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

Wednesday December 20th 2017 - To all my blog readers

Have a really lovely Christmas everyone, wherever you are and whatever you do - I hope it's a good one for everyone.

Tuesday September 19th 2017 - Going home day

After yet more overnight rain the morning arrived gloriously clear and sunny so I abandoned the first dog walk in favour of getting everything packed away and the tent taken down while it was nice. After a very quick breakfast packing up the van was no problem but sorting out the tent was a different matter. With the groundsheet not being integrated I dragged it out from under the tent and pegged it out on the grass to dry then set about mopping up the water from the bedroom. What had started off as a puddle had increased over the previous few days to something the size of a small paddling pool and by the time I'd finished mopping I had several inches of water in the bucket. Fortunately the tent itself dried out in the sunshine so it was perfectly dry by the time I was ready for taking it down. With only the coolbox left to disconnect I took Sophie and Poppie for a final walk through the heath and back along the beach, then with the hook-up cable rolled up and stashed in the van I drove away from my pitch for the last time this year. 

I wasn't on the road for long before I made my first stop; Jean and John had told me that the Norwich Camping store was only just off the A47 on the outskirts of Norwich and as I was going that way anyway I decided to see if they had any tents which would meet my requirements. They had quite a lot of tents on display, some of them at a good price, but they were mainly big ones so not what I wanted. Back on the road again things were just going nicely when I hit a long queue of very slow moving traffic and after creeping along for quite a distance I was passed by police car with its lights flashing. 

The reason for the delay eventually became obvious - there was a broken down agricultural vehicle, and the police car, blocking the inside lane meaning two lanes were going into one. Once I was free of that though everything was fine - that was until I hit another queue near to Kings Lynn, although there didn't seem to be any reason for that one. After that the driving was easy and very pleasant in the afternoon sunshine though I did make an impromptu stop later on. Where the A17 passed over the River Welland there was a boatyard and moorings close by; I've often thought about finding somewhere to stop and take a few photos though I never have, but this time I did. There was a wide lay-by up ahead, set back off the road, so I pulled in there and walked back across the bridge. This was Fosdyke Yacht Haven, and with quite a lot of boats moored up it looked quite attractive so I got a handful of good shots before returning to the van.

My next stop was at the Cheerio Cafe but as they were on the point of closing I was only able to get a takeaway coffee - and this time I didn't upset it all over the van. After a quick dog walk along the edge of the field I set off once more and didn't stop again until I got home. Unfortunately by the time I was heading west the sun was getting low and in my eyes and I ended up missing the correct exit off a roundabout, meaning I was heading for somewhere I didn't want to be. I had to go for quite a distance before I found somewhere I could safely pull in and turn round to go back but I got things right eventually and with no more hiccups I arrived home at 7.45pm.

Now I don't know whether to call my time away a holiday, a disaster, or a living nightmare but whatever it was I hope that weather-wise I never have another one like it. In all my years of camping I've never experienced as much rain as that which fell during the time I was away, though I have no doubt that Storm Aileen was a big contributory factor. Whatever the cause, I hope that next time I'm camping the rain gives me a miss!

** That holiday may very well be my last camping trip of the season until next year, unless I manage to find a new tent with a fully integrated groundsheet, but until I update this blog with another trip tales from my everyday life can always be found here

Monday September 18th 2017 - Do pheasants have brains?

After the previous day's lovely blue sky and sunshine the weather was back to being damp and dismal again so it was another morning spent in the van. It did stop raining at lunch time though and it brightened up into quite a pleasant afternoon, although it wasn't really sunny enough for long enough to go anywhere proper so I went the few miles back to Clippesby and paid my second visit to Eileen and Ron - it was actually Eileen's birthday and even though she couldn't see very well I still took a card for her. I took a slightly different route than usual though and it was while I was driving down a narrow country lane not far from their cottage that I experienced something which gave me a fit of the giggles.

As I rounded a bend I came across two pheasants in the middle of the lane so not wanting to run them over I slowed down and waited for them to get out of the way - except they didn't. They decided that rather than jump into the safety of the hedge they would run in front of the van - and they ran and ran, with me driving slowly behind them. No wonder so many get killed on country roads, they just don't seem to have the sense to get out of the way. Unfortunately the camera wasn't within my reach or I would have snapped a photo of them as they looked so funny, however I continued to drive slowly along and eventually, after quite a distance, they jumped onto the grass verge and disappeared through the hedge.

My bird encounters continued however, as round the next bend I came across a couple of partridges who did exactly the same thing as the pheasants, except they didn't run as far as the pheasants had before they sought the safety of the hedge. It was really funny to watch them and it struck me then that now I know where the expression 'bird brain' probably came from. I told Eileen and Ron about them and Ron said that pheasants in particular seem to be really stupid creatures.

With no Joe around I was able to take Sophie and Poppie into the house and they were thoroughly spoiled with affection and treats by both my friends; it was easy to see how much they love dogs so I really hoped they would find another friend of their own soon. Sitting in the conservatory I noticed a couple of pheasants out in the garden and Ron told me that round about 4pm they would start gathering on the lawn until there was a huge group of them then they would disappear into the trees beyond. And sure enough, every time I looked out of the window more pheasants had appeared - I lost count at twenty five, there must have been at least fifty if not more. Then all at once they were gone - when I looked out again there wasn't a single pheasant to be seen, it was as if they'd disappeared into thin air. These really were peculiar creatures.

After a very pleasant couple of  hours it was time for me to say my goodbyes for this year, so with a hug and kiss for Eileen and the promise to send a card and letter at Christmas I clipped the leads on the dogs and took my leave. Back at the camp site the aroma of cooking was drifting across the field from the nearby chip shop so I decided that as it was my last full day I would treat myself to fish and chips. The portion was huge even though I'd asked for a small one, and there was no way I could eat it all so just for once, and as a special treat, I shared my meal with the dogs then we settled in for our last evening on site.

Sunday September 17th Part 2 - Cauli

Although I would have loved to spend much longer exploring East Ruston Gardens my time there was unfortunately limited as there was somewhere else I wanted to go. Not only did I want to visit my adopted pony Cauli at the Redwings sanctuary I also wanted to visit my friends Jane, Ady, Andy and Sue, and they were all quite a distance from East Ruston. At almost 40 miles from East Ruston Ady was the furthest away so I decided to call on him first then work my way back; I had to pass Redwings on my way there so I stopped off to see Cauli and luckily, unlike last year when she was right over the far side of the field, she was close to the fence so I was able to snap a few photos of her.

It was gone 4.30pm by the time I got to Ady's in Harleston and though I hadn't intended staying too long it was so good to sit and chat over a brew that it had gone 6 o' clock before I left. I really wanted to get back into Yarmouth before the daylight disappeared as I hate driving on unlit country roads in the dark, so regrettably I missed out calling on Andy and Sue and just paid a quick visit to Jane in Bungay.

Although the sun was still shining when I left Jane's it wasn't long before it disappeared and the light started fading. Unfortunately I didn't quite make my goal as I ran out of daylight completely before I reached Yarmouth, but luckily I didn't have too much further to go before I hit the well-lit outskirts of the town. Finally back on my pitch, but parked sideways on to avoid the soft ground, I gave the dogs a late tea and took them for a good walk round the site then the three of us settled into the van for the rest of the night.

Sunday September 17th 2017 - East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens

This was the day when I finally, finally, got to do the garden visit, though initially I thought I wouldn't be going anywhere unless I walked, and the gardens were too far away to do that. It had turned out to be a glorious day but several lengthy bouts of overnight rain, added to what had fallen over the previous few days, had softened the ground so much that when I tried to reverse off my pitch the back wheels just dug themselves in and wouldn't budge. Even putting foam mats down underneath didn't help - I was well and truly stuck. 

Now I knew that the site owner's son had a 4x4 with a towbar on the back so I went round to the house to see if he was in - luckily he was, and when I explained the problem he came straight round to the field, attached a big chain to both vehicles and with me steering the van he pulled it backwards off the pitch. With that minor problem sorted I finally set off for the gardens and arrived a few minutes before opening time at 1pm, in fact I was the first visitor there.

I was pleased to see that the admission price was still the same as last year and once I'd handed over my cash I set off on my wander round. It was after my visit last year that I realised there were some areas of the garden I'd missed seeing so my quest this time was to seek out those areas. The only trouble is, the garden itself is so vast and has so many different sections that without a map it's quite easy to miss things (and also quite easy to get lost) so even though I found some of the areas I hadn't previously seen I know I missed out on others. I also noticed that some parts were looking a little unkempt compared to last year, but I put that down to the fact that new areas are being developed and without a small army of gardeners there probably isn't enough time to do everything. I still got lots of photos though and the ones on here are just a small selection of the many I took.

After well over an hour-and-a-half of wandering it was time for a brew so I called in at the tea room, and in spite of all the delicious-looking home made cakes on display I resisted temptation and opted for a sausage roll to go with my coffee. The sausage roll was also home made and was so good that I bought another to take away for later, then after taking the dogs for a walk round the tree-shaded car park (they aren't allowed in the gardens) I set off on the second part of my day.

Saturday September 16th 2017 - Even more rain, and a drive to How Hill

Although it was fine when I woke that morning it wasn't long before the wet stuff started falling again so after the first dog walk it meant another few hours spent in the van. I needed to go to the bank at some point though so about 2pm I drove down into Yarmouth, parked at Asda and walked the few minutes into town. With my business sorted I had a quick look round the shops then decided to go for a very late lunch; the Pop-In Cafe in one of the shopping arcades looked okay so I went in there and ordered scrambled eggs on toast and a milky coffee, and I have to say that I was well pleased. The coffee was good and the toast was thick, topped with lots of delicious scrambled egg; the price was very reasonable too so that's definitely a place I'll return to another time.

When I came out of the arcade the rain had stopped and the sky was clearing, and by the time I got back to the van the sun was trying to put in an appearance. I didn't really want to go straight back to the camp site so in an effort to try and salvage something from the wet day I drove out to How Hill, a place I'd been to a few years ago. How Hill House is used as a study and residential field course centre and its surrounding gardens are only open to the public on certain days but I was able to walk across the nearby field, past the tiny museum of Toad Hole Cottage and down to the River Ant where several holiday cruisers were moored up. In the late afternoon, and with grey clouds overshadowing the sun, the light wasn't exactly the best for taking photos but I managed to get a few and at least the dogs had a reasonable walk.

Back at the camp site I made a brew and watched an hour or so of tv then went out to see my ex-partner's sister and brother-in-law, Jean and John, who live just a mile or so from the site. I'd forgotten that I'd left the half-full kettle on the floor in the middle of the van though, and as I went round a corner the inevitable happened - it up-ended. Luckily the water went down onto the side step, and when I got out of the van outside Jean and John's house it was running out from under the side door and there was a trail all along the road, but at least it hadn't gone all over the carpet like the coffee did.

Jean was in on her own and John was out with the dogs but it wasn't long before he came back and that's when I had a bit of a surprise - they had a new dog. Previously they'd had two Border Collies, Pepsi and Zak - Zak was the older one but sadly they'd lost him to an illness earlier in the year. Not wanting Pepsi to be an only dog they'd searched various local rescue places and three months ago finally found a lovely little dog rescued from Romania. She's a 2-year old cross breed (though what crossed with what it's not easy to tell) and she was originally called Selina, though once they'd adopted her they changed her name to Poppy, which really seems to suit her. She's mainly white but with a big ginger patch on her back and sides, and she's got the sweetest little face; unfortunately I never thought to get the camera from the van and take a photo of her but she really is adorable and I know she'll have a long and happy life with Jean and John. 

With a couple of hours spent in good company it was time to say my goodbyes for this year and go back to the camp site. For once it was a lovely clear evening and I had a very pleasant dog walk round the site before settling into the van for the rest of the night - and with only two more full days of the holiday left I had my fingers well and truly crossed that one of them would at least turn out to be nice.

Friday September 15th 2017 - A walk to Hemsby and yet more rain

I woke that morning to blue sky, sunshine, and no sign of any of the rain which I'd heard during the night. Looking north from the edge of the field I could see that the sky was clear for miles so I decided to forgo the early dog walk, have breakfast first then go for my favourite walk up to Hemsby and back afterwards; the dogs were quite happy to stay in their beds for a while longer but they were equally happy to come out of them once breakfast was over.

Just down the lane from the site entrance a gravel-surfaced private road took me past a long row of bungalows to what could loosely be called the main road through the village and halfway along was Lands End, a small privately-owned grassy area on the cliff top. In the past I'd often seen lots of rabbits on there and I got into the habit of looking for them every time I went that way but it seems they must have gone living somewhere else as I haven't seen any there for a few years. The view was good though and I got a decent shot overlooking the beach.

A bit further on from Lands End the road turned sharply inland and on the bend was an attractive row of red-roofed cottages. A hundred yards or so along from there was The Promenade, a long gravelled and pot-holed track heading northwards along the cliff top. The properties along there have always fascinated me and I've seen many changes over the years; at one time most of them were small timber-built single storey dwellings looking more like holiday chalets than proper bungalows but the addition of various brick-built extensions and upper floors has gradually turned a lot of them into proper family houses with long front gardens. With a pleasant grassy area running along the cliff top and a great view of the sea The Promenade looks like a really nice place to live.

After a few minutes walking The Promenade became The Esplanade although it was still the same track with the same quirky properties. Near the edge of the cliff someone had set up what I first thought was beach casting equipment but when I got closer I wasn't so sure - the line didn't go out across the beach and I hadn't a clue what the other tripod thing was but it made a good photo.

Eventually The Esplanade came to an end, narrowing into a footpath which led to the road through the dunes, and set back in a quiet corner was a couple of rows of what were once fishermens' cottages. It's not so long ago that the road through the dunes was lined with small holiday homes and timber-built chalets, with the ones on the right nestling in hollows on the cliff top, but most of those have gone now. In early December 2013 the biggest tidal surge for 60 years eroded the cliff, washing three homes into the sea and severely damaging four others which were eventually demolished. There are still a few homes left but the road is now mainly an empty stretch of concrete leading to the village.

At the end of the road I came to the commercial part of Hemsby village, a long stretch with amusements, cafes, shops and a couple of holiday sites on both sides of the road. I've often referred to it as a mini Blackpool but in reality it's nothing like the northern resort - commercial it may be but brash it certainly isn't, and though you wouldn't get me within a mile of Blackpool I do like going to Hemsby. There's a lovely small bakery along there too but having given up eating cake back in May I wasn't tempted, and with just a few shots taken I headed back to the dunes and the beach.

Walking along the beach I could see the remaining holiday homes set back behind the dunes but further along, and nearly four years after the disaster, it was almost impossible to tell which part of the cliff had eroded and where the other homes had been. As I got further away from Hemsby I also got further away from other people until finally I had the whole beach to myself, and it was like that all the way back to the camp site.

Back at the van I made a mid-morning brew then set out to visit East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens not far from Stalham. I'd been there last year and though I'd initially been under the impression that the place was only small I discovered it was much bigger than I'd thought, and it was only after I'd got home that I found I'd missed seeing some sections of it so a return visit was on the cards.

Unfortunately the garden visit turned out to be very much a non-event. The place didn't open until 1pm and I arrived a bit early so I parked in the tree-shaded car park and waited, but I hadn't been there long when the glorious blue sky and sunshine disappeared, the grey clouds came over and it hammered down with rain once again - it was unbelievable how quickly and suddenly the weather changed. I stayed there for a while in the hope that things would change again just as quickly but there was no sign of the rain stopping so eventually I gave up and drove all the way back to California.

The rain had eased off by the time I got back to the camp site but there was no sign of it stopping completely so I resigned myself to spending yet more hours in the van. Actually that wasn't too much of a hardship; apart from the loo I had everything I needed in there so the three of us were quite cosy and comfortable, and even though the garden visit hadn't happened we had at least had a lovely sunny walk that morning.