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

Tuesday April 18th 2017 - Going home day

As is very often the case, the weather gods decided that as I was going home that day they would bathe the whole area in glorious sunshine and blue sky; I'm sure they do it just to annoy me. After a leisurely breakfast I took my time packing everything back in the van and the tent was finally taken down in time for me to leave a few minutes after mid day. I was in no rush to get home though so I decided to make a stop at Carrog and take Sophie and Poppie for a good walk round the village and by the river, though I only took four photos as I've taken so many round there on other occasions.




The drive from there was easy with no delays and was very pleasant in the sunshine, and I arrived back home with a good hour to spare before I had to go to work. It was a shame the weather hadn't been as nice over the previous few days but at least most of the rain had been at night and even with the grey skies I'd still been able to get out and about. Leaving out the minor irritations and meeting that horrible woman on the way to the llama trek I'd had a good weekend - and who knows, I may be back that way again soon.



Monday April 17th - Part 2 - Horseshoe Pass

Driving from the A5 and through Llangollen I turned onto the A542 and headed for part of the road known as Horseshoe Pass. Valle Crucis Abbey was just off the lower part of the road and though I'd been there on a previous occasion I'd never been any further; I'd been told the views from the top of the Pass were lovely so it would be interesting to see if they really were.

The road went upwards on a steady incline and as I got towards the top of the long horseshoe-shaped bend there was a wide lay-by on my left - obviously a good vantage point as there were a few cars parked there so I pulled in and wound the window down. On a sunny day the view from there really would have been good but the haze over the far hills, the grey sky and wisps of low cloud didn't do it any favours; it was worth a photo though so I hopped out of the van and crossed the road to get my shot from the grass verge.



Further along the road was the Ponderosa cafe - it was a very popular place for motorcyclists to gather and quite a lot of machines were parked up with groups of bikers standing around chatting. Pulling in and parking at the far side of the car park I took the dogs for a bit of exploration; there was a narrow lane running past the back of the cafe complex and just across the rough grass was a pond with a small island in it. There were several small memorials on the island but not being able to get close I couldn't tell what they signified - possibly bikers who had lost their lives on the road, who knows?



The lane itself led down to what looked like a small hamlet of cottages at the bottom of the valley; with Castell Dinas Bran visible on the hill top in the distance the view would have been quite pretty on a sunny day. Luckily the sky, even though it was still grey, was much clearer round this part of the pass and there was no low cloud so I managed to get a fairly decent shot over the valley.

From just past the cafe the road started going downhill again so I wandered down there for a short distance to see what the views were like in that direction, then with another couple of shots taken I headed back to the car park, put the dogs back in the van and went to have a look in the gift shop next to the cafe.



I wasn't in the shop all that long but when I came out again it was absolutely pouring down so I had to make a quick dash back to the van. Although I hadn't heard any engine noise the bikers had all gone while I'd been in the shop, although several cars were still still parked up. I didn't fancy driving round steep bends on an unfamiliar road in that rain so I decided to stay put until it slackened off or stopped completely. 

I didn't take much notice of how long I was there just looking at the view in front of me - maybe ten or fifteen minutes - but when I looked round properly every single car in the vicinity had disappeared. And what was worse, when I tried to drive out of the car park I found the barriers were across both entrances and I couldn't get out! Luckily I found an exit onto the lane behind the cafe but that experience felt really weird - the cafe must have closed while I'd been waiting for the rain to stop and with no-one else around anywhere it was just as if everyone who had been there had been swiftly and silently wiped off the face of the earth. 

Instead of driving back down into Llangollen and all the way back along the A5 to Corwen I headed the opposite way to the A5104 - that eventually joined the A494 close to Corwen and from there it took only a few more minutes to get back to the camp site, then with a cooked meal made and the dogs in their beds I settled in for the evening. It had been quite an eventful day in more ways than one - Horseshoe Pass would be worth another visit in nicer weather, and though I certainly wouldn't want to repeat my encounter with the awful woman I would definitely consider doing another llama trek sometime in the future.



Monday April 17th 2017 - Part 1 - A llama trek in the Berwyn Mountains

After some more overnight rain it was another dull and grey morning but at least it was fine, and as long as it stayed that way until lunch time I would be happy; I'd booked a llama trek for 10.30am and I was really looking forward to it so I didn't want it to be cancelled due to wet weather.

Berwyn Mountain Llamas is based in the next village along from where I was camping, although the llamas actually live right up in the hills, and when I phoned to book the trek I was given the directions to get there. The route involved driving up a steep and winding lane which was little more than a farm track not much wider than the van and as I got higher up I was just hoping I wouldn't meet something coming the other way as there were no passing places anywhere. But Sod's Law decreed that sure enough, on one of the steeper sections of the track, I came face to face with a car coming down. There was no way I could reverse so the elderly driver of the other car backed up several yards and tucked his vehicle in beside the gateway to a cottage to give me room to get past - and that's when I encountered the most obnoxious and verbally aggressive woman I've ever met.

As I inched the van slowly past the other car this woman, who was standing just inside the cottage gate, started frantically waving her arms at me to get me to stop, and when I wound the window down she started shouting at me - and believe me, there's no way I can possibly convey in type just how verbally aggressive she really was.

"WHERE ARE YOU GOING?? YOU CAN'T COME UP HERE, IT'S A PRIVATE LANE!!"
"I'm looking for Berwyn Mountain Llamas"
"WELL YOU CAN'T COME UP HERE, YOU'LL HAVE TO GO BACK!"
"Well these are the directions I was given" (holding up the paper I'd written them on)
"THAT DOESN'T MATTER, THIS IS A PRIVATE LANE!!"  (So I'm now thinking I must somehow have taken a wrong turning off the road below)

Then she turned her attention to the other driver and pointing several times down the lane shouted at him "GO! GO ON, GO! GO!!" at which he set off and she turned her attention back to me.

"So am I on the right lane for the llamas?"
"YES BUT IT'S PRIVATE, YOU CAN'T DRIVE UP HERE, YOU HAVE TO TURN ROUND AND GO RIGHT TO THE BOTTOM AND PARK UP THERE!"
"So which way do I go from there?"
"BACK UP HERE, BUT YOU WALK! ANYWAY, YOU WOULD NEVER GET UP THE MOUNTAIN IN THAT VEHICLE!!"
"I'm sorry if I've driven up somewhere I shouldn't have but this is the way I was told to come, and there's no way I can reverse all the way back down again from here"
"WELL YOU CAN TURN ROUND IN MY DRIVEWAY BUT YOU MUST GO BACK!"

So she opened the double gates to allow me to turn the van round and I set off back down the lane. Not far from the end there was a short grass verge with just enough room to park the van under the trees; I didn't like the thought of leaving the dogs there but I couldn't take them with me and I figured out that if it was a private lane there'd be no-one going past anyway so they should be okay. So I set off walking back up the lane but by this time it had gone 10.30 and I was late; I had no idea how far I had to go once I got past that awful woman's cottage and I couldn't ring the lady with the llamas as I had no phone signal so I just had to keep walking and hope she didn't think I was messing her about.

A distance past the awful woman's cottage was a hairpin bend with another cottage set back off the lane; hopefully that was the llama place but no, there was no-one around and no sign of any llamas. On I went, round another hairpin bend with the lane getting rougher the higher I got, then eventually it levelled out and in the distance Carol, the llama lady, appeared through the trees leading two llamas. Thinking that I may have got the van stuck on one of the bad bends she had come down to find me - and I was so relieved to see her that I could have cried. 

When I told her about my encounter with the awful woman she was appalled; it seems I'm not the first person to have been shouted at by the woman but my experience was by far the worst. Carol had no idea who the elderly couple in the other car could have been though as there were only two other cottages up that lane and she knew both residents, so maybe they had just lost their way. She also said that the lane is only private above and beyond the awful woman's cottage so she has no right to make people go back if they have a genuine reason for access.

Once I'd recovered from my long walk up the lane I changed into my wellies, leaving my trainers in the back of Carol's car at the very end of the lane, and we set off on our trek. I was leading Kubera, the bigger of the two llamas; he was lovely, very calm and easy to lead though he did like to snatch a mouthful of grass or tree foliage every now and again. 



The trek took me up and diagonally across several fields and though I normally have a good sense of direction I didn't have a clue where I was other than that it was somewhere up in the Berwyn mountains. Every so often Carol would stop and point out several things of interest - fields divided by low stone walls which followed an ancient grid pattern, a badger sett in a hollow, the song of a willow warbler in a nearby tree - and the higher we climbed the better the views became. It's just a shame that it was such a grey day - with blue sky and sunshine I could have got some really lovely photos.



Halfway through the trek we had swapped llamas so I could have the chance of leading Eddie. Close to the highest point there was a large timber picnic shelter with a couple of benches so we stopped there for a few minutes to admire the view. The descent across that particular field was quite steep and as Eddie was a bit stronger than Kubera Carol said she didn't want me to reach the bottom faster than I wanted to go so we swapped llamas again.



The final part of the trek took me through a wooded area and along a gently sloping path which soon levelled out and eventually joined the lane close to where Carol's car was parked. Eddie and Kubera were led into their paddock, their headcollars were removed and they were free to do whatever it is llamas like to do; my llama trek was over.



Carol offered me a lift back down the lane to the van but I said I would walk back as I wanted to take a photo of the cottage on the bend, so she left me with the advice that if I ever go back to do another llama trek and the awful woman tries to stop me driving up the lane I should just ignore her and drive straight past - that's fine by me, I wouldn't fancy being shouted at a second time!



Finally back at the van I found both dogs were absolutely fine. They were curled up asleep so they mustn't have missed me too much but as they'd been on their own for longer than I'd intended I took them for a walk down to the end of the lane and back before setting off for the second part of my day. There was a place just outside Llangollen which I'd never been to before and though it was a grey day I wanted to check out the photo opportunities - if it was as nice as other people had told me it was then it may be worth a return visit some other time.



Sunday April 16th 2017 - Part 3 - Plas Newydd, Llangollen

The third place on my day's itinerary was Plas Newydd in Llangollen, a historic black-and-white timber-framed house which was once home to the 'Ladies of Llangollen'. There was no car park there but I managed to get a space at the roadside just outside the gates, and after paying my entrance fee at the counter in the tea room I made my way round the gardens to the house itself. 

As soon as I walked through the door I could see that this was no ordinary house - the whole of the hallway and the walls up the staircase were covered in decorative carvings featuring a host of patterns, figures and animals, and even in the downstairs rooms it looked there were carvings on almost every surface. In each room there were information sheets and printed extracts from the ladies' diaries, and the ones I looked at made very fascinating reading.



I'd just taken a photo of the 'blue' room when the woman collecting entrance tickets outside the front door shouted in a stern voice "No photos allowed in the house!" Now this was news to me - she hadn't mentioned it when I first went in, the lady at the counter where I paid my entrance fee had never said anything, and there were no notices anywhere saying photos weren't allowed, so how was I supposed to know?Anyway, there's more than one way to skin a cat as the saying goes - I just turned the camera to night shot, took as many photos as I could without the flash and she was none the wiser!

The upper staircase and landing were almost as ornate as down below, and right at the top I found the sweetest little attic bedroom; it was quite sparsely furnished and had apparently belonged to the ladies' housekeeper. One of the larger rooms had been set up as an exhibition room with many of the ladies' possessions on display, and all round the walls were information panels telling the ladies' story.


Although there had been no-one else in the house when I first went in several people had arrived afterwards, the place was getting a bit crowded and it was becoming impossible to read the information panels properly, so having taken most of the photos I wanted I made my way back outside to wander round the gardens. There was a different woman on the door by then and even though my camera was hanging round my neck in full view she didn't challenge me so it looked like my sneaky shots were safe.


While I was looking round the gardens the sun decided to put in an appearance but unfortunately it was very brief and the sky stayed grey. With one final shot taken from the edge of the main lawn, from where I could see Castell Dinas Bran in the distance on the hill top, I returned to the van and drove back to the camp site. It seemed to have been quite a long day but it had been an interesting one in many ways; I'd found Plas Newydd and the story of the Ladies of Llangollen quite fascinating and I'd got some good photos with and without flash so I was more than happy.



Sunday April 16th - Part 2 - Chirk Castle gardens

Emerging from the castle courtyard I turned right and followed the path round to the formal gardens. It was still a bit too early in the year to have much colour in the flower beds but there was a nice bright border of tulips and a few other flowers below one of the well clipped hedges so that was worth a couple of photos. 


As I wandered round the various paths I came across a small narrow section of grass almost tucked away in the angle of a curved hedge in a quiet corner of the garden. A dozen or so small stone slabs were set into the ground with one larger one standing upright against the hedge, and when I looked closely I realised it was a pet cemetery. The inscriptions on the stones were quite difficult to read as the surfaces had worn away over time but I could make some of them out - "Pincher, the most faithful of dogs, died much lamented May 1886"  -  "My dear little Bobs, died August 1905 aged 9 years"  -  "Dear little Nettle, died 1895 aged 18, surviving her beloved mistress 6 years". All very sweet but rather sad too I thought.

It was just after I left the pet cemetery behind that I came upon something totally unexpected; after passing between tall hedges and several varieties of shrubbery the path emerged at a section of huge sweeping lawn and in front of me was the most incredible and prettiest view of a garden I've ever seen. If the sky had been blue it would have been absolutely stunning, even so it still looked amazing. Definitely worth a photo, and I don't think I need to describe what I was seeing - this was certainly a case of a picture painting a thousand words.


There was a large rockery behind the summerhouse and another path leading back to the lawn, and it was only when I was satisfied that I'd photographed everything worth pointing the camera at that I made my way to another part of the garden. With more flowering shrubs, rhododendrons, azaleas, daffodils, magnolias and bench seats in strategic places to sit and take in the views I got several more shots before heading back towards the castle.


With one final shot looking down the length of the lawn I made my way back past the castle and down the hill towards the car park, but just before I got there I spotted something I hadn't noticed earlier on. Set back in a corner and across a small green were a couple of stone cottages with red brick chimneys; they looked so cute and quaint that they were definitely worth a photo.



As I walked back to the van I noticed that the line of cars parked in front of the trees on the left of the car park had increased by at least a dozen vehicles in the time I'd been at the castle - so much for there being 'no spaces' when I arrived, I could have easily parked there after all. Maybe the NT should give their volunteer marshalls some training in good customer service!

The exit road through the castle estate was a different one from the entrance road and it ended close to a black and white cottage and a set of very ornate white gates and railings. This was definitely a photo opportunity not to be missed so I pulled up just off the road and got half a dozen shots - and I actually got a fleeting patch of blue sky in one of them.



From there I drove down into Chirk and back to the A5, heading back to Llangollen. It was only 2pm and my day wasn't over yet - I had another place to go to, and from what I'd read on the internet there was quite a fascinating story to it. I'd been once before, a couple of years ago, but it had been closed then so I was really looking forward to seeing round it this time - fingers crossed it was worth going to.