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 16th 2014 - Definitely not a going home day

I woke that morning to a sea mist so thick that I could only just about see the far end of the camping field, but as I walked the dogs along the beach I could tell that somewhere above and beyond that lot the sun was trying to get through so hopefully it would soon clear up. My first job of the day, before I even had breakfast, was to go down to Asda to top up the van with diesel - something I'd wanted to avoid doing on going home day, which was why I'd gone there a couple of days previously only to find the petrol station had just closed. There was a petrol station in Ormesby village about a mile away from the camp site but the price was substantially more than Asda, so a quick trip down to Yarmouth was needed.

Normally I would be gone from the site by about 10am but having taken an extra day off work to use as a travelling day I was in no rush to leave so after getting back from Asda I had a very leisurely breakfast before I even started to think about packing up. The next job was to tidy out the van; I'm not usually an untidy person, especially when I'm camping, but just for once anything and everything that wasn't being used or needed over the last ten days had been thrown in the middle of it and it now resembled a mobile jumble sale. Some serious sorting out was needed, and with that done I put Sophie and Sugar in the back out of the way then turned my attention to actually packing everything away. 

The mist had gradually been lifting during the morning and by the time I finally rolled up the tent and stashed it in the van at 12.30pm the sky was more blue than grey and the sun was shining again. Leaving the van on my pitch I took the dogs for a last walk along the beach; it was still a bit misty in the far distance but with the warm sun and blue sky it still felt like summer and it was hard to believe it was now mid September - and it definitely wasn't a going home day.

By the time I got back to the van I was ready for some lunch - which was as good an excuse as any to make a final visit to Lathams for a last Belgian bun and a coffee, then it was on to Clippesby for a second visit to Eileen and Ron. It would have been so easy to settle in there for the afternoon but I had to get home some time that day so at 3.30pm I said my goodbyes and with hugs all round I left their cottage behind until next year.

Away from the coast there was no sign of any mist at all and in the warm sunshine the drive northwards was very pleasant, though if I was hoping to stop en route at the 'no tea no pee' cafe I was destined to be disappointed as it had closed by the time I got there. I could probably have found somewhere else but having been to Lathams earlier I wasn't exactly starving; the dogs were quite happy in the back of the van so I just carried on driving and with no stops at all I was back home exactly five hours after I'd left Eileen and Ron's cottage.

As I downloaded my photos to the pc later on I thought back over my holiday; I'd had some great weather, the dogs had enjoyed their beach walks, and with the general pace of life being slower than at home I felt like I'd been away for at least a month. And if anyone ever asks me why I like camping at California so much I'll just point them in the direction of the photos on this blog  :)

Monday September 15th 2014 - I finally get to go up Ranworth church tower

The first thing that struck me when I woke that morning was how still everything was; the wind had finally gone, and other than the sound of the waves breaking on the beach down below the camping field there was complete silence. And emerging from the tent for the first dog walk of the day showed me that the disappearing wind had also taken most of the cloud with it and there was miles of almost clear blue sky - it looked like I would make the climb up Ranworth church tower after all.

It was late morning when I finally set out and having planned a circular tour of a few different places my first stop was Potter Heigham. For several years I'd intended taking a photo of the river from the main road bridge but as many times as I'd been to the village I'd somehow never got round to it; well this time I was going to do it. It was too dangerous to take the dogs with me though as the main road had no pavement, just a narrow grass verge, but I was lucky enough to find a spot right under a tree in Lathams car park so I knew they would be okay for the length of time I would be gone. 

With a handful of shots taken looking up river from the bridge I made my way back into the village for a quick wander down the south riverbank, which I'd never been along before. I didn't need to go too far as the most interesting and picturesque part of it was close to the old road bridge; another half a dozen shots and I made my way to the north bank where a modern footbridge spanned the entrance to the marina. As I stood on the bank lining up a shot a hire cruiser approached the moorings and the guy standing on the bow shouted and asked me if I would catch the mooring rope; that's all he wanted me to do but within seconds I'd caught the rope, pulled the boat in against the bank and deftly wound the rope round the mooring post, then I walked along to the stern and did the same again once his mate had thrown me his rope. I don't think either of them expected that, but I didn't spend my holidays in the early 90s messing about on Eileen and Ron's boat without learning a thing or two! I spent about ten minutes chatting to the guys then with another couple of photos taken I made my way back to the van and set off for the next stop on the day's itinerary.

My second port of call was Horning, and though the car park close to the river was full I was lucky enough to discover that there was a free car park at the village hall. It was several hundred yards up the hill from the main part of the village but that didn't matter and it was a pleasant walk back down again. After buying a couple of items from one of the very few shops in the village I had a walk along the riverside and the village green then returned to the van and drove round to the ferry marina. The riverside pub had undergone a few changes since my previous visit a couple of years ago and the garden had been extended, with several picnic benches set out and a childrens playbus and bouncy castle in one corner which all made for some very colourful photos.

My third stop was, at long last, Ranworth church tower. In complete contrast to Happisburgh there were no wardens at this one so I undertook the climb at my own risk, but having been up there last year I knew what to expect. What I didn't expect though was having to open the trap door onto the roof when I got to the top of the second ladder; that was something I didn't have to deal with last year as there was already someone else up there, but this time I was on my own. The door, although not very big, wasn't exactly light in weight, and hanging onto the ladder with one hand it was quite an effort to push it up with my other hand; I managed it though and finally emerged safely onto the roof. Directly in front of me was Malthouse Broad with the River Bure to the right, then even further to the right was Ranworth Broad with Ranworth Staithe right at the far end - and those views across the countryside definitely confirmed my decision to wait until the sky was clear before going up the tower.

When I'd seen all I wanted to see I made my way back down the tower, and closing the trap door behind me was, if anything, more difficult than opening it. I had to pull it partially down with one hand then support it with my head so that it closed as I backed slowly down the ladder; not an easy task but at least I did it without falling from my perch. As I carefully negotiated the spiral stone staircase I stopped briefly to take a photo looking down; it was certainly very steep and narrow, and definitely not for someone with claustrophobic tendencies.

Back on terra firma I returned to the van and took the short drive along the lane to Ranworth Staithe, which I'd been able to see from the top of the tower. There were quite a lot of boats moored up but although the little cafe-cum-information centre was open there wasn't a lot of activity anywhere; it didn't take me long to walk round and with just a few shots taken I drove on to my fourth and final stop, Salhouse Broad.

From the car park just off the lane through Salhouse village it was a very pleasant quarter of a mile walk through woodland down to the water. Now I've been there a few times before and the place has always looked the same but for some reason this time it looked slightly different, though I couldn't think why. Maybe it was because the trees and bushes on the hillside leading down to the water had grown, or perhaps because much of the lower hillside was in shadow rather than the full sun which I've always seen it in previously; it was still an attractive place though and definitely worth a few more photos.

I made that my last stop of the day as the afternoon was getting on and I didn't want to be too late getting back to the tent as my camping friend John was coming down from Norwich to spend a couple of hours with me. He arrived at 6pm and once I'd made a coffee we settled down for a good chat, then an hour or so later we went across to the California Tavern for a meal, finishing the evening with another coffee and more chat back at the tent. 

It was getting late by the time John left so I just took the dogs for their usual walk round the site then settled into bed for my final night. Thinking back over the day I felt that in contrast to the previous day I'd achieved a lot more; I'd got some good photos, I'd moored up a hire cruiser, and I'd climbed Ranworth church tower for the second time - definitely a good day all round.

Sunday September 14th 2014 - An odd and frustrating day

The wind was still blowing when I woke that morning and yet again the best of the clear blue sky and sunshine was right on the coast, with a blanket of broken cloud stretching for miles inland. With only two full days left before I went home, and with the inland cloud showing no sign of disappearing, it looked like I wouldn't be going up Ranworth church tower this holiday and I was almost kicking myself for not having gone on Wednesday after I'd climbed the one at Happisburgh. But life's too short for regrets so after the usual morning dog walk along the beach and a leisurely breakfast I had a quick tidy up round the tent then set off to visit my friends in Beccles and Bungay.

My first port of call, which was on the way to Beccles, was Redwings horse sanctuary. Back in March I'd had a letter from there telling me that Rusty, my adopted horse, had become ill and sadly died; another horse had been suggested for me to adopt but first I wanted to see the others which were available. From the information board in reception I picked out two I was interested in, checked to see which paddocks they were in, then went to find them. It was difficult to choose between Cauli and Muffin but I thought Cauli's story was particularly sad; she had been abandoned in a cauliflower field - hence her name - and was found standing over the dead body of her companion. She also had a severe eye injury which meant her right eye had to be removed, but she had recovered well and looking at her grazing peacefully just a few feet away it was hard to tell that she only had one eye. So the decision was made; I chose Cauli, and went back to reception to sort out the adoption details. With that done I returned to the van, released the dogs and took them for a walk down the long private driveway.

Redwings shared the driveway with a private golf and country club, with the entrances to both establishments close together; I'd never previously taken much notice of the entrance to the golf club grounds but this time I could hardly miss it; it was now more open than it once was, with well-mown grass verges and bright flower beds bordering the driveway - well worth a photo or two even with the cloudy sky. 

My next stop was at a friend's cottage at the far side of Beccles, and as I pulled up outside my first thought was that she'd got a different car as the one on the drive wasn't the one she had last  year. As was my normal custom I let myself in through the side gate and went round to knock on the back door, but the young woman who answered definitely wasn't my friend or any of her relatives - this was a complete stranger. It turned out that my friend had sold up and moved away and this young woman was the cottage's new owner, which obviously explained the different car on the drive. Heaven knows what she thought about me turning up out of the blue and knocking on the back door, but I'd been doing that for twenty years and old habits die hard. 

After apologizing for disturbing her I got back in the van and drove down the lane to where I could park up safely then phoned my friend. I expected that she would probably be at her caravan but it was a fair distance to drive so I wanted to be sure before going over there - and it was a good thing I did phone her as she wasn't there; she was spending some time with her daughter until she found a new house. We chatted for a while, during which she said she'll send me her new address when she has one, then I moved on to my next port of call, Bungay and my friends Jane, Ady, Andy and Sue.

Jane's house was first, and though I knocked several times I got no answer so I drove round to Ady's place - and the first thing that struck me was that he'd got pink and silver glittery curtains at his bedroom window. Now that definitely wasn't Ady's style, and after getting no answer to my knock I spoke to one of his neighbours who told me that he'd moved out a while ago, though she didn't know where he'd moved to. So it was on to Andy and Sue's place, they would be able to tell me where Ady was, but there was no answer from them either - now they were always in on Sundays, even if they didn't know I would be calling, so where were they? This was definitely third time unlucky, so I decided to go back to Jane's to see if she had returned - and this time I saw her next-door neighbour who told me that Jane had gone out to a family meal in a restaurant somewhere, which explained why none of them were home.

So with two friends who'd upped and moved, and three who just weren't in, I wasn't having a very good afternoon, so to make the journey worthwhile I went to the Buttercross Tea Rooms and treated myself to a meal and a coffee before setting off back in the general direction of California. As I approached Yarmouth I decided to stop off at Asda and top up the van with diesel in readiness for my drive home in two days time, but just as I pulled into the petrol station an assistant blocked the entrance to the pumps with cones then went and pulled down the shutters at the pay kiosk - the place had just closed! It was only 3.30pm and the store itself was still open - what the heck was going on?? The petrol station at my local Asda doesn't close until later than that on Sundays so what was so different about this one?

Feeling ever-so-slightly miffed I decided to try and salvage something from the afternoon and go to Caister beach. In all the years I've been holidaying at California I'd never actually been to Caister beach even though it was less than two miles away, so it would be interesting to see what, if anything, was there. And the answer to that was - not a lot. The aptly-named Beach Road, which was more of a lane than a road, ran from the main road through Caister down to the beach itself and at the end, behind a row of cottages, was a large gravel-surfaced car park, a grassy picnic area near the dunes, and the two large modern buildings of Caister lifeboat station. It took me less than ten minutes to look round and take just three shots - it wasn't a particularly interesting place and now I'd seen it I wouldn't ever need to go back again. 

Back at the tent I fed the dogs and put them on their line for a while then when the heat finally went out of the sun the three of us retreated inside and the evening was spent reading and watching a bit of tv. It had been an odd and rather frustrating day in more ways than one and other than choosing another adopted pony I felt as if I hadn't really achieved anything worthwhile; I didn't know what the following day would bring but it was my last full one so whatever I did I would be sure to make the most of it.