About Me

My photo
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

Wenesday September 14th - Part 2 - East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens

The second place to visit that day was East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens; I'd been told about them by a gardener I'd got chatting to at Blickling Hall when I visited there last year but I didn't get the opportunity to go then. I'd mentioned it to Jean the previous evening and she said she'd been to the gardens a couple of times and though they weren't very big they were certainly worth a look.

A short private driveway off a narrow lane took me to a tree-shaded car park and the garden entrance; unfortunately dogs weren't allowed in but the lady in the kiosk said that my ticket allowed me to come and go as much as I wanted so at least I'd be able to check on them after a while. The entrance fee was £8.50, which I thought was a bit steep for a small garden, so I was totally unprepared for what I found when I got in there and started looking round - the place was far larger than I expected, in fact it was huge.

By using box hedging, trees, borders, lawns and well laid out paths the whole area was divided into 'rooms' of different sizes, with each 'room' having a different theme - there was the Dutch Garden, Exotic Garden, Rose Garden, Mediterranean Garden and Desert Garden to name just a few. There was colour everywhere, and each time I went round a corner or through a gap in the hedge I got the surprise of seeing something completely different. Modern sculptures were dotted about here and there and in the exotic garden was an above-ground pond with a brilliant water feature made from lengths of copper pipe intricately woven and twisted together.

In one section of garden a sprinkler was spraying water over flower beds on each side of the grassy path; it had quite a long range and was turning a full 360 degrees so I had to time my photo taking so I wouldn't suddenly get hit by the jet of water. Actually getting past the thing meant waiting until its back was turned then sprinting along the path before it swung round and got me. I did it - just - and felt like I should have been given a t-shirt with 'I beat the sprinkler' written across the front of it.

Not far from where the sprinkler was doing its best to drown people I came across a couple of small enclosures with several chickens and ducks scratching about, and just round the corner from there was a small paddock with a couple of alpacas quietly grazing along the grass. Those were a complete surprise as I didn't think the gardens were the type of place to mix animals in with the flowers and plants. Eventually, after much wandering, I came to the house and its terrace full of pots and urns then finally the tea room, where I stopped for coffee and cake before returning to the van.

As I drove away from the gardens a while later I had the distinct feeling that I must have missed something, but other than going out to check on the dogs I'd been wandering round for over two hours so I thought I'd seen all the different areas. An internet check since I got home however confirmed that I had indeed missed a few things - maybe I should have bought a map from the kiosk but I didn't think about it at the time. I was very impressed with what I had seen though and I revised my opinion of the entrance fee; I have no interest at all in actual gardening but the photo opportunities alone made it well worth every penny and I'll certainly be making a return visit next year.

Wednesday September 14th - Part 1 - Ludham Bridge & St. Benet's Abbey

It was another gloriously sunny morning and 10am saw me heading towards Ludham on my first quest of the day, to find and photograph the ruins of St. Benet's Abbey close to the River Bure. Many years ago, in my pre-camping days, I'd passed the ruins on a few occasions while out on Eileen and Ron's boat but I'd never had the chance to stop and explore. Since then I've always assumed the place could only be reached from the water, but with the cost of hiring a day-boat being prohibitively expensive just for one person the thought of ever going there was put out of my mind ages ago - that was until the previous evening when I was talking to Jean and John.

The subject of St. Benet's Abbey came up in conversation and John told me that there was actually a way to get to it by road and/or on foot, and with the aid of an OS map he showed me the route. So here I was, on the way to finding somewhere I'd once thought I would never get to, but before I went there I couldn't resist making a brief stop at Ludham Bridge to grab a few shots looking over the River Ant.

From the main road a country lane took me down to a very minor lane which in turn led to a long farm track extending across the marshes almost to the river. The route wasn't particularly well signposted but thanks to John and his OS map I found my way with no problems. Near the end of the track was a small car park which had only been there since 2013, and from there it was only a short walk to the abbey ruins. The main part of the ruins consisted of a 14th century gatehouse with an 18th century windmill tower built into it and I got several good shots round the outside of it.

The inside of the tower itself was amazing - a 14th century stone archway and wall running through the middle of an 18th century brick windmill seemed rather odd at first but the longer I spent in there the more fascinating it became. Graffiti was scratched into the stonework in several places, some of it being names, dates and heart shapes from the early 1800s, and by looking carefully it was still possible to see certain figures carved above the ancient archway. I've since read that the place is supposed to be haunted but there were certainly no visitations while I was in there - and anyway, I don't believe in ghosts.

Back on the outside I snapped another couple of photos then took a walk towards the river. Through a gate and across a field were the rest of the ruins, what there was of them, and a large cross which signified where the abbey altar once was, though as I didn't really want to walk all the way across for what looked like very little I decided to have a quick look along the riverside instead. 

Several boats were moored alongside the short path and a yacht was tacking a zigzag course across the river and back; as it got near to one of the boats moored not far from me the guy shouted to someone who I think he maybe knew "I'm only doing this to annoy other people!" I'm not sure if he was being serious or only joking, but given that pleasure craft much larger than his were cruising along quite regularly it crossed my mind that he was either being completely irresponsible or totally selfish.

As I walked back towards the car park I got chatting to a lady from one of the moored-up boats; her husband was fishing from the boat and she was bored so had decided to walk into Ludham village but wasn't sure which way to go. It was quite a distance from the riverside and as I was going that way anyway I offered her a lift, which she accepted. After dropping her off outside the village store I headed back towards the A149 which would take me towards the second place I wanted to visit; this was also somewhere completely new to me so I was really looking forward to seeing what was there.