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 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!