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 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!

Friday September 16th 2016 - A drastic change in the weather

I woke that morning to find that the sun had gone awol and had been replaced by a very cloudy grey sky. I didn't mind too much though as I needed to get some supplies from Asda in Yarmouth so I could have a shopping day instead of going out exploring. I didn't go out until mid morning and it was still fine then but while I was walking round the shops in Yarmouth's main street a fine drizzly rain started. I'd parked the van a ten minute walk away at  Asda and by the time I got back there I was just ever so slightly damp, but that was nothing compared to later on.

Leaving Sophie and Poppie back in the van I went into Asda to get my shopping and by the time I came out again it was raining quite hard. It looked like I definitely wouldn't be going anywhere else just then even if I wanted to so I just drove straight back to the camp site - and that's when I got a totally unexpected and unwanted surprise. When I went out I'd left the tent sitting on ground which was so dry and hard that I'd had difficulty knocking the tent pegs in when I set up camp, but now it was sitting in the middle of a small swimming pool a couple of inches deep and there were pools in several places around the field.

I knew the water wouldn't actually get into the tent as it's fully sealed with an integrated groundsheet and a high mud wall, plus there was a footprint groundsheet underneath it, but if the dogs and I had to splash through the pool get in it was inevitable that some of it would be transferred from outside via our feet. I didn't want a wet mess in the tent so I needed a solution, and quick. 

As I'd just driven through the static caravan section of the site I noticed that one of the caravans at the end of the path near my tent had been taken off its pitch and there were lots of small flags left; it took me four journeys to get what I needed but within fifteen minutes I'd laid a nice little flagged path across the pool of water to the tent door. By the time I'd finished I was literally soaked through to the skin so as I couldn't get any wetter I got the camera and snapped a photo of the tent sitting in its pool of water, then I got my wellies out of the van in case I needed them later and the three of us went inside to get dried off.

An hour or so later I looked out of the tent door and was surprised to see that all the standing water had completely disappeared; the hard dry ground had eventually soaked it all up and my flagged path wasn't really needed but I left it where it was just in case - you never know when a flagged path might come in handy!

It was late afternoon when the wind arrived and as time went on it got so strong that I clipped the storm straps in place in the tent to stabilise it; it was pegged down very securely but I wasn't taking any chances. Although the rain eased off a bit it never really stopped and it was still at it when I took the dogs for their very brief bedtime walk - and when I snuggled down in bed a while later it was to the sound of the tent being severely battered by the wind.

Thursday September 15th 2016 - Southwold & Walberswick - Part 3

At the far end of the lower promenade I took the sandy path behind the last row of beach huts and cut across the dunes to the road which took me back to the harbour, and instead of taking the ferry back across the river I decided to walk all the way round. There was a cafe halfway along the harbourside and I was in need of a drink by then, so hitching the dogs to an outside table I went inside to order coffee and cake; I was just lucky too as the place was within minutes of closing.

At the top end of the harbour, and almost out of 'civilisation', was an attractive row of cottages set back from the riverside and with their own shingle driveway running in front; beyond those there was nothing but fields and marshes. The boat moorings ended by the bridge; there was no-one else around just then and as I crossed over I was struck by how quiet it was compared to further down river where the busy boat sheds were. With several photos taken as I walked along the Walberswick side of the river I finally got back to the van almost five hours after I left it, and after giving the dogs a drink I set off on my drive back to the camp site.

I couldn't finish my day though without stopping to take a few shots of St. Andrews Church on the road through the village. Built into the ruins of a much older chapel I've always found it quite a fascinating place and worth taking a few minutes to explore the grounds. By that time the sun had lost some of its afternoon brightness and was taking on an early evening glow; most of the church itself was in shadow but I still got several shots of the older ruins, and a final shot of the interior finished off the day nicely.

For some reason I seemed to get back to the camp site quicker than I'd got from there to Walberswick, and with the van parked back by the side of the tent the three of us settled in for the evening. It had been a lovely day and I'd got some good photos of some lovely views but after all that walking and wandering it was nice just to relax and do nothing until the last short dog walk before bedtime.

Thursday September 15th 2016 - Southwold & Walberswick Part 2 - Southwold Pier

The first thing I saw when I walked onto the pier was a sign on the back wall of the amusement arcade telling me how far it was to the end. The distance wasn't measured in feet, yards or metres as you would expect but in planks - I don't know how wide a plank is but I wasn't even going to start calculating that one.

Next was a notice with an arrow saying "This way to the home made under-the-pier show" but it was pointing along the pier itself - was whatever it was actually under the pier or was it further along? All was revealed when I got halfway along - housed in one of the single storey wooden buildings was a collection of some of the wackiest machines I've ever seen. I didn't know if they actually worked, and at £1 a time I wasn't going to try in case they didn't, but they certainly made me smile.


Next came something which, although still wacky, was actually useful. In the centre of the pier was a working clock made out of various bits of scrap copper; a nearby notice said it operated on the hour and half hour so I decided to wait to see what it did. Although water had been running down it constantly, when the half hour arrived it suddenly came to life; flowers appeared in the trough at the bottom, water filled the bathtub at the top which then overflowed to water the garden below, and the shorts on the two figures dropped down so they could both take a very long pee. It was one of the most unusual things I've seen for a while and was certainly very amusing.

When I finally got to the end of the pier I found one of those big brightly coloured cut-out picture things you can put your own face in; there was no way I was going to take a photo of myself with my face stuck in it but I still took a shot of it just to prove I'd walked the stated 940 planks along the pier from beginning to end.

The only other people at the end of the pier just then were a couple of guys who were fishing so I stayed for a few minutes to enjoy the relative peace and quiet with just the sound of the sea below me, then I made my way back to the beginning of the pier and set off back along the promenade on my return walk to Walberswick.