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.
- 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