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

Thursday December 31st 2015 - From three back to two - losing Sam

This is one of the most difficult posts I've had to write on this blog, especially given the time year, but in the early hours of yesterday my lovely big dog Sam slipped into a sleep he didn't wake up from.

He had only been with me for six months - he came just after the sudden and unexpected death of my ex partner - but in that short time he achieved so much. Through correct feeding he lost almost all the excess weight he was carrying and went from being unable to get into my van without help to jumping in and out on his own, and although slower in pace than Sophie and Poppie he was still able to go for fairly long walks in the countryside near home. He was a very placid and patient dog and would stand for ages while I brushed him; he loved children and adults alike and was always happy for people to make a fuss of him when we were out. He went camping with me twice in the last six months, loved his walks along the beach at California in September and enjoyed several dips in the sea while we were there.

A couple of weeks ago he became quite lethargic and went off his normal food; a check up at the vet's showed that although he had a heart murmur which he must have had for quite some time there was nothing else wrong and he wasn't in any pain - at thirteen years old he was just naturally coming to the end of his life. There was nothing I could do for him other than give him whatever tasty food he would eat, take him out for very short walks and make sure he was always comfortable in his bed; at Christmas he got a new collar, a packet of the soft chew sticks he liked, and some freshly-cooked chicken for his supper. His last walk was a very slow one just a few yards along the street on Monday this week then he just lay quietly in his bed and I knew it was only a matter of time before he left me. I nursed him almost constantly on Tuesday and it broke my heart when he went to sleep for the very last time. 

Sam may have only been with me for six short months but that doesn't make the pain of losing him any easier - if anything it makes it worse as we had such a strong and loving bond between us right from the day he came to me, strengthened by having been a big part of each other's lives in previous years. I knew this day would come eventually but I didn't think it would be so soon and it hurts like crazy; there's a big Sam-sized space in my living room right now and an even bigger hole in my heart which will take a long time to heal.

Sleep tight Sam, my special friend, I'll love and miss you always  xx

Tuesday September 22nd 2015 - Early morning and late afternoon

After the previous day's grey weather I woke early that morning to a beautiful sky and the promise of a lovely day, which was just typical when I had to pack up and go home. When I emerged from the tent to take the dogs for their first walk I was surprised to see large patches of ground frost on the grass - the previous evening had been quite mild in spite of that day's rain and cloud so the temperature must have dropped quite a bit overnight for that to appear, although even so early in the morning it wasn't really cold. 

There was no-one on the beach when I got down there and it was lovely just strolling along in peaceful solitude while the dogs mooched about nearby. As always I walked back through the heath and as I reached the camping field it struck me that the glow from the early morning sun had made the nearby crop fields worthy of a photo so I went to get my camera from the tent. It only took a couple of minutes to walk up the field to the tent and back so I was very surprised to see that in that very short space of time an early morning mist had started to creep across the fields, but I took the photos anyway and they turned out better than I thought they would. Back at the tent I took another couple of shots looking across the camping field then made a start on sorting out some tea and toast.

With breakfast over I tidied everything away then reluctantly started on the packing up process. I was in no rush so I took my time, making sure that everything was packed into the van to leave enough space for Sam in the middle, and I'd just got to the stage of taking the tent down when Jean came along the field with her two dogs. Living only a mile down the road she'd taken Pepsi and Zak on the beach then come to say a combined hello and goodbye before I left; after chatting for a while she set off back home and I turned my attention to dismantling the tent. With no wind - unlike the day I arrived - taking it down was an easy task and it was soon rolled up, strapped up, and in the van.

With plenty of time to spare I left the van on my pitch and took the dogs for a last walk along the beach; it was a glorious day and I could have stayed down there for ever but I had to go home sometime so I reluctantly made my way back up to the site, settled the dogs in the van, and after a quick look round the pitch for any forgotten tent pegs I drove away from California for the final time. It was lunch time by then and my breakfast had long since worn off so I paid my last visit to Latham's to get my free coffee and a final Belgian bun then I set off on the long drive home.

It was late afternoon when I reached the Cheerio Cafe on the A17 and although it was closed I pulled into the car park to have a quick break from driving and to give the dogs a walk and a drink. With the blue sky and white cloud formations the wide open fields behind the cafe looked lovely in the sunshine; a photo opportunity not to be missed so I grabbed the camera and took a shot - and below is the result.

The rest of the journey was done with no more stops though there was the possibility of encountering a traffic hold up at one point, but a slight change of route got me round it and I arrived home just before 8pm. It had been a long day so the dogs had their bedtime walk much earlier than usual and I settled in for the rest of the night. Thinking back over the last ten days it was a shame that the weather couldn't have been better; I'd only had three really glorious days out of the ten but I'd still been out and about, I'd still got lots of photos, and anywhere I wanted to go but didn't - well, there's always next year.

Monday September 21st 2015 - Stow Mill but not Sutton Mill

After the previous day's glorious weather that morning was cloudy, grey and miserable with a touch of fine drizzle in the air, and that's how it stayed for most of the day although it was still very warm for late September. The one place I'd thought of going to that day was now out of the question as far as photography was concerned so I stayed in the tent all morning, but by lunch time I was itching to go out somewhere - and anyway, I needed to go to Latham's at some point to get my fifth coffee so I could claim my free one the following day.

My eventual destination was Stow Mill on the outskirts of Mundesley - I'd noticed it as I'd driven back from there the previous week and thought it was worth taking a look. There was no-one around when I got there and parked the van so I thought maybe the mill was closed even though the sign by the road said it was open, however it was open but presumably not always attended as there was an honesty box on the wall just inside the door.

Built between 1825 and 1827 the mill operated from 1828 until 1930 as a flour mill, then at the end of its working life most of the machinery was stripped out and it was turned into an annex to the miller's house; one of its many owners was Douglas McDougall, the flour producing magnate, who bought the mill in 1938 and used it as a holiday home. Although a lot of restoration and repair work has been undertaken since 1961 and much of the machinery has been replaced, the current owners decided that it's not financially viable to get the mill actually working again so it will be just kept in sound repair and open to the public as a place of interest.

The four floors were each accessed by a steep stepladder, with each floor displaying lots of interesting information and old photos of the mill. When I got to the top I was pleased to see that as well as the windows actually being clean they could also be opened, so I had clear views for my photos - it was just a shame that the weather was so grey and drizzly as I would have been able to see for miles on a good day.

The second windmill I wanted to see was the one in the village of Sutton near Stalham, but finding it proved to be just about impossible. Many times while driving along the A149 I'd seen the sign for it pointing down a minor lane; about half a mile down the lane was another sign so I was obviously heading in the right direction, but when I got to the duck pond on the corner of a second lane the signs ran out. 

I drove along the lane through the village in both directions for quite a distance but there were no other signs and not a single sighting of the mill anywhere - which was strange, because this thing has nine floors and at over 80ft tall it's the tallest windmill in this country so it's not the sort of thing which could be easily missed. It could possibly have been hidden by trees but with no-one around who I could ask I eventually gave up looking. I did find the village sign though, so with a couple of shots of that and the nearby duckpond I drove on to Hickling for my annual visit to F.A.I.T.H animal sanctuary then headed to Potter Heigham for coffee and cake at Latham's.

The final stop of the day was my second visit to Eileen and Ron at Clippesby; as always it was good to chat but all too soon it was time for me to say my goodbyes until next year. By the time I got back to the camp site the drizzle had stopped and the sky was brightening up a bit so I took the dogs down on the beach for a while then settled into the tent for my final evening, only emerging again for the pre-bedtime dog walk.

Sunday September 20th 2015 - Sunrise, Sam and St. Olaves

When I woke early that morning and looked through the front window of the tent the sky showed the promise of a nice day to come; it was only 7am and although it was tempting to have a Sunday morning lie-in I didn't want to waste a minute if the weather was going to be good. The dogs, as always, were eager to go out so grabbing the camera I took them for their usual walk along the sand.

As I got to the top of the steps leading down to the beach the sun started to put in an appearance, rising slowly from behind the remains of the night time cloud, and with the wind turbines of Scroby Sands in the distance the photo opportunity was far too good to miss. Down on the beach the sun's first rays were casting a deep orange glow on the cliffs stretching north towards Hemsby, and looking the other way I could see Pat in the distance with her two dogs.

As soon as I let the dogs off their leads Sam made straight for the water, and while the other two were happy just to get their feet wet he went in far enough to get swamped by several waves. He decided himself when he'd had enough though, and came out looking a lot more bedraggled than when he went in. 

As the sky brightened and the sun got stronger I took another photo looking towards Hemsby then went to join Pat who was sitting on a boulder a distance down the beach. As we walked back through the heath together she told me it was her last morning as she was closing up her chalet for the winter and going back home to Derbyshire, though she did give me her phone number and email address so I could get in touch at a later date.

Back at the tent, and with breakfast sorted, I had a quick tidy up, refilled my large water container, replenished the dogs' water supply in the van then took my chair and spent an hour or so sitting in the sun with my book while the dogs lazed on the grass a few feet away. It was so nice I was tempted to stay there for most of the day but I had people to visit so eventually I put the book and chair away, settled the dogs in the van and set off for the day.

My first stop was Redwings Horse Sanctuary to see my adopted pony Cauli; the list on the board in reception said she was in paddock 1 just round the corner but when I got there it was empty, although her information sheet and photo were in the box on the fence. A wander round eventually led me to paddock 15 where I found another information sheet for Cauli (was someone trying to confuse me?) though the only pony in residence was in the field shelter at the far end of the paddock and wasn't for coming out, so I couldn't tell if it was Cauli or not. Eventually I gave up hoping to take a photo of her and made my way back to the van.

My second stop, on my way to Bungay, was at St. Olaves where the A143 passes over the River Waveney. On each side of the bridge the road is on an incline so driving up and over gives a good view of the river and several times I've thought I could probably get some good photos from there but I've never stopped, however this time I did. A hundred yards or so from the far side of the bridge was a narrow lane so I pulled in there and walked back. 

Now I don't normally take photos of roads but on the spur of the moment I decided to take one of the approach to the bridge, so with no traffic on my side, and the hope that nothing suddenly came whizzing round the bend behind me, I stood in the middle of the road and snapped one - just as a car approached from the opposite direction, though fortunately it was just far enough away for me get back to the grass verge before I became mincemeat. 

There was only one pedestrian footway across the bridge and to take photos looking down river from there at that time of day meant I would be shooting directly into the sun, so I had to brave the closely passing traffic to take a couple of shots looking up river from the other side. With those in the bag I went down to the riverbank and took a couple of shots from there, then headed back to the van to continue my journey to Bungay.

My first stop in Bungay was a visit to Andy and Sue, where I spent a very pleasant hour having a brew and a chat, then it was on see Jane, who had moved house since I was down there last year. She now lives in a bungalow on a small estate where one road has several cul-de-sacs leading off it but they all have the same name as the road itself. Trying to find number 15 wasn't easy but I got there eventually, and with another mug of coffee I spent another pleasant hour.

My third stop was a visit to Ady who had also moved house since I last saw him; he now lives in Harleston, a fifteen-minute drive from Bungay, and as his flat was on a one-way road Jane had phoned him and asked him to wait at the end of the road so I would know where I was going. It was good to see him, though I did refuse a third mug of coffee; I don't have that many brews in a day and three in quick succession was just a bit too much.

After my visit to Ady I headed back towards California, though I didn't go straight back to the camp site; Jean (my ex's sister) had phoned me a couple of days before and invited me to Sunday tea so that was my final destination. The meal was lovely, and after a few hours spent in the very pleasant company of Jean and John and their two dogs Pepsi and Zak I finally made my way back to the camp site, then with the dogs fed and the bedtime walk undertaken slightly earlier than usual I settled in for the rest of the night.

Saturday September 19th 2015 Part 2 - Orford quay and castle

From Woodbridge I took the 25-minute journey east to the village of Orford on the coast. A mile or so from the village the road changed from the usual country lane bordered by hedges and trees to one which was more open and with very wide, well kept, level grass verges on each side - it looked rather like a long private driveway leading to a stately home and I just hoped I hadn't somehow taken a wrong turn and gone somewhere I shouldn't. I hadn't however, and the lane changed back to a normal road as I reached the village itself. 

A signpost pointed me in the direction of the quay and a nearby large car park, and with very few cars in there I had lots of spaces to choose from. Finding one in the shade of a large tree I went to get a ticket from the machine - it wasn't exactly cheap at £1.50 an hour as opposed to the four hours I got in Woodbridge for the same price, so as it was quite late in the afternoon by then, and not knowing exactly how much there was to see, I just paid for an hour. The river side was just round the corner from the car park and when I got there I saw several cars parked on the quay itself; none of them had tickets on them so it seemed like I could have parked there for free if I'd known.

A lot of the cloud from earlier on in Woodbridge seemed to have rolled over to Orford but there was still plenty of blue sky and sunshine and a walk from the quayside along the shingle beach in one direction got me several photos. Part of the way along was the Riverside Tea Rooms, and judging by the amount of people at the outside tables it was a very popular place; I did briefly consider going in for coffee and cake but with only an hour on the car park ticket I didn't want to waste too much time so I didn't give in to temptation.  

Going from the quayside in the other direction was a riverside walk so I decided to explore along there for a distance; there were many yachts and dinghies moored up in the stretch of river between there and the shingle spit of Orford Ness, and a handful of derelict boats lay partially sunken just a few yards from the riverbank. And as silly as it sounds I felt rather sorry for one small fishing boat which lay unloved and abandoned in the shallows.

The riverside walk seemed to be very popular with dog walkers and others out for a stroll in the sunshine; one couple were even picking samphire from the riverbank close to the water. At the far side of a nearby field Orford Castle rose up from its mound on the edge of the village; I didn't know how long the riverside walk was, it could have gone on for miles, but the castle was my next destination so I only went a certain distance before turning round and retracing my steps. 

Unfortunately with it being so late in the afternoon the castle was due to close not long after I got there, but with not much time on the car park ticket I wouldn't have had time to look round inside anyway, so I just had to be happy with a wander round the grounds, though I did get several good photos. It was a shame really that I didn't have time to go in the castle as I would have liked to get some shots looking out from the very top.

As I was making my way back through the village I came to St. Bartholomew's church; it looked nice so I decided to take a look, and go in if it was open to visitors. The door was indeed open but just inside was a large group of musicians - teenagers and older people - sitting in a semicircle and playing various instruments. Presumably it was some sort of concert practise, so not wanting to intrude I made a hasty exit and had to be content with a photo of the church from the outside.

With the time almost up on my car park ticket I made my way back down towards the quay, though I did stop for a couple of minutes near a row of pretty cottages on a small green set back off the road. At 5.45pm, and with the sun getting lower in the sky, they were in quite a bit of shade but they were still worth a photo or two.

Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink then set off on the drive back up to California. The first part of my route took me along a minor lane and past Snape Maltings; I was very tempted to make a brief stop but it was only the year before last that I was there and nothing would have changed in the intervening time so I just continued on to the A12 and headed northwards, though I did make a brief stop at Darsham to see if a friend of mine was at her caravan but she wasn't.

Finally back at the tent I made a meal and a brew and settled in for the rest of the evening until it was time to take the dogs for their pre-bedtime walk. It had been a lovely day, and though the weather in Woodbridge had been rather cloudy to start with it had come nice in the end and I'd got some good photos from there and Orford. And information gained since getting back made me realise that although Orford may be small there's far more to see and do than I first thought, so it looks like a return visit will be very much on the cards next year.

Saturday September 19th 2015 Part 1 - Wandering round Woodbridge

A bright sunny morning arrived with blue sky and fluffy white clouds as far as the eye could see, so I thought I'd take a chance and make this my 'big day out'. Someone had recently suggested that as somewhere different to go to I might like to visit the Anglo Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk but as that sort of thing doesn't really interest me, and knowing that nearby Woodbridge was situated at the head of a river estuary, I'd decided to explore round there instead. With freshly-charged batteries in the camera, the dogs' water supply topped up, and plenty of loose change for car park fees, it was mid-morning when I finally set off on my voyage of discovery.

The route to Woodbridge, which went straight down the A12 from Yarmouth, was an easy drive and took just over an hour, but as I reached the outskirts of the town I began to wonder if I'd made a good decision - as I'd travelled south I'd left the best of the sunshine behind and grey clouds were now covering most of the blue sky. There was nothing I could do about it though, I had to make the most of the day now I was there, so I found a car park not far from the riverside, paid for four hours - relatively cheap at only £1.50 - and set off to explore the town.

First on my list of places to see and photograph was the Shire Hall on Market Hill; second was Buttrum's Mill, a six-storey tower mill built in 1836 and which, at over 60ft tall, is the tallest surviving mill in Suffolk. It took me fifteen minutes to walk up the hill from the Shire Hall to the mill, and to be honest when I got there I wondered why I'd bothered. Situated in its own grounds several yards away from the road it had what I assumed to be a private house attached to one side of it; the mill itself wasn't open to the public (although later information told me that it does open on certain days throughout year though this wasn't one of them) so all I could do was wander round the grounds. 

Getting a decent photo of the mill wasn't easy though; at the front, and adjoining the cottage and the base of the mill, was an open-fronted carport-type space containing a couple of old trailers and a caravan, with a vehicle and trailer loaded high with stuff parked in front. At the back an open-sided shed with a corrugated roof contained an assortment of ride-on lawn mowers and various other bits of equipment; neither view looked particularly attractive but by picking my spot carefully I managed to get a couple of shots of the mill with the hedges and trees hiding most of the mess.

Walking back down the hill towards the town I came across St. Mary's church, and as it seemed to be open to visitors I went in to take a look. Even without lights on it was lovely and bright, and with no-one else around just then it was very quiet and peaceful; with a handful of photos taken I signed the guest book then made my way out and headed back down towards the riverside.

The next place I wanted to see was the Tide Mill on the quayside; originally built in 1793 it was restored in the late 1960s and early 70s and opened to the public as a museum in 1973. Further restoration within the last few years has brought it back into use as a fully working mill producing stoneground wholemeal flour, and it's one of only two working tide mills in the country. It was just my luck though that although the mill was open it wasn't actually working when I got there, and as I didn't see the point of paying to go in if I couldn't see it in operation I just took a couple of photos then wandered off along the quayside to find anything else of interest.

As I walked along my eye was caught at one point by a movement on the sand down below the promenade and taking a closer look I saw a dozen or so little birds scurrying about among the seaweed. I don't know what sort of birds they were but they were almost the same colour as the seaweed, and had they stayed completely still they would have been invisible. As time went on the grey clouds began to break up, blue sky appeared and the sun eventually came through, which really improved the views over the river and made for a glorious afternoon.

Strolling along the riverside walk was very pleasant but with my breakfast having become a distant memory it was time for coffee and a snack; returning to the car park I made sure the dogs were settled in the van then went in search of something to eat. Across the far side of the car park and in one of the old railway station buildings was the Whistlestop Cafe - that would do for me. The outside tables all seemed to be occupied so I went inside and after a quick look at the menu ordered coffee and scrambled eggs on toast. Now although the food was quite good I couldn't say the same about the coffee - it was supposed to be a latte but it was poor quality, strong and very bitter and no amount of extra milk made it taste any better so I only drank half of it.

Making a resolve that if I ever go back to Woodbridge I'll find somewhere else if I want a brew I decided against exploring more of the area; time was getting on and there was somewhere else I wanted to go to so I returned to the van, gave  the dogs a quick five minutes walk round the grassy perimeter of the car park, then set off on the second part of my day.