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 July 7th 2014 - Going home

Another sunny and very warm morning arrived and with it the unwanted task of packing up to go home. Most campers had gone the previous day and those few who were left were all in the other fields beyond the tree line so I was very much on my own - bliss! I've often thought I'd like to live every summer like that, in a tent with a field to myself - just give me a water tap and somewhere to empty my loo and I'll be quite happy.

After breakfast and a dog walk round the field I started the packing up process, which didn't really take long as there was nothing much to pack up. I'd just started to take the pegs out of the guy lines when Amanda and Garry from one of the small groups I occasionally camp with came along to say goodbye and while I was chatting to them John came across in his camper van, he was also on his way home. We chatted for a while then once I was alone again I continued dismantling the tent and I was ready for leaving just before noon; another dog walk round the top end of the field and I was finally on the way.

I'd only gone about quarter of a mile from the site when I came across a baby rabbit in the lane, lying on its side kicking its legs. Presumably it had been clipped by a car going round the nearby bend; if it stayed there the next car to come along would squash it completely - I'd only just missed it myself - so I pulled up and went back to rescue it. With not a mark or any blood on it anywhere it was still strong enough to try jumping out of my arms so maybe it had a chance; I could easily have driven back to the camping field and left it out of harm's way in the long grass but I didn't like the thought that if it was seriously hurt it would die slowly and painfully. So I gently wrapped it in a spare dog towel, got back in the van and lay the little bundle across my legs, where it stayed all the time I was driving. My thoughts were that if it was still alive when I got home I would take it straight to the vet, either for treatment or to be humanely put to sleep if it was too badly injured, but unfortunately I didn't get the chance; I was about halfway home when I realised it had quietly passed away and there was nothing more I could do for it. Poor little bunny; it was obviously more seriously hurt than I first thought.

When I finally reached home I left the dogs indoors then drove up to the local golf course - I wanted to put the rabbit somewhere where it could lie without being disturbed and as you don't get people walking dogs on golf courses I couldn't think of anywhere better. So I found a tree which was in the sunshine and surrounded by long grass and I gently laid the rabbit there, feeling more than a little sad that I couldn't have done more for it. I suppose many people must think I'm ever so slightly mad for bothering with the rabbit in the first place, but I was brought up to have a great love and respect for all creatures and I would never turn my back on anything that needed help, even if the outcome isn't good. 

Back at home I downloaded my photos onto the pc and thought back over the last couple of days. The weather had been good, I'd chatted to many different people, seen round a very unusual stately home, had almost a whole field to myself, my bed in the van had been the comfiest yet and my water-cooled 'fridge' had worked well - all in all a great weekend. So roll on next year's Elvaston rally!

Sunday July 6th 2014 - A look round Calke Abbey

I woke that morning to sunshine, blue sky, fluffy white clouds and a van which was warming up rapidly even with the windows open, so I slid back the side door to to let some more air in and lay for a while just listening to the birds in the nearby hedges. When it became far too warm to stay there any longer I slid out of bed and ducked into the tent to get washed and dressed, then fed the dogs and took them for the first walk of the day round the top end of the field. Back at the tent I put them on their line outside then made some tea and toast - my 'fridge' had kept the milk cool overnight and my butter, which had been well-wrapped and put on the ground underneath the van, hadn't been reduced to the melted mess which I thought it might be so breakfast was considered a success.

With the breakfast things washed and put away I spent an hour or so reading my book then took the dogs and went for a wander round the camping fields to chat to various other campers, finally making my way across to the show ground for the first performance by the dancing digger display team. As usual they were excellent and this time I managed to film most of their performance using the video facility on my camera, which I hadn't tried out before.

After a wander round the stalls I went back to the camping field to retrieve the van and set out on the next part of my day; I was driving the twelve miles or so to visit Christina, Sophie's 'other mum' but using my NT membership I stopped off at Calke Abbey on the way. This place was described as an un-stately home and though the outside looked fine, as I wandered round the inside I could see exactly why.

Built in the early 18th Century the house had been handed down through generations of the same family until it was eventually passed to the National Trust in 1985. Although a lot of remedial work has been done since then there has been no actual restoration and many of its rooms are now deliberately displayed in the state of decline in which the house was handed over to the Trust. With peeling paintwork, paper hanging off the ceilings, and damp patches and stains on the walls, most of the house was a total mess; added to that it seemed that various members of the family had been avid collectors and hoarders of books, furniture, paintings and all sorts of nick-nacks and every room was totally cluttered up with stuff. 

Then there were the animals - the heads of various cattle and deer mounted on the walls and hundreds of glass cases containing various stuffed animals and birds, some of which are probably by now classed as endangered species. Almost every room I went in contained these things - apparently if it moved they shot it, if it was already dead they picked it up. Certainly a very strange and eccentric family! 

Unfortunately most of the rooms and corridors were very dark and though photography was allowed, using flash wasn't, so even though I used the night shot setting on my camera some of the shots I got weren't as good as they could have been. Also many of the rooms I went in were such a mess that I didn't particularly want to take photos of them, though the state bed was certainly worth a couple of shots. Displayed in a huge floor-to-ceiling climate-controlled glass case it was certainly some bed, and the drapes and bed cover were beautiful.

Once I'd gone right round the house and arrived back at the entrance I made my way across the lawns and up the hill to the small church. There was no-one in there except one of the NT guides, and talking to her it seemed that the beautiful coloured window above the altar wasn't stained glass as I first thought but painted glass. I don't know who originally did it and when but it really was lovely and well worth a photo.

From the church I made my way round to the walled gardens and spent a while wandering round there before heading back through the shrubbery, down the hill and back up past the house to the car park, where I released the dogs from the van and took them for a walk round the nearby meadow before setting off on the second part of the journey to Christina's place. Driving slowly along through the meadows to the exit I came across lots of sheep and what at first looked like several bulls grazing freely not far from the track; these creatures had huge horns which curved round so sharply that they almost touched their faces at each side. On the face of it not the sort of animals you would want to mess with, but as a couple of them ambled over I saw they were actually cows; one of them had a horn which had grown in the wrong direction and was pointing upwards rather than inwards, giving the creature a rather odd look, but they both seemed fairly placid and stood quite calmly while I took their photos.

It didn't take long to get from Calke Abbey to Christina's; I was taking a chance that she would be in as I hadn't let her know I would be calling, however she was at home and was really pleased to see me and the two dogs, especially Sophie. It was great to have a catch-up over a coffee and I stayed for well over an hour before it was time to say my goodbyes for another year. 

On the way back to Elvaston I made a slight detour from the main route and went to Staunton Harold reservoir to see if there was anything there worth photographing; unfortunately what looked to be the nicest part of the reservoir was mostly in shade as it was by then very late in the afternoon, but I did manage to get one shot of the view and another of a squirrel sitting underneath a nearby picnic bench so my detour hadn't been totally pointless.

By the time I finally arrived back at Elvaston the steam rally was well and truly over and various exhibitors were leaving the show ground in a steady stream; I knew it would be too late to get anything to eat from there so I drove to the next village and got something from the local shop. Back at the tent I made a brew - the cold water 'fridge' was still working well - then a while later I wandered across the field and spent a couple of hours chatting to John in his van. At one point during our conversation I happened to look out from the open side door and saw that the sky in the distance had gone very grey and there was a rainbow above the tree tops; it must have been raining somewhere, although our immediate area was still bathed in full sunlight. I watched the rainbow for several minutes as the colour fluctuated, brightening and fading then brightening again, then as quickly as it had appeared it was gone.

It was almost dark by the time I said goodnight to John and I could only just about see my way back across the field to the tent; I counted that as the final dog walk so with Sophie and Sugar settled in their bed in the back of the van I got my book from the tent and climbed up into my own bed for the last time that weekend.

Saturday July 5th 2014 - Off to Elvaston Castle

After getting up at 4.30am a grey morning at 6.15 saw me leaving home for Elvaston Castle, Derbyshire, for a weekend's camping at the annual steam rally. The journey was trouble free on fairly quiet roads and I arrived at the camping fields a few minutes after 8am; after booking in with the stewards I drove up the field and over to my preferred quiet spot in the far corner of the next field, and after taking the dogs for a brief walk round I set about putting up the tent. 

It didn't take long to get things organized as I didn't have much this time; with no power on site I would be sleeping in the van so I could use the overhead light for reading, and the tent would be used just to wash and dress in comfort and make a brew.  The bed was already made up in the van and once the tent was up I only needed to add my kitchen stand, chair and small storage unit and the set-up was complete. While I'd been sorting things out the sky had been clearing gradually and it wasn't long before the sun started coming through; according to the stewards there'd been a horrendous downpour the previous evening so hopefully the sun was a sign of a good weekend.

Once everything was organised it was time for breakfast, and though I could have made my own I decided to go over to the show ground and get something from there. I also needed to fill my water container, and as the nearest tap was quite a distance from the tent and the water container was heavy when full I took the easy way out - I drove down to the camp site entrance, parked up just inside and went across to the show ground for breakfast, then filled up the water container afterwards and drove back to the tent. An hour's chill out followed, then I went back over to the show ground for a look round the stalls; weather-wise the day was getting better by the minute and the sunshine really showed up the bright colours of the fairground rides.

The afternoon was spent wandering round the camping fields and chatting to various UKCS members who were there; some I was meeting for the first time, others I'd met several times before including John, another solo camper who I meet up with when I'm down in Norfolk. Then it was back across to the show ground to get a couple of freshly made sandwiches for tea from one of the stalls, and returning to the tent it was time to see if my temporary 'fridge' had done its job - with no power to use my proper fridge I'd filled an office waste paper bin with cold water and left my carton of milk and cans of Coke half submerged in it. At last year's show the weather had been so hot that even my long-life milk had turned to cream cheese on the second day, however it wasn't as hot this time and the cans and milk carton had stayed reasonably cool so that would do for me.

With the sandwiches, brew, and a piece of cake well and truly demolished I put the dogs in the van and drove the mile and a half to see Ken and Shelagh, a couple I'd met on holiday in Italy ten years ago and who I've always kept in touch with. I didn't get to see them last year as they were away when I called so it was nice to sit down for an hour or so and have a good chat. When I finally made my way back to the camping fields I parked just inside the entrance and went over to the show ground to see what entertainment was on in the marquee; it was a group singing songs which were bordering on the rock/heavy metal-type stuff and definitely not to my taste so I returned to the van and drove back to the tent.

It was still quite light and far too early for bed but there was nothing much else to do so I took the dogs for a last walk round the top of the field, settled them in their bed in the back of the van then climbed up into my own. At least with the overhead light I was able to read my book and I got through several long chapters before the day's early start caught up with me and I settled down to sleep, hoping that the following day would bring more good weather. 

Tuesday June 10th 2014 - I'm glad I got the hook-up extension

After a very early rain shower, which fortunately didn't last too long, the morning turned bright and sunny and the tent had dried out by the time I got up. After the first dog walk of the day I was just about to make a brew and some toast when the power went off, and a quick check on the meter told me that my credit had been used up - and that's where my recently-purchased hook-up extension cable came in handy. It wasn't worth buying any more credit, and though I could have made toast and a brew on my gas stove I wanted to keep my fridge running as long as possible, so I disconnected the main cable and connected it to my existing extension which in turn was connected to the new extension, then the whole lot was connected to a hook-up point right across the field which had some credit left on it from the last time someone used it, and bingo! - the power was restored. Now I wouldn't have been able to do that if I hadn't bought the bargain hook-up extension from Stermat!

After a leisurely breakfast and an hour with my book I put the dogs on their line outside the tent and made a start on packing up, taking my time as I was in no rush. With everything finally in the van I dismantled the tent and it was when I came to fold it over that I made the grim discovery - slugs on the footprint groundsheet. Yuck!! I hate those things with a vengeance, they really make my skin crawl and I'm convinced they were spawned by the devil as only he could invent something as revolting as that. 

Dragging the tent onto the grass showed me the extent of the invasion - while there were no slugs on the underside of the tent itself half a dozen of them were sliding slowly across the groundsheet. Somehow I had to get rid of them so I dragged the groundsheet to the other end of the field and used a long rock peg to flick them off into the long grass near the hedge - no way was I doing that in the vicinity of my pitch, even if I was leaving it in quarter of an hour's time. With the tent finally folded, rolled and strapped up and the groundsheet put into a black bin liner I disconnected the hook-up cables and stashed them all in the van, then last but not least were the dogs and their bed.

Following my usual departure routine I drove down to the promenade, parked up, and took Sophie and Sugar for a final walk along the beach before setting off on the drive home, and with no en route stops and no delays I made good time and was back before 4pm. As I downloaded my photos later on I thought back over my holiday; I'd only been away for ten days but it felt like a month. Maybe it was because I hadn't been out and about as much as on previous breaks and I'd spent more time relaxing - if that was the case then I'll be doing the same again, and maybe my next Anglesey holiday will feel like six months.

Monday June 9th 2014 - Plas Newydd & Llyn Y Gors

After a very cloudy morning the sky started to brighten up at lunch time and by early afternoon the sun was back so I decided to make use of my National Trust membership and take myself off to Plas Newydd country house. I'd been there a couple of years ago but my visit had coincided with a large garden party held to celebrate the Queen's jubilee (or whatever it was, I don't 'do' royalty) and part of the gardens and waterfront terrace had been cordoned off to the general public, so a return visit would give me the opportunity to see what I'd missed.

As it turned out, I hadn't missed very much. A walk along the waterfront terrace in one direction took me to a private little beach and slipway which seemed to be part of an adventure centre for school kids, and beyond that there was nothing but extensive grassy areas, woods and shrubbery; it would have made a great dog walking place but unfortunately dogs weren't allowed in the grounds. Walking along the waterfront in the other direction would take me through the woods which I'd been through on my previous visit so I spent ten minutes or so wandering round the terraced garden instead. 

Now although I've never been particularly interested in stately homes themselves - I really only go for the gardens - I decided that for once I would go in this one and have a look round, and I was so glad I did. After following the designated route round the house the last room I looked in was the long dining room, and on one wall was the most amazing painting I've ever seen. Painted by Rex Whistler in 1936 - 1937 it was, according to the room guide, 58ft long and 12ft high, and covered an entire wall. It seemed to be a very old fashioned scene but the room guide pointed out several features and quirks which, from the years just before the mid 20th century, would be considered quite modern. The detail in the mural was fantastic and the way the perspective changed as I looked at it from different angles was amazing. I could have spent hours studying it, it was totally fascinating and it impressed me so much that a return visit will be on the cards next time I'm staying on Anglesey. 

I would have loved to get some photos of the mural but unfortunately members of the public aren't allowed to take their own. I did think about trying to get a couple of sneaky ones but the very vigilant room guide made it impossible - her eyes seemed to be all over the place, even when she was talking to other people, and I didn't want to risk being told off. I couldn't write about it though without including some photos of it somehow so these two have been sourced from the internet, originally from National Trust Images. 

Back at the van I released the dogs and gave them a walk round the large car parking area before moving on to my second stop of the afternoon, Llyn Y Gors fishing lakes. Now I have no interest whatsoever in fishing, but I'd seen this place featured on an early morning tv fishing series which I was watching to see if I could get some ideas of places to camp; having noticed some caravans behind the tv presenter I thought I'd check it out for future reference, plus there was a chance I could get some nice photos. 

I found the place quite easily, in the countryside above and beyond Menai Bridge village; there didn't seem to be anyone around who I could ask if it was okay for me to look round, so leaving the dogs in the van - I didn't want to push my luck by taking them with me - I took the camera and went walkabout. I did see a few people fishing at various spots round the lakes but no-one asked me what I was doing there; I suppose each person assumed I was with someone else and was just wandering round while my 'other half' was fishing. I found the small pleasant camping area at the side of one of the lakes, but reading the list of charges on a nearby board it seemed that camping was only available to people fishing so the place was ruled out as a possible alternative to my usual camp site. I did get a few nice photos though so I considered my mission to be accomplished.

By the time I'd finished wandering about it was late afternoon and I was ready for something to eat so I found my way back along the lanes to the main road and headed back to the camp site. A couple of hours chill out was followed by a dog walk down to the beach and back, then I settled in for the last night on site with fingers crossed that the weather would stay fine for packing up the following morning. I didn't really want to pack up at all, but I certainly didn't want to be taking down and packing away a wet tent.

Sunday June 8th 2014 - Llynnon Mill & Melin Howell

After the previous day's rain I woke to sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds, perfect for a bit more photography. A dog walk, a very leisurely breakfast and a few essential chores took me up to mid morning, then making sure that this time I had my spare camera batteries I set out on my latest mission. My quest this time was to find and photograph an old water mill situated somewhere in the back of beyond, but my first stop was the car boot sale on the showground. 

As usual there were no mice to be found to add to my collection and the only thing I bought, for the very 'extravagant' sum of 50p, was a square canvas print of a cute stripey kitten, which would nicely fill a blank piece of wall back home. As I was paying for it the stall holder said it was the last one of a set of three, someone else had bought the other two - which personally I thought was rather pointless. Why buy two and leave the other one? Maybe the other person didn't like that one, but if I'd been the stall holder the prints would have been sold as a full set or not at all. It was a shame I hadn't got there first, I would certainly have had all three.

From the showground I headed up the A5, and a few miles round the country lanes took me to Llynnon Mill. Having been there only the year before last I had no real reason to go again, but the directions to the old water mill were taken from there and as the book said the place was difficult to find I thought I may as well use that as my starting point. Plus my previous photos of Llynnon Mill had been taken on a rather cloudy day so at least I could now get a couple with the blue sky and sunshine.

From Llynnon Mill I followed the book's directions exactly, but when I got to the place where I was supposed to be able to see the old water mill across the fields I could see absolutely nothing. Thinking I hadn't gone far enough I drove another half a mile or so through a small village which consisted of just a couple of dozen houses and a chapel, but when the road started taking me in what I absolutely knew was the wrong direction I turned round and headed back to where I'd just stopped. The book was right - the old water mill was difficult to find. 

There was a farmhouse bed-and-breakfast place just across the lane so I called there to ask and the young woman I saw was very helpful; it seemed that I hadn't gone far enough, so I had to go back through the village, turn left and follow the narrow lane down to the bottom. So I did - and wondered where the hell this was taking me. If I'd thought the road up the side of the hill near Llangollen at Easter was narrow then this lane was narrower still, and if I hadn't had the van windows closed I would have been poked in the eye several times by the foliage from the hedgerows. And to call it a lane was, to my mind, a bit of a misnomer - it looked more like a private track, and I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd ended up in someone's garden.

As I got towards the bottom of the lane I rounded a bend and came across a house set back on the left just ahead - it looked like my fears were about to be realised and I would be invading the privacy of whoever lived there. However, the lane actually went past the garden, and round another bend and just over a narrow stone bridge I finally came to the old mill. It was derelict, with rotten window frames and bits of tatty curtains hanging behind the broken panes; round the back where the old water wheel was it didn't look particularly pretty, but the front looked quite attractive. Unfortunately I couldn't get an exact replica of the photo in the book as someone had parked a farm trailer on the grass verge at one side, which would have been in the shot, but I did manage to get a couple of good photos of my own from a different angle.

By the time I'd finished wandering round I was feeling rather peckish so it was time to think about getting a cheeseburger from Pete's burger bar up at Penrhos. I had no idea where the lane went to but as it was now much wider than at the other side of the bridge I decided that following it was preferable to going back the way I'd come. It proved to be a good decision as I hadn't gone very far when I reached a T junction and realised that I was now on the road which took me back past Llynnon Mill. That would do for me, I knew where I was, and quarter of an hour later I was turning into the car park at Penrhos. 

As usual my cheeseburger and coffee were excellent, and after taking the dogs for a short walk along the shoreline I decided that instead of going on to somewhere else I would call at the Stermat store for a look round then head for the A55 and make my way back to the camp site. Calling in at Stermat turned out to be a good move too, as I found a 25-metre hook-up extension cable for just less than £20 - bargain! I didn't actually need one as I already have one but it was the sort of thing which may very well come in handy some time and at that price it was too good to miss, so I handed over my cash and walked out of the store a very happy bunny.

Back at the tent I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with my book then later on took the dogs down to the beach for a walk in the evening sunshine. It was breezy but very pleasant and we stayed down there until the sun had completely disappeared. By the time we'd got back to the tent the daylight was starting to fade so with no reason to go out again I made a brew and settled in for the night, with fingers crossed that my final full day would be a good one.