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 6th 2015 - Surprising an old friend

Another warm and sunny morning arrived, and after the usual dog walk round the top end of the field it was time for an al fresco breakfast. With the sounds of various birds in the nearby hedges and trees and the occasional bleat of a sheep from the next field I would have been quite happy to sit outside the tent and do nothing all morning but unfortunately I had to pack up and go home, so with the dogs on their cables and out of my way I eventually made a start.

Normally the packing up process wouldn't take that long but this time it was hindered by three things. First was a visit from John who came across to say goodbye before he left, second was a visit from Amanda and Gary who were also ready for leaving, and third was the packing up process itself. To make enough space in the middle of the van for Sam to comfortably lie down on the journey home I had to arrange and pack things differently and several times I had to take something out of one place and put it in another to make everything fit. I was fast becoming an expert at 'Camping Tetris', and by the time I'd finally got everything sorted I felt like I should be awarded a combined degree in physics, maths and engineering.

With twenty minutes to go before the official leaving time of noon I still had the tent to take down, and as everyone else had gone by then and the field was completely empty my bright blue house stuck out like a sore thumb, attracting the attention of one of the rally organisers who drove over to see what was going on. He was very nice though, and when I explained the reason for my delay he was quite happy for me to take as long as I needed, which actually wasn't much longer. With the tent finally stashed in the van I only had to put the dogs in but before I did I just couldn't resist snapping a couple of pics - and if ever the expression on a dog's face said 'I've been abandoned and nobody loves me' then Sophie's said it all.

It was 12.20pm when I was finally ready for going; the clear-up crew were already collecting refuse bags from the temporary compounds with their tractor and trailer and as I drove across the field for the final time I mentally awarded myself the dubious honour of being the very last to leave. Just for once though I wasn't going straight home, I was breaking my journey at Stoke-on-Trent and paying a visit to Ann, an old school friend who I hadn't seen for years - something which I'd been meaning to do ever since I learned to drive just over five years ago.

The idea had come to me the previous day while looking at the map book for something; my route home would take me past Stoke and as I was in no rush to get back I would have plenty of time to make a detour. The only problem would be finding Ann's house; although I'd been there before it was twenty one years ago and also by public transport so to drive myself there without directions could prove difficult. However, I'd mentioned it in conversation with Amanda and Gary, and as Gary had one of these new-fangled fancy phones with internet he'd looked up the address and got me some basic directions which I was now following.

My friend's address actually proved easier to find than I first thought though I was taking a chance that she would be in. For all I knew she could be at work, out shopping or indeed absolutely anywhere, however she was in and more than a little surprised to see me, in fact her first words were "Oh! You've finally found me!" She invited me in and I got to meet her two sons who are now 21 and 24 - the youngest was only a couple of months old the last time I was there so it was good to see how they've both grown into young men. It was great to chat with Ann and catch up with various bits of family news but unfortunately she had to go out later so I couldn't stay too long. 

The rest of my journey went without problems and I was back home just over an hour after I left Ann's. After a short walk round the block so the dogs could stretch their legs after being in the van I settled in for the evening - and I knew that now I know how relatively easy it is to get to Ann's I won't be leaving it another twenty one years before I call to see her again.

Sunday July 5th 2015 - Staunton Harold and Swarkestone

I woke early that morning to sunshine and blue sky and the promise of another nice day. The mattress on the floor had proved to be very comfy and I'd had a good night's sleep, and considering that Sam hadn't been camping for six years he'd settled down really well in the tent and I hadn't heard a sound from him of all night. Having had an enforced early bedtime though all three dogs would soon need to go out so I rolled out of bed, made a brew then took them for a short walk round the top end of the field before making some breakfast.

It was late morning when I finally took myself off out; I was paying my annual visit to Christina, Sophie's 'other mum', but stopping off at Staunton Harold reservoir on the way. I'd gone there last year but it had been late in the afternoon and the sun was in the wrong direction for my photographs but this time it would be directly overhead so I should get some decent shots. Well that was the theory but the reality was totally different; by the time I got to the reservoir the blue sky had been replaced by grey clouds and the sun was only coming through in fits and starts.

The most interesting part of the reservoir seemed to be concentrated near the car park and as the parking fee wasn't exactly cheap I didn't intend staying too long (I really hate car parks which charge a fee for an all-day stay when I only want just long enough to take a few photos) so I left the van in the shade under a tree and went for a brief fifteen-minute wander. A playground and picnic area overlooked the water, with a visitor centre and wild flower garden to one side and an old windmill tower just beyond the car park; I walked round as far as the beach, then with a handful of shots taken I returned to the van and resumed my journey.

Unfortunately when I got to Christina's I found she wasn't in - her husband Steve told me she'd gone to stay with her son and wouldn't be back for a week. I was disappointed to have missed her as I would have liked her to meet Poppie and Sam as well as seeing Sophie again, but there's always next year and I can send her some photos meanwhile.

With no other plans I decided to just drive back to Elvaston, wander over to the show for the last performance of the dancing diggers, then spend the rest of the day relaxing. As I headed back north the grey clouds started to get less, the blue sky increased and the sun was shining properly; my route took me through the village of Swarkestone and as I crossed the bridge over the River Trent I decided to pull up in the car park of the nearby pub and see if there were any photo opportunities.

Across the road from the pub a footpath went down to the riverside and a private lane which passed a row of very nice detached houses, finally ending at the garden gate of another house. The lane was only a couple of hundred yards long but it was a pleasant walk and I got half a dozen nice shots before making my way back to the van.

Back at the camping field I took the dogs for a walk round, made a brew then gave Sam his daily grooming session. He has a very thick coat which really needs to be brushed every day but unfortunately he hadn't been groomed properly for a while before he came to me. Needless to say, his fur can be pulled out in handfuls just now - I'm sure I could knit another dog with the amount I've got out of him in the last two weeks.

Grooming over I fastened the dogs to their cables and left them to lie in the shade of the van while I went for a final quick look round the show and got a couple of sandwiches for later, then on my way back to the tent I stopped for a chat with my camping friends Gary and Amanda and Geoff and Ann. Early evening saw me taking the dogs and having a wander over to John's van where I spent some time chatting to him and his friend on the next pitch, then the rest of the time before bed was spent relaxing outside my own tent. With the show having finished and no noise coming from the show ground, and many of the weekend campers already gone, I was certainly guaranteed a very quiet final few hours before it was time for me to leave.

Saturday July 4th 2015 - Elvaston Castle Weekend

The ridiculously early time of 4.45am that morning saw me leaving home for my annual camping weekend at Elvaston steam rally. I'd originally intended to drive down the previous evening after work, and knowing that there wouldn't be enough daylight left to put the tent up when I got there I'd made up the bed in the van and packed everything else accordingly; that, however, was before I got Sam. 

With Sophie and Poppie in their usual place in the back of the van there was only just enough room by the front passenger seat for Sam to sit while en route and there certainly wasn't enough space for him to lie down and sleep overnight, so I abandoned my initial plan and set off that morning instead, meaning I could put the tent up as soon as I got there and there would be space for all of us.

With very little traffic on the road it was an easy drive down to Elvaston and I got there exactly two hours after leaving home. I didn't expect any of the stewards to be around so early on, and as the fields being used for camping this time were different to previous years I couldn't just drive in and pick my usual quiet corner as I would normally do so I was quite prepared to park up near the entrance and wait, however one of the stewards was up and about so I was able to find out where I could pitch to be away from the general camping area. It involved driving across two fields but once I'd got to the far side of the third field I had as much space and peace and quiet as I wanted. 

With a suitable spot chosen the first task was to walk the dogs round the field - Sophie and Poppie first, then Sam on his own as he can't go as far and as fast as the other two - then with all three of them temporarily back in the van out of the way I set about putting up the tent. It didn't take long, then with my initial plan of sleeping in the van and just using the tent as somewhere to wash, dress and make a brew having being abandoned I unmade the bed, dragged everything into the tent, and re-made the bed in there; without my usual camp bed it meant the mattress was on the floor but I could cope with that for two nights, then with everything sorted it was time for a brew.

Walking round with the dogs earlier on the field had been covered in a very low-lying and patchy early morning mist but that had disappeared and the sun was warming the day up nicely, but any ideas I had of sitting outside with my coffee were soon dismissed when I was bombarded with swarms of tiny black flies which seemed to have appeared with the sun. My thoughts were that I'd pitched the tent too close to the nearby hedge so maybe I should move it a few yards out into the field, but when I went to look for another suitable spot the flies followed me. They were everywhere, landing on my arms and in my hair, and the only way I could get away from them was to go inside the tent and zip the fly screen up.

With my brew finished I needed to collect my camping passes and wristband from the stewards' tent and fill up my water container, and as both the water tap and the stewards' tent were some distance away I decided to drive over rather than walk. While chatting to the stewards I mentioned the black flies round the tent and one of them immediately told me to change my t-shirt; I was wearing a bright green one and she said the flies are attracted to anything bright orange or bright green so if I wore something else I shouldn't have any more trouble - and she was right. Back at the tent I changed into a pale pink sleeveless top and bingo! - the flies disappeared and I never saw any more for the rest of the weekend.

My next problem was what to do with the dogs while I went to look round the show. Normally I would take Sophie and Poppie with me but now I had Sam to think of, and he wouldn't be able to walk round like they could. I couldn't very well take the two little ones and leave him behind on his own so I parked the van in the shade of a nearby tree, left Sophie and Poppie in the back with the hatch up and put Sam in the middle with the side door open; there was a slight breeze blowing and with plenty of water for all of them I knew they would be okay for the short time I was away.

Over at the show ground I had a fairly quick look round the stalls, which were more or less the same as in previous years, then watched the dancing digger display before making my way back to the tent. The dogs were fine, in fact they were all asleep and didn't look like they'd missed me in any way. The rest of the morning was spent relaxing with my book then in the afternoon I wandered across the field to chat to John, my camping friend from Norwich, and later on some other campers I've got to know over the years. 

While talking to John he told me about a steel band, made up of teenage school kids, which was playing in the beer tent over at the show; he said they were very good, and as I like a steel band I decided to go over later and see for myself. And they were indeed very good; their musical repertoire was quite extensive, from folk songs through James Bond themes up to popular chart songs - in fact they were more than just good, they were excellent and I really enjoyed listening to them. 

On my way back to the camping field I stopped at a stall to get a couple of sandwiches to have with a brew, then in the early evening I went to visit my friends Ken and Shelagh who live just over a mile from the show ground. I hadn't seen them since Elvaston last year so it was good to chat but all too soon it was time for me to leave. Back at the tent I parked up the van for the night, fed the dogs and as the daylight started to fade I took them for a walk round the top end of the field before settling in for the night. It was really too early to go to bed but as I wasn't interested in going back to the show ground for the evening entertainment there was nothing else to do. With no electric I had to read my book by torchlight but it wasn't long before the day caught up with me and, early or not, I was soon asleep.