hidden dips, and with a steep drop down the hill on my side and no fence for quite a distance I was almost scraping the van on the wall at the other side, trying to keep away from the edge - one wrong move and all three of us would hurtle down into oblivion. And I didn't even want to think about what would happen if I met something coming the other way.

Eventually though, the lane widened out a bit and ended in a cattle grid at the junction with another lane leading down to a farm on the left and heaven-knows-where-else on the right; half a dozen cars were parked on the grass verge and just beyond the nearby wall a path led up the steep grassy hillside to the castle at the top. Looking up at the summit of the hill, which was 1,050ft above sea level, I had no doubt that I could get some good shots from up there but that was the furthest thing from my mind just then. Having just endured what must have been the most scariest drive of my life I was in no mood for walking the rest of the way or taking any photos - I just wanted to get away from there and get back to street level, so turning the van round in what space was available I set off back down the lane. 

The drive down was helped a bit by the steep unfenced drop no longer being on my side of the van but sooner or later something had to happen and it did - I met a 4 x 4 coming up. There was no way I could go back so I just had to keep going slowly forwards while the other driver reversed for quite a distance until the lane was just about wide enough for us to pass each other, then as I drew level with him I wound my window down, apologised and thanked him for backing up. The rest of the drive down was completed without further incident and I finally reached street level alive and unscathed, and immensely relieved to be back in civilisation.

After that never-to-be-repeated experience I needed to calm down and chill out for a while so I decided that, providing I could finally find somewhere to park, I would have a nice relaxing horse-drawn boat ride along the canal. I drove back to the big car park and this time I was in luck - the attendant had somehow got his brain into gear and opened up the empty coach parking area at the end and there was now plenty of room to park, so with a ticket duly stuck in the windscreen I released the dogs and made my way back to the canal wharf. The next boat trip was just on the point of leaving so I boarded quickly, found a seat at the back, and paid the young attendant when he came round to collect the money. 

With no engine noise the boat glided silently through the water, passing the marina and several canalside cottages with pretty gardens, then at the turn-round point the tiller was taken off and put on the other end of the boat and the horse was unhitched, walked round, and hitched up again to pull the boat back the other way. Although the sky had clouded over somewhat by then I still got several photos, and by the time the boat moored back at the wharf the peaceful and relaxing ride had certainly eased the tension from my drive up and down that steep hillside lane.

At the bottom corner of the short street leading from the canal to the main road was a taxidermist's studio and shop so as I passed I stopped to look in through the windows. An assortment of animals and birds, some in glass cases, were on display inside, and an information sheet stuck in one side of the window explained that all these had come from wildlife gardens, zoos, or from their natural habitat, and all of them had died from natural causes. I'm not sure why anyone would want to buy any of these things but I suppose someone must, and they were worth a couple of photos while I was there.

By the time I got back to the van I'd been out for over six hours, and though there was another place I wanted to visit I felt like I'd been out long enough so I decided to call it a day and go back to the camp site. The rest of the day and evening were spent relaxing with my book and thinking back over my day, and as I settled down in bed later on I had just one thought in my mind - next time I want to go to the ruined castle up on the hill I'll do it the sensible way and walk up!