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

Saturday Dec. 24th 2016 - Merry Christmas everyone

To all my blogging friends wherever you are - have a really lovely Christmas, I hope it's a good one for everyone.

Thursday October 20th 2016 - Return from Roscrea

I woke very early that morning with the onset of the traffic noise past the house; there was no point trying to go back to sleep again so I lay reading until it was time to get up at 7.30. And that's when I got confused again - nothing had been said the previous night about where Michael would be sleeping and I didn't know how many bedrooms were in Paul's house so I'd assumed that he would be on the settee in the living room but when I went to wake him up there was no sign of him or that he'd even been there. Hearing noises in the kitchen I went to find Paul and asked him where Michael was - he assumed that I'd known where Michael was sleeping and thought I meant he'd gone out and I was asking where he'd gone, so we were talking at cross-purposes until he realised what I actually meant and told me that Michael was in a small bedroom off the back corridor.

I was just getting my things together when Paul brought me a mug of tea; after the four I'd had the previous evening I felt like I was swimming in the stuff and really didn't want another one but I drank it anyway, though I did tactfully ask Paul if no-one ever drank coffee. He must have had a quiet word with Nellie when we went back across the street for breakfast as she did actually bring me a mug of coffee this time, and very good it was too. With breakfast over, and a final couple of photos of Trixie, we said a very emotional goodbye to Michael's dad and set out to get the coach back to the airport.

We were just going out of the house when Paul shouted to a neighbour who was just leaving hers and asked if she was going 'up the town' - she said she was, so he asked her to give us a lift up the road to the bus stop and he waited with us until the coach came. Across the road was Roscrea castle but I hadn't time to go and look through the gates so I just got a shot of part of it from where I was - and regrettably that was the only photo I got of any part of Roscrea.

The coach arrived on time (the express this time), we said goodbye to Paul then got ourselves settled for the two-hour journey back to Dublin. The route was the reverse of the day before but without all the deviations, and in the morning sunshine it was a very pleasant journey. Going through the city centre on the opposite side of the river from the previous day was just as interesting - modern buildings mixed in with the old ones, the flowery frontage of Abbey Court, which I later learned is a hostel with a very wacky interior, the O'Connell Monument, the Convention Centre with its huge tilted glass front, and three creepy-looking bear statues outside the O2 theatre. It certainly looked like there were many photo opportunities and I would have loved to spend a few days exploring properly.

Going through security at the airport was slightly disconcerting; Michael went through okay but I set the bleeper off as I walked through the body scanner - I couldn't understand that as I'd gone through the one at Manchester with no problem. I had absolutely nothing in my pockets so my hands were scanned then I was allowed through, so I can only think that it must have been my rings which set it off. This time there were no delays to our flight so it took off on time, and with our friend already waiting at Manchester when we landed we were soon back home.

Thinking back over those two days they were very much a roller coaster, both emotionally and physically, and I certainly didn't have time to appreciate my surroundings, but you never know - with some forward planning I could possibly be giving Anglesey a miss next summer and camping in Ireland instead.

Wednesday October 19th - Part 2 - A weird and confusing evening

Walking from the bus stop to the family home gave me a distinct feeling of deja vu - I'd never been to Roscrea before but I knew the name of the road where the coach dropped us off, I knew exactly how to get from there to the house and I even knew what the house looked like. I think Michael realised how I knew but his dad didn't - it was all thanks to Google Maps streetview, I'd been exploring the town on my pc a couple of weeks earlier just to get an idea of what it was like.

At the house were were greeted by Nellie and Jimmy and Trixie, their adorable little Jack Russell, and told to make ourselves at home. I'd no sooner sat down than a mug of tea appeared beside me then Jimmy asked if I was cold - I wasn't, but he put some more wood on the fire anyway. A while later Nellie brought us a cooked meal and a second mug of tea appeared, then Jimmy asked if I wanted a drink of whiskey (no thanks, I don't drink). A third mug of tea arrived soon afterwards, and though I don't normally have tea unless I've made it myself (I only like a certain amount of milk in it) I managed to drink it, thinking that any more in quick succession and my bladder would burst.

Nellie had put the tv on for us but it was hopeless trying to watch anything properly as Jimmy had the remote control and was constantly changing channels, so I played with Trixie for a while. Then the door opened and a dark-haired woman popped her head in and said 'hello' - Nellie just had time to say 'This is Alice' before the head disappeared again. According to Michael Alice lived next door and was very nice. Soon after that another head appeared in the doorway - a man this time, who introduced himself as Paul then disappeared again. Nellie said later that I would be sleeping in his house, which I thought then was very strange - I've never met this guy before and I'm sleeping in his house?? Fortunately Michael knew who he was and said he was an okay guy. 

A third head appeared a while later, introduced itself as Gordon, then disappeared again - apparently he lived two doors away. And every so often Jimmy would ask 'Are you cold?' (No, Jimmy, I'm fine) 'Do you want some whiskey?' (No Jimmy, I've told you I don't drink) 'Are you too hot?' (No, I'm just fine thanks), and every few minutes the tv would change channels - I felt like I'd fallen down Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole and landed in a strange world full of mad people and weird happenings, and it wouldn't have surprised me if the dog had started talking.

Michael's dad took himself off to bed about 9pm and Nellie explained that they only had two bedrooms, which was why I would be sleeping across the road at Paul's house - fortunately Michael was coming too so I wasn't being totally abandoned. Paul appeared again a while later and after yet another mug of tea he took us both across the road for the night. By this time my brain was totally confused and bewildered and the long day had caught up with me so I was almost asleep on my feet - I needed a bed, so Paul showed me to my room and I left him and Michael watching tv.

As tired as I was though, I couldn't get to sleep straight away as there was the constant noise of traffic going up and down the road outside so I lay reading for a while. My room was downstairs next to the main living room so as well as the traffic noise outside I could hear the tv, but eventually it was turned off, the house went quiet and in spite of the traffic outside exhaustion finally overtook me and I drifted off to sleep.

Wednesday October 19th 2016 - Part 1 - From England to Ireland

Okay, so this has nothing whatsoever to do with camping, but after my brief account on my other blog of my recent quick trip to Ireland and the reason for going, which can be found here and here, I thought I would take a more light-hearted look at the events of the two days and post the few photos I managed to get during that time.

My son Michael and I left home at 8.30am and took the 20-minute walk over to his dad's place; the friend who was taking us to the airport was already there and his dad was in the car and ready to go so we were able to set off straight away. It took a while to get through the morning rush hour traffic on the motorway but we were still at the airport before ten o'clock so we had loads of time before our noon flight. I'd already checked us in on line and printed out our boarding passes a few days before, so with only hand luggage we were able to go straight through security and get ourselves settled in the cafe/bar/lounge area.

It was while we were sitting having a coffee that I looked up and saw a large sign which amused me enough to take a photo of it. Although I've Googled it now and found the answer I wasn't sure then exactly what an 'escape lounge' was, but as we were on the 'wrong' side of the security barriers and couldn't go back it did make me wonder if that was a way for people to get out of the building without being seen if they wanted to chicken out of flying. 

It was a while afterwards when I began to wish that I could escape; frequent checks on the nearby screen for the gate number for our flight told us nothing except 'gate opens in 5 minutes' and after half an hour of seeing the same message I was beginning to get fed up. The time was fast approaching when, according to my boarding pass, the gate would close but it hadn't even opened yet - this was turning into a flippin' long five minutes.

I'd just returned from checking the screen yet again when I realised Michael had gone missing; it would be just my luck that the gate number would come up while he was gone and we would be late boarding, but he came back eventually - he'd gone in search of the toilets, which were quite a distance from where we were. Then not long afterwards his dad went missing while my back was turned; I found him a few minutes later slumped in the corner of a seat having a quick snooze. Honestly, I felt like I should have put reins on the pair of them to stop them both from wandering off!

Eventually, after several announcements apologizing for the delay, and an hour after our flight should have taken off, we finally got the gate number which fortunately was just round the corner from the cafe area where we were. The plane finally took off at 1.30pm and I was able to sit back and relax for a while, though as I'd bagged the window seat I occupied myself by filming the take-off and the first few minutes of the flight. We soon left the English coast behind and in no time at all we were approaching Dublin close to the estuary of the River Liffey - the view looked lovely in the sunshine and was an opportunity not to be missed so I shot another few minutes of video then took a few stills as we approached the airport.

With no luggage to collect once we'd landed it didn't take us long to get out of the airport building but the delayed flight meant that we'd missed the Bus Eireann express coach which would have got us to Roscrea at a reasonable time. The next one was a Kavanagh's coach at 3.15pm so we had nearly an hour to wait, but the coach was already parked at the bus stop and the very nice driver let us get on straight away so at least we could wait in comfort. 

When we did finally set off it took an absolute age to get through Dublin city itself and out through the other side but it was interesting seeing all the different buildings and monuments and all the bridges over the Liffey. At one point we were stuck in traffic for several minutes so I managed to get a shot through the coach window of the impressive-looking Custom House across the river.

Finally leaving the city behind the journey took us through some lovely countryside, though we did deviate from the main route a few times to drop off and pick up other passengers. One of the places we stopped at was Kildare Village which was actually a shopping outlet on the outskirts of Kildare town itself; with its modern low-rise buildings, pedestrian precincts and well-spaced trees and shrubs it looked really attractive, though we didn't stop long enough for me to get any photos. 

Not far from the shopping village was a roundabout with four modern 'sculptures' of galloping horses and as we went back to the main M7 I managed to snatch a photo of them. It seemed strange having them there and I couldn't see the significance, but I found out later that The Curragh racecourse and the Irish National Stud weren't far away so that's where the connection lies. The horses are made from bog oak and represent the different stages of a horse's gallop, with the title of the theme being 'Ghost Horses from the Bog', and the roundabout itself has been 'landscaped' with a wildflower seed mixture to compliment the sculptures.

Eventually, after a journey of three hours, we finally arrived in Roscrea, and though I'd found it quite interesting going through countryside and small towns I'd never seen before the long day of travelling had taken its toll by then and I was feeling more than a little weary. Fortunately the family home was only a few minutes walk from the bus stop so it wouldn't be long before I could finally relax - well that's what I thought, but it wasn't long before I was beginning to feel like I'd landed in a strange world where different people popped in through doors, said 'hello' and disappeared again, however I'll save that part for the next post.

Sunday October 9th 2016 - I've started a new blog

I recently decided that to keep myself occupied during the winter non-camping months I would write another blog and I started it a couple of days ago. It has nothing at all to do with camping, it's a totally different subject and format, touching on my life in general and the various things which happen in it, so it's completely separate to this blog. That doesn't mean I'll be ignoring this one though, I still have posts and photos in mind to keep it ticking over while I'm not on my camping travels.

I've just written my 'about me' page and the first post on the new blog - you can find them here at https://mousehouselife.wordpress.com/ Admittedly it's been a bit of a struggle getting my head round a completely different system with a different blog hosting site and I've had to edit, delete and rewrite things several times but it's getting there slowly. It's not a daily diary or a journal and I'll only be writing about things which I think are worth mentioning, but hopefully what I do write will be worth reading. As always I welcome any comments, so do hop over there for a read and let me know what you think.

Tuesday September 20th 2016 - Going home day

Another lovely morning arrived and with it came the unwanted task of packing up to go home. It was 10am before I started tidying the tent and transferring things into the van but I wasn't in too much of a rush so it was almost noon by the time I was ready for taking the tent down. The thick footprint groundsheet had done a good job of protecting the underside from the previous Friday's rain and wet ground but when I came to move the groundsheet itself I was surprised to find a lovely crop of white mushrooms growing underneath it, although they were rather flat from having been constantly walked on. Now I know mushrooms grow in warm, damp and dark conditions but that's the first time I've ever had any growing underneath my tent.

It had been hot thirsty work packing everything away so I chilled out for a while with a can of Coke then took the dogs for a final walk along the cliff top and the beach. Even in the middle of the day there were very few people around and I almost had the long stretch of beach to myself - and it doesn't matter how many times I walk along there I never get tired of the view or the beach itself.

Those were to be my last photos of the holiday and I left my pitch for the final time at 1pm. As I drove slowly along the access road through the site I saw a lady walking towards me with a greyhound on a lead, and just ahead of me, close to a static caravan, was a small rabbit obliviously sitting picking at the grass. The lady had her hand on the dog's collar to stop it from pulling forwards so I stopped the van and got out to chase the rabbit away - I didn't want to witness a bloodbath. 

The rabbit barely moved however and when I looked closely I could tell from the swollen half-closed eyes and the lesions on its head that the poor little thing had myxomatosis; if it had been perfectly well I wouldn't have got anywhere near it before it scarpered. Luckily it saw finally saw me and hopped off underneath the caravan out of reach of the dog, and after a brief word with the lady I got back in the van. 

I felt so sorry for the little rabbit; I knew it would die a slow and probably painful death so if I could have caught it I would have brought it home and taken it to the vet to be dealt with humanely, but being right underneath the caravan it was completely out of my reach so sadly I had to leave it behind. As I got near to the site entrance I noticed that the cat had gone from up the nearby tree so presumably it had finally climbed down on its own and gone back to where it came from. Driving down the lane from the site I was happy that it wasn't actually stuck up there but I still felt sad for the rabbit. 

As I left California behind I resisted the temptation to go to Latham's for a final coffee and cake and decided to wait until I reached the Cheerio Cafe and have a proper meal instead. It was just gone 3.30pm when I got there and I must have been their last customer of the day as they closed up while I was in there. With a good plateful of steak and kidney pie and mash and a coffee to fortify me I was on my way again soon after 4pm, and with no delays en route I was back home at 7pm just as the daylight was fading - and as I took what I needed out of the van I was already thinking ahead to next year's Norfolk holiday.

Monday September 19th - Part 2 - Horsey beach & staithe, and free chips

Three and a half miles down the coast from Sea Palling was Horsey with its mill at the end of the attractive staithe; the car park there is owned by the NT so I was able to park for free while I went down to the beach to see the seals. From the car park it's a mile walk across fields and down a long path to the beach but it's a very pleasant walk, and with the sunshine and the peace and quiet I could have been in the middle of nowhere. 

Sophie was running happily ahead of me off the lead until she disappeared and SPLOSH! she'd fallen into a ditch which was invisible under the tall grasses and reeds at the side of the path - and the little dog which went in white came out a lovely shade of pale grey. She soon went back to being white again once she had dried out but from then on she was back on the lead - if she fell in again and couldn't get out we would be in big trouble.

Once we got to the beach I didn't have to go far to find the seals; usually they are four or five breakwaters down from the Gap but this time they were between the first and second breakwater, with a smaller group between the second and third. I got as close as I could without spooking them then sat down on the sand and gradually inched a bit closer, though I stayed just far enough away so as not to pose a threat to them, and sat quietly for a while just watching them. There were several young ones among them but they were mainly adults and other than swimming in the sea they did nothing except lie on the sand like big fat blobs, but I did get several good shots of them.

Back at the staithe I had a wander round and took some shots of the boats moored up there; the mill at the end is a very popular subject for photos, especially on a nice day, but it didn't look very pretty just then as it's currently undergoing restoration and had scaffolding all round it. It's nice to see what some of my NT membership is used for anyway. Outside the refreshment kiosk were a couple of wooden benches and though I couldn't see the significance of it the writing on the back of one of them made me smile; although when I'm out I actually drink coffee I seem to do nothing but eat cake so I thought it was quite appropriate and I just had to take a photo of it.

My final stop was another visit to my friends Eileen and Ron, and during the conversation I mentioned the dreadful noise coming from under the back of the van so Ron said he would have a look to see if he could find what was causing it. He was only gone a couple of minutes when he came back in, and the conversation went like this -

Ron - "Does your engine sound noisier than usual?"
Me - "No, not that I've noticed, why?"
Ron - "Well it should do - your exhaust is knackered. It's completely broken in the middle and the end is swinging about, that's what's causing the grating noise"
Me - "Oh, sh*t!"

Well at four o'clock in the afternoon I hadn't a cat in hell's chance of finding somewhere to take it to get it sorted out, and I wouldn't know where to look anyway other than down in Yarmouth - at this rate I could see myself calling the AA the following day and going home via one of their breakdown trucks. However Ron said he would see what he could do with it and while I stayed chatting to Eileen he disappeared back outside. 

An hour later he was back saying he'd fixed it - he couldn't weld it but he'd got a piece of copper pipe the right diameter and pushed each end into each broken end of the exhaust and plastered the whole lot with P38 paste to seal it, then as an extra precaution he'd fastened it to the frame of the spare wheel carrier with a length of wire. He said he didn't know how long it would last like that but at least it would get me home, and I finally said my goodbyes for this year feeling much less anxious than I had earlier on.

Driving back towards California I went with caution at first but once I realised that nothing else untoward was going to happen to the van I picked up my normal speed and soon arrived back at the site. As I turned in at the entrance I noticed the cat was still up in the tree - either it really liked it up there or it was too frightened to come down so I decided that if it was still there the following morning I would mention it to the site owner. The aroma of fish and chips was wafting over the camping field from the chippy at the end of the lane and as I'd had nothing since breakfast other than a couple of mugs of coffee with Eileen I decided to treat myself to something. I rarely eat chips so I ordered fish and peas which would go well with lots of bread and butter; I had to wait for it being cooked and when I got it it came wrapped in a parcel which seemed to be far bulkier than I expected. 

Back at the tent I was surprised to find that the reason for the bulk was a huge portion chips which I hadn't ordered - thinking I may have been charged for them I checked my change but it was right - I hadn't been charged, so they must have been included by mistake. It would be a shame to waste them though so I ate about half of them, and although it's not really the best thing to do food-wise I gave the rest to the dogs.

Thinking back over my day I didn't know why the exhaust should suddenly break like it did - probably just normal wear and tear on a weak spot and it chose that particular moment to finally give up the ghost but it hadn't really spoiled my day, and when I went to bed later on I gave silent thanks and a prayer for knowing someone who, without asking for or expecting any reward, was able to sort out what could have been a huge problem. I know he won't be reading this but Ron - you're a star!

Monday September 19th 2016 - Part 1 - Sutton Mill & Sea Palling

A bright start to the early morning brought the promise of a nice day and by 9am there was sunshine and a blue sky streaked with bits of white cloud; I just hoped it would stay nice so I could get to the places I wanted to go to. It was 11am before I went out and as I drove through the site I spotted something which made me stop and go back a little way. 

There was something up in the tree close to the entrance; it could have been a black bin bag, blown there in the weekend's wind, but when I looked I saw a large cat perched between the branches. I spent several minutes talking to it to try and entice it down but although it shifted its position it didn't seem to want to leave its perch, so not being sure if it was actually stuck or just sitting up there for the fun of it I left it where it was and got back in the van.

My first port of call was a brief stop at Ormesby Broad, down a lane off the main road through Ormesby village. I'd only been there once before and there was nothing there only a closed-up pub, the Eel's Foot Inn, and a boring stretch of water, but having recently seen a sign pointing down the lane to The Boathouse I decided to take another look. The old Eel's Foot Inn had undergone a drastic make-over and was now a smart modern-looking B&B, restaurant and wedding venue with a large decked terrace and summerhouse overlooking the water and tables set out on the grass. It looked a whole lot nicer than when I'd previously been down there but with no boats anywhere the water still looked boring.

The next place on my list was Sutton, a fifteen minute drive up the A149. Last year I'd been searching for an old windmill but hadn't managed to find it, so now after a good long study of the map book I was making another attempt - and this time I was successful. Driving through the village and out again I rounded a bend and saw it not too far away across a field, and a nearby lane, significantly called Mill Lane, took me straight to it, although it was set in the grounds of a private house and partially surrounded by tall trees. 

Just off the lane was a section of the Weaver's Way public footpath and an open gate with a notice on it 'No access to the mill', which I interpreted as 'come down here and you'll find the mill' - so I did, and only fifty yards away there it was, all nine derelict storeys of it. It was set back off the path and the land had been closed off by large sections of steel fencing though a couple of these had been pushed over so it was perfectly possible to walk right up to the old building, but I didn't. The land was overgrown with brambles and there was discarded rubble and timber all over the place, also I never 'trespass' anywhere unless I'm reasonably sure I can't be seen doing it and there was a house overlooking the path. I had an excellent view of the mill from the path anyway so I got the shots I wanted and returned to the van happy that I'd finally found what I'd been looking for. 

From Sutton I drove the short distance to Hickling and paid my usual annual visit to FAITH animal sanctuary then headed over to Sea Palling on the coast, but as I drove round the lanes a 'clunking' noise started towards the back of the van and every time I went round a bend it seemed like there was something rubbing on the wheel arch. Thinking I may have run over a tree branch which had got stuck I got out and had a quick look under the back but I couldn't see anything; whatever it was I wasn't going to let it worry me though so I carried on to Sea Palling, found a space in the car park and took the dogs for a walk along the beach.

Sea Palling beach is vast, and with most beach lovers settled around the Gap area I saw very few people anywhere else and I walked for quite a distance before retracing my steps back to the van and heading for my next stop. As I drove along the clunking and grating noise coming from under the van got worse and I did start to get a teeny little bit worried, but if there was any chance of it breaking down then it could do it at the end of my day out, not before.

Sunday September 18th 2016 - Visiting day

When I woke that morning I lay for a few minutes listening to.....nothing but the sound of the sea. The wind had eventually died down a bit the previous evening though it was still blowing when I went to bed but now there was nothing, and when I took the dogs for their first walk there was hardly a breeze - calm had finally been restored. A large area of very dark grey cloud was hanging around just offshore and somewhere on the horizon the sun was struggling to come through but not quite making it. The combination of the two turned the sky a really strange pale orange colour, and the wind turbines at Scroby Sands, just over a mile and a half out to sea, stood out quite well against the orange sky. 

The sun never really did appear properly, and when I went out just before mid day the sky was quite overcast though it was still very warm. My first port of call was Asda to top up the van with diesel then it was on to Redwings to visit Cauli, my adopted pony. She was in the first paddock near the cafe, busily grazing right over at the far side, and no matter how much I called she wouldn't come over to me so I had to be happy with a couple of snaps of her from a distance.

From Redwings I drove on to Bungay and from there to Harleston to see family friend Ady, then it was back to Bungay to see his mum Jane and finally a visit to his brother Andy and his wife Sue. After spending quite a while chatting on each of the three visits it was just after 7pm when I finally set off to drive the twenty six miles back to California. The daylight was fading rapidly and by the time I got back to the camp site almost an hour later it was completely dark; at least with the new solar lights outside the tent, I could reverse the van alongside it without running into any guy lines. 

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing for a while with my book then planning where to go the following day. Even though it had been cloudy and grey over the last couple of days it was still very warm so I really hoped that the weather would be kind and serve up some sunshine for what would be the last full day of the holiday

Saturday September 17th 2016 - Winterton church tower

I woke later than usual that morning after having a very fitful night's sleep; the noise of the tent being continually battered by the strong wind had completely shattered the normal peace and quiet, and if I'd looked at the time once during the night I must have looked at it a dozen times. The incessant rain had finally stopped about 4am and it was a fine but cloudy morning, though there was a hint of blue sky appearing over the sea.

The dogs, as usual, were eager to go out for their first walk through the heath and along the beach but there was one slight problem - when we got to the beach we found there wasn't one. Where there would normally be several yards of sand between the sea defences and the high water mark the wind had whipped the sea into a raging foaming mass of water which surged across the beach and right up to the sea defences, so unless we went back through the heath the only other route was the narrow path between the boulders and the base of the cliff. The sea was also rushing part of the way up the steps leading back to the camp site, I'd never seen it so far up before so this was a photo opportunity not to be missed.

By 11am I'd had enough of being in the tent. The constant loud noise of it being blown by the wind was something akin to the Chinese water torture and it was really getting on my nerves so I decided to take myself off out. I would have been going out anyway, to climb Winterton church tower, but it wasn't open until 2pm so it meant I had some time to kill but it was also an excuse - as if I needed one - to go to Latham's for a good mooch round and to treat myself to coffee and a Belgian cream bun.

I got to Winterton church just before 2pm and though I expected there would be quite a few people wanting to do the climb there was only one other couple. The whole thing was overseen by two of the church ladies; the older one, who must have been at least eighty years old, stayed on the ground floor and took the money while the one in her sixties went up the tower, but before she went up she left a mobile phone with the older lady. And that's when she said the funniest thing I've heard in a while. 

Scrolling through the numbers she was telling the older lady the names of people who she could ring if necessary - "That one's Alan, that's Bill, Jack's number's in there, oh, you don't want Phil, he's dead"....... Now I know being dead isn't a laughing matter, especially for the person who's deceased, but the matter-of-fact way in which she said it just struck me as funny, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't keep a straight face and just broke into a fit of giggles. I did apologise for laughing but she set me off again with her next comment - "Well, you don't always remember to delete them do you?" 

With my money for the climb handed over - suggested donation £3 - and my name and signature in the book, presumably as a means of identification if I should fall off the top or down the stairs, and also to absolve them of any blame if I did, I started the climb. The tower was 132ft high with 147 steps; they must have been the steepest and narrowest tower steps I've ever climbed and were certainly a good test of heart and lung capacity. About halfway up a doorway and a steep ladder led down into the bell chamber where its six bells were all tied up with tape; I was told they hadn't been rung for some years as the bell frame above was too badly damaged.

Finally up on the roof I was rewarded with far reaching views across the countryside and coast - or I would have been if the day hadn't been so cloudy and hazy, but it was still worth taking a few shots. The church lady who had gone up ahead of me was a lovely person to talk to and she told me lots of previously unknown-to-me facts about the church, the village and the area in general. I wouldn't normally have stayed up there too long as it was still very windy but she was such an interesting person to talk to that I stayed for the whole of the two hours. While we'd been chatting the cloud  had begun to clear out to sea and blue sky was appearing but it didn't last long and the grey cloud was soon back. 

If I'd thought that going up the stairs was an effort then going back down was a very hairy experience. Because some of the steps were very deep and uneven I'd been advised to go down backwards so I could feel my way with my feet; with nothing on one side of the stairs to stop me from falling into oblivion and no way of seeing where I was going I clung onto the rail on the other side with both hands and slowly, one step at a time, made my way back down to the bottom, with the church lady following a few steps above me.

Back at ground level I thanked both the ladies, left a comment in the guest book near the door and returned to the van. There was no point taking the dogs for a walk round Winterton as I was only a few minutes drive from the camp site so I went straight back there and took them for a walk round the nearby private lanes instead. Thinking back to the church tower climb it was certainly the most difficult one I've done so far but in spite of it being such a hairy experience I'll definitely do it again on hopefully a much clearer day - so roll on next year!