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!
- 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