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 April 30th 2016 - The great British weather and cancelled plans

After eight days of blue skies and gloriously warm spring sunshine, meaning I was able to take Sophie and Poppie for some lovely long countryside walks every day, the great British weather did a complete about turn last Sunday and the last few days have been a complete mixed bag of everything you could think of. Grey skies, wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, thunder and lightning, interspersed by a few very brief sunny moments, and compared to last week's temperatures it's been cold.

A few weeks ago my blogging friend Christine from http://a-fly-on-our-chicken-coop-wall.blogspot.com came up with a word to describe her weather in the USA at the time - 'unspring' - and that sums up this week's weather perfectly. The contrast in these two photos couldn't be greater - the first one was taken on Saturday a week ago while I was out with the dogs, the second taken early yesterday morning when I set out for work. Fortunately the snow soon disappeared but the rain came back and it was cold, wet and very unpleasant all day.

With this weekend being another bank holiday I'd previously booked to go back to Felin Uchaf where I stayed at Easter, in the hope that I could visit the places I didn't get to back then, but the weather forecast right through to early next week isn't good at all - more cloud, rain, hail and possible thunderstorms, with very little sunshine to be had.

The van is all packed and ready to go and under normal circumstances I would have been on the road by 8.30am today, but regrettably I took the decision yesterday to ring the camp site and cancel my booking. There's absolutely no point going if bad weather stops me from getting to the places I want to see, so this weekend I'm having a 'stay-cation' and keeping my fingers crossed that the weather will soon improve and I can get away for a two-night weekend in a couple of weeks instead - I live in hope!

Friday April 22nd 2016 - An unexpected surprise and a heart-stopping moment

For just over a week now my local area has been blessed with some really lovely spring weather; although the mornings have started off quite cool the sun has soon warmed things up and I've even been able to go out without a jacket. It's also been great dog walking weather so I've been taking Sophie and Poppie on some fairly long daily walks in various parts of the countryside not far from home, and which the three of us have enjoyed very much.

Today we went to Jumbles Country Park, just over two miles from home, and walked all the way round the reservoir; there are several little 'beaches' at various points around the water's edge and I went down onto one of these to snap a couple of photos. Sophie was being her usual wimpy self and after getting her paws wet she stayed well away from the water, but quite unexpectedly, and without any encouragement from me, Poppie waded in and actually started swimming. I've often wondered if she could or would swim, as other than playing in a stream while camping on Anglesey last year she has never shown any inclination to go in any water anywhere, so that was a nice surprise. Fortunately she was on an extended lead so she couldn't go out too far, and after swimming round in a wide semi-circle she came back onto dry land and we continued our walk.

It was when we got round to the far side of the reservoir that things went a bit pear-shaped. Poppie spotted several ducks swimming just off another little beach and before I could clip the lead back on she was off, straight into the water after the nearest one. The further it went to get away from her the further she swam after it and no matter how much I called her she completely ignored me - she was on a mission and she wanted that duck, but she was also heading for the far side of the reservoir and was already halfway across.

Luckily we were at the narrowest point but if she had reached the other side she wouldn't have been able to get out as the bank there is almost vertical, also I knew the water was still very deep and I had dreadful visions of the poor little thing drowning. The only thing I could do was walk back up onto the path in the hope that she would think I was leaving her and it seemed to do the trick; she abandoned the duck chase and swam back to the beach, where the lead was clipped back on in double quick time. And I don't think I've ever been so cross and so relieved both at the same time.

After that little escapade there was no more going down to the water's edge, we kept strictly to the path with Poppie firmly on the short lead all the way. It had been nice to discover earlier on that she can and will swim, but any future attempts will definitely be at the end of the long lead - I don't think I can survive any more heart-stopping moments like that one!

Tuesday March 29th 2016 - Sunshine, showers, and packing up

I woke that morning to - yes, you've guessed it - yet more rain; just what I didn't need when I had to pack up later and take the tent down. I wasn't in a rush though, and by the time I'd taken the dogs for a short walk and had breakfast the rain had stopped, the clouds were clearing and the sun was shining - great, the tent should be dry by the time I had to pack it away. My optimism was short-lived however as the sunshine didn't last long, the clouds came back and dumped a heavy rain shower on the camp site. And that's how it was all morning - short bursts of sunshine followed by heavy showers, meaning that packing all my gear into the van was done in fits and starts during the brief fine spells.

Now in the three years I've had that tent I've never yet had to pack it away while it's wet, so far I've always been lucky that way, but there's a first time for everything and it seemed like this was it. None of the sunny spells lasted long enough for it to dry out properly before I dismantled it, and even though I shook most of the rain off it was still quite damp when I finally bundled it up and stashed it in the van. And that wasn't a moment too soon either as the next rain shower hit just as I closed the van door.

It was 1pm when I finally left the site and as I had nothing to rush home for I decided to drive to the Rhug organic farm along the A5 just out of Corwen. There was a herd of wild bison in a field bordering the road and though I've passed them several times over the last few years I've never stopped to see them close up. Leaving the van in the farm car park I walked back along the road but unfortunately another rain shower hit just as I got to the field so I didn't linger, and the two shots I got were the last ones of the weekend.

Driving back along the A5 the rain lasted until I got onto the A539 at the far side of Llangollen, and the further away from the town I got the better the weather became. With the clouds finally cleared it was blue sky and sunshine all the way, making for a very pleasant drive, and with no hold-ups on the roads I was back home by 3.15pm. It was a pity that the long weekend had been blighted by rotten weather but I'll be going back to stay at Felin Uchaf again soon so hopefully then I'll get blue sky and sunshine for the whole weekend - I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Monday March 28th 2016 - Betws-y-Coed & Llyn Brenig

After waking briefly a couple of times during the night and hearing rain on the tent yet again I was quite surprised when I looked out just before 7am that morning and saw snow on the ground. It made a change from rain though, and when I took the dogs for their first walk of the day I was able to go right down the lane to the village and back without getting wet. Although it wasn't particularly cold just then the temperature must have dropped considerably overnight as when I took the milk out of the coolbox to make a brew I found it was frozen almost solid - and that was with the fan heater on low all night to take the chill off the tent.

The snow didn't linger for long though, it was very wet and slushy and by mid morning it had all melted away and the rain was back, though there was an occasional slight break in the clouds where the sun tried to come through. By lunch time the rain had changed to intermittent showers so I decided to chance going out, though not to where I'd originally planned, and opted to drive along the A5 to Betws-y-Coed.

Now I should have known better really - I went there for a reason four years ago and the place was a nightmare so I swore blind I would never go back again, and I was soon to wish I'd stuck to my previous decision. The village was absolutely heaving with tourists and trying to find a space in the main car park was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack; round and round I went, with not a cat in hell's chance of getting in anywhere - and then disaster struck. A motorhome pulled out from an offshoot on my left, leaving a decent-sized parking space for me to get into, but being a much larger vehicle than mine it didn't leave me much room to get round the corner and crunch! - I caught the side door of the van on a solid wooden stump sticking up about two-and-a-half feet from the ground. And to add insult to injury, by the time I'd inspected the damage - a huge 2ft long dent in the bottom of the door - a smaller car had nipped into the parking space I was aiming for. 

To say I wasn't a happy bunny was the understatement of the year but there was nothing I could do about it and as I still couldn't find a parking space I gave up with that car park and went in search of somewhere else. A smaller car park along the road was also full, as was another one across the river, so I decided to try down the lane at the far side of the station. There was a small car park there which was free and only supposed to be for customers of the railway shop and museum but there was a vacant space so I pulled into it - and to justify being there I went into the railway shop for a quick look round.

Leaving the dogs in the van, as it was far too busy with people and other dogs to take them with me, I went for a look round the shops - and confirmed my own previous opinion that this was a dreadful place. Drab grey stone buildings lined the road and every other shop was an 'outdoor' shop selling nothing but cycling, walking and hiking gear and outdoor clothing, with three or four pricey gift shops, a couple of galleries, several overpriced cafes and restaurants and a couple of not-exactly-cheap mini-markets thrown in. Even the Swallow Falls, which many people rave about, is a once-you've-seen-it-you-don't-need-to-go-again place, and I certainly wasn't going to pay just for the privilege of standing on a metal platform to photograph a waterfall. At least the sun eventually came out and I was able to take a few photos by the riverside, and the highlight of the day was finding another Mrs Brown's Boys dvd in a gift shop near the station.

Back at the van I didn't even bother letting the dogs out as there was nowhere decent nearby to take them so I decided to go check out Llyn Brenig and take them for a walk there. Betws-y-Coed may be an okay place for those who like walking and hiking and need to buy the relevant gear but I really don't understand why it's such a big attraction for everyone else - and as I drove back along the A5 I vowed that I would now stick to my decision of four years ago and never ever go back there again.

By the time I got to Llyn Brenig I was more than ready for a brew so it was nice to see that the visitor centre had a cafe. A large slice of coffee and walnut cake and a mug of latte coffee were soon demolished then Sophie and Poppie were finally let out of the van and we set off to explore. At the side of the lake I came across a large and very strange-looking wooden sculpture which presumably was supposed to be an otter; seen from the back it looked rather odd and viewed from the front it appeared to have quite a grumpy look on its face but I took a photo of it anyway then set off towards the dam at the end of the lake.

The bottom end of the lake turned out to be wider than it looked from near the visitor centre and it took a while to walk across the dam so when I reached the far end I turned and retraced my steps. I could have gone further round the lake but the clouds were gathering again and I didn't want to risk getting rained on; the dogs had had a reasonable walk so it was time to return to the van and head back to the camp site.

Later that evening I watched the dvd I'd bought and found it to be almost as funny as the one I'd watched the night before - and with my immediate camping neighbours having left the site while I'd been out I didn't have to worry about my constant gales of laughter disturbing anyone.  When the dvd finished I took the dogs for a final brief walk to the end of the site and back, tidied the tent and made myself a mug of hot chocolate, then settled down in bed for my last night on site.

Sunday March 27th 2016 - Fairbourne, Barmouth & Penmaenpool

For the second morning I woke up to rain, though the wind had dropped considerably from what it had been the previous night. By mid morning the rain was showing signs of stopping and there was even a few patches of blue appearing in the sky; not wanting to be stuck in the tent for a second day I decided to chance it and go out. I needed to find an RBS bank and as I hadn't seen one in either Corwen or Llangollen I thought there might be one in Barmouth, also I wanted to walk part of the Barmouth Heritage Trail - and maybe the weather would be better on the coast.

Driving down the A494 south of Bala the sun finally came out and changed the surrounding scenery from drab to lovely but unfortunately it didn't last long and I ran into more on/off showery rain. Instead of going straight down to Barmouth when I got to the A470 I turned off onto the A493 and headed for Fairbourne on the other side of the Mawddach estuary; I'd been told it was nice there so in my quest for more photos I thought it would be worth taking a look. The A road was so narrow and winding though that it should have been classed as a B road and it seemed to take forever to get to Fairbourne - and what I found when I got there didn't impress me at all.

The road crossed the main railway line and ran parallel to the shore, with a high bank topped by a concrete sea wall on one side and a few bungalows, a small amusement arcade and a cafe on the other, and it finally ended in a rough-surfaced car park on a spit of land right by the estuary. It seemed to have been a long drive for a whole lot of nothing, and when I got out of the van it hit me - a wind so fierce and so bitterly cold it almost knocked me off my feet and took my breath away. So much for thinking the weather may be better on the coast! No way could I walk the dogs in that, it was far too unpleasant, so I just snapped a long distance shot of Barmouth across one side of the estuary and the hills around Cader Idris on the other side then got back in the van and headed back towards the main road.

By using the toll bridge across the upper reaches of the estuary the drive round to Barmouth didn't take too long and I had no problem finding a space in the main promenade car park when I got there - the bad weather must have kept a lot of (probably more sensible) people away. After a quick run round the perimeter with the dogs I left them back in the van and went up to the main street in search of an RBS bank; unfortunately I didn't find one but what I did find was a camping shop, and a quick look round got me a much-needed pack of gas canisters for my camping stove. After a quick coffee in Goodies tea rooms I returned to the van, and giving up all hope of the weather getting better - it was raining yet again - I set off on the drive back to the camp site.

I used the toll bridge again to get back across the estuary then as the rain seemed to have stopped for a while I parked up and went for a wander with the camera - I was determined I would get some shots while I was out. An information board in the car park told me that this little place was Penmaenpool, something I hadn't known when I stopped there last year, though the grey clouds were in complete contrast to the blue sky and sunshine I'd experienced back then. 

Walking to the end of the lane I got half a dozen shots then set off back to the van. It was drizzling with rain again by then but the sun was at long last pushing through a break in the clouds, and as I got nearer to the bridge it appeared from nowhere - a perfect rainbow, low down and spanning the river just the other side of the bridge. Definitely a photo not to be missed, and I'd just taken the shot when it disappeared again almost a quickly as it had arrived.

Before I got back in the van I decided to take a couple of shots from the bridge itself but that idea was soon scuppered. I'd only walked a couple of yards past the toll booth when the woman in charge came out and told me it would be 20p to walk across. What?? I'd just paid 70p to drive across from the other side, no way was I going to pay another 20p just to walk a few yards back to get a photo, so I gave up and instead walked part way along the riverbank near the car park. That gained me another couple of photos and I returned to the van fairly happy with the shots I'd got. 

The sun finally managed to break through the clouds properly and big patches of blue sky appeared, making the drive back to Felin Uchaf very enjoyable and the late afternoon and early evening very pleasant. With the absence of the rain the pre-bedtime dog walk, although short, was taken at a leisurely pace, then I snuggled down in bed to watch another dvd - Mrs Brown's Boys this time, the most recent one which my son got me for Christmas, and I laughed so much that my ribs were sore by the end of it. And when I finally settled down to sleep it was with fingers metaphorically crossed that the following day's weather would prove to be much nicer than the last couple of days.