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

Tuesday May 30th 2017 - A grey going home day

I woke with the dawn chorus again that morning and it was so lovely to listen to that I decided to record it. With my camera on the table I set it to 'video' and left it running for just over five minutes; there was barely any daylight so it couldn't actually film anything other than the dark front wall of the tent but it picked up the bird song beautifully. 

As I was awake so early I decided to make a start on packing a few things away in the van to save time later, then once it was proper daylight I took the dogs for a walk down the lane and back. It was yet another grey morning and looking at the clouds in the distance I could see there wasn't much hope of seeing any sunshine before I went home, although it was still very warm. After an early breakfast and a couple of hours chill out I started packing everything away properly and by 11.30 I only had the tent to take down. I'd just got it rolled up and in the van when the first drops of rain appeared, although it didn't amount to much and I was able to take Sophie and Poppie for another walk before I left the site.

Rather than go through Llangollen and up the A483 to the A55, which would be my usual route homewards, I decided for once to go up the A494 which would eventually cross the A55 and take me via Queensferry direct to the M56. It was a route I hadn't travelled before and at one point the road climbed steeply upwards and round a sharp bend; there was a great view over the valley and hills to my right and had it been a sunny day I could have got a really good photo but it was too grey to be bothered finding somewhere to stop. 

The different way of going home, although more interesting than my usual route, seemed somehow to take longer but in actual fact it took the same length of time and I was back home at 2.15pm. It was earlier than I would normally get back but in the grey weather I'd had no reason to stop off anywhere en route; of course Sod's Law decreed that as I'd got further north the day had become brighter and by the time I'd got back home the sun was shining. Sometimes I feel as though I just can't win with the weather gods but hopefully next time I go to that part of North Wales they might decide to be kind to me - come hell or high water I'm determined to get that special 'blue sky' shot at Chirk Castle in the not-too-distant future.



Monday May 29th - Part 2 - Llangollen and canal

Reaching Llangollen I headed straight for the main car park, thinking that as the weather was so awful the place may not be as busy as it usually is on a bank holiday Monday but how wrong I was; although the coach bays at the end of the car park were completely empty every other space was taken and there was no sign of anyone leaving. The small car park near the riverside was full too, so as I was in no mood for driving round and round until I found somewhere I went up towards Plas Newydd house and parked at the roadside near there. It meant taking a five-minute walk down the hill back into town but the rain had finally stopped by then so it was no big deal. 

The only reason I'd gone to Llangollen at all was to treat myself to a meal at the Deeside Cafe which had been recommended to me. It didn't seem to be a particularly big place and it was quite busy but I must have just gone at the right time as I was lucky enough to be shown to a table straight away. I ordered the home-made steak pie with mash and peas and I have to say that it must be just about the best steak pie I've ever had. With big chunks of tender steak and plenty of gravy in an individual pot topped by a light puff pastry crust it was such a generous plateful that I couldn't quite eat it all. 

Back outside the cafe I noticed a crowd of people standing along the nearby bridge and looking over the wall; they were watching several brave, insane, adventurous people white water rafting down the channel of fast-flowing water on one side of the river. With a couple of shots taken I had a quick look round the shops then having previously promised the dogs a decent walk I made my way back to the van.


Heading back towards Chirk I eventually turned off the main A5 onto the B5434 which would take me across the River Dee to the Trevor basin at the far end of the Pontcysyllte aquaduct, but not far down the road I turned off at a nice little canal-side spot where I could park right beside the water. A little way along the lane a footbridge and a lift bridge spanned the canal; a narrowboat was approaching from the far side so I watched while one of the people on board jumped off and raised the lift bridge to allow the boat through, then when it was lowered again I crossed to the other side of the canal and walked along in the direction of Chirk.


In spite of the grey weather it was a pleasant walk along the tree-shaded footpath and I stopped for a few minutes to watch a young guy landing a fish he'd just caught near the back of his boat. It looked big enough to make a meal for one but I was glad to see that he put it back once he'd unhooked it. 

Just behind where the boats were moored was a high stone wall with several arches at ground level, some of which were bricked up, and a sign on the wall informed me that this was 'The Old Limekilns, Froncysyllte'. The six large lime kilns were built into the escarpment alongside the canal in the early 1800s and were supplied by stone quarried from an isolated limestone outcrop above Froncysyllte village. The original boat dock below was used to unload the coal which worked the kilns and the lime produced was used for both agricultural and industrial purposes.


Eventually I turned and retraced my steps, continuing along that side of the canal towards the Pontcysyllte aquaduct. Just by the lift bridge was a wooden fence and gate across the path, and a notice on the fence amused me enough to take a photo of it. I don't know who thought that one up but it was a nice reminder to people to watch out for the many ducks which in habited that corner of the canal.

A bit further on was a modern sculpture by artist Anthony Lysycia, commemorating the local limestone industry of the past; although the inscriptions were rather weather-worn it was just possible to make out the words 'Chirk Castle Limestone Company' at the top and 'Canada Bill' under the depicted figure. Information has proved difficult to find but one source suggests that Canada Bill was a local man who worked for the limestone company and had a Canadian wife.


I walked as far as the aquaduct then turned and headed back the other way. This time I crossed the canal via the footbridge as the lift bridge had been raised, so while I was up there I got a shot of a couple of boats coming through. Those were to be the last ones of the day as time was getting on, and with the dark grey cloud in the distance there was every possibility that it might rain again soon.


As I put the dogs in the van the car parked in front of me pulled away, which meant that I didn't have to do a lot of manoeuvring to get out of my own space. The lane is too narrow to turn round - unless you want to risk ending up in the water - so you have to reverse to the end, and as I watched the other guy backing up I noticed four ducks wandering right behind his car and in danger of being squashed. He obviously hadn't seen them so I yelled "STOP!! THERE ARE DUCKS RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!" Fortunately he heard me and stopped, and I went along to shoo them out of harm's way - squashed duck was the last thing I wanted to see.

After that little event the drive back along the A5 to the camp site was straightforward and the three of us were soon settled in the tent for the evening. I may not have got the 'blue sky' photos I really wanted but most of the ones at Chirk Castle came out okay, and with a good meal and a decent dog walk it had been quite a good afternoon out in spite of the grey weather.



Monday May 29th 2017 - Part 1 - Chirk Castle gardens

Unfortunately all the previous evening's finger crossing hadn't worked and after several heavy and prolonged downpours during the night I emerged from the tent that morning to more grey skies, fine drizzle and a blanket of mist and low cloud which obliterated everything that was more than a few hundred yards away. It certainly wasn't nice enough for the photos I wanted to take at Chirk Castle but I didn't want to waste the day so at lunch time I set out and went there anyway.

This time when I arrived there were no marshalls to tell me where I could or couldn't park so I drove round to the left of the car park and reversed the van up to the tree line; the morning's drizzle had turned to proper rain by then and I had no intention of being away for long so I knew the dogs would be okay while I was gone. With no need to go into the castle itself, and with one particular view in mind, I headed straight for the gardens and with flowers and plants blooming everywhere it was lovely to see how much things had changed in the few short weeks since Easter.



Following the paths I'd taken at Easter I soon came to the place where I wanted to get a repeat shot from. Over the years I've taken many good photos of many different subjects but every so often there's been one which, for me at least, has stood out from the rest for whatever reason, and the view across the lawns to the hawk house had been one of those. I'd hoped to repeat the shot with blue skies and this time all I got was rain and mist but the view still looked quite pretty so I took the shot anyway and hoped it would look okay.


From there I took a path which I hadn't noticed on my previous visit and was delighted when I turned a corner and found a pretty little pond. Everywhere I went azaleas and rhododendrons made big splashes of colour in a background of green and I roamed around taking shot after shot, though even under the shelter of an umbrella it wasn't easy. Several times I got rain spots on the lens and my shots were either slightly blurred in places or completely ruined but I took enough that I would at least get some fairly decent ones.


Eventually I made my way round to the rockery behind the hawk house then into the hawk house itself. With no-one else around I had the place to myself so I was able to read the few wall mounted information boards without interruption before taking a couple of shots from the inside looking out, then with one final photo taken as I walked up towards the castle I made my way back to the car park.


Apart from the gardens and the castle itself dogs are allowed in the extensive grounds so I could have taken Sophie and Poppie for a lovely walk but it was far too wet and in some places muddy too, so with just a very brief walk along the path near the van, and the promise of (hopefully) a better walk later on, we left Chirk Castle and headed back to Llangollen for the next part of the day.



Sunday May 28th 2017 - A grey day at Bala


I woke soon after 4am that morning to the first signs of daylight and the dawn chorus in full swing - other than the obvious ones like wood pigeons, blackbirds, magpies and woodpeckers I wouldn't know one type of bird song from another but it was lovely just lying there listening to it all. Eventually I dozed off to sleep again and when I woke up properly it had all quietened down apart from the odd tweet and chirp here and there. 

The sky was still very cloudy and grey so hoping it would eventually clear up I stayed in the tent until lunch time but when it became obvious that I wasn't going to see any blue sky or sunshine I decided to go out anyway. I hadn't gone all that way from home just to spend my time sitting in the tent so I drove over to Bala, taking the B road route which I discovered at Easter. It brought me out at the north east side of the lake and I was lucky enough to find a space in the small free car park which my blogging friend Eileen had told me about a couple of months ago. 

First was a visit to the shops and as I walked along the main street I was attracted by the display of fresh sausage rolls in the window of Gerrard's baker's shop; they looked really nice and as I was feeling quite peckish I bought two and a can of Coke and had a late lunch back at the van. Next was another visit to the lakeside at Llangower; since my time spent there at Easter I'd found out that if I'd 'trespassed' onto the lakeside camp site I could have walked further along than I did and I would have found a shingle beach which could be worth a photo or two.

Even though it was such a cloudy day the air was still very warm and the lakeside was quite busy with people swimming and boating or having picnics on the grass. Of course I had to negotiate the stupidly awkward stile which I'd encountered on my previous visit but at least this time I knew what to expect and I got myself and the dogs over and through it with a bit more success than before. I walked along by the water's edge as far as I could then went up onto the path through the camp site; no-one challenged me or asked me what I was doing there so I got to where I wanted to be with no problems.

Now I don't know what I expected to see when I got there but there was nothing particularly special about the place. One part of the camp site bordered a wide flat shingle beach and a bit further along was a small boatyard with several dinghies and catamarans pulled up onto the shingle and the grassy slope; it may have looked quite attractive on a sunny day but with the grey sky it just looked boring and uninteresting so with just a couple of shots taken I turned and retraced my steps.


In spite of the dull day it was very pleasant walking along at the water's edge and at one point I lingered for a few minutes while Sophie and Poppie had a paddle; the sky did brighten up a bit and a couple of patches of blue appeared through the cloud but unfortunately they didn't last long.


Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink then set off on my next quest, to see what was further along the road towards the bottom end of the lake. It was worth the drive as there were some lovely views but convenient places to stop on the single-track road were few and far between, and any passing places where I could pull in briefly weren't always in the right spot to take a photo. I got a couple of reasonable shots though, then drove on to the village of Llanuwchllyn where the Bala Lake Railway starts from; there didn't seem to be much there though so I found a convenient place to turn round and drove back along the B road.


By the time I'd reached the top end of the lake the sun had decided to appear in fits and starts and there were some good patches of blue sky showing, so I pulled up at the side of the road close to Bala station and went across to take a couple of shots overlooking the river. By that time it was gone 5pm and my lunch time sausage rolls had worn off so I returned to the van and headed back towards the camp site. 


Driving back along the B roads there were some lovely views but again there weren't many convenient places to stop, which was a shame as I could have got several nice photos, however I did manage to stop on a wider part of the road and I got a couple of shots overlooking the nearby fields and the valley.


Those were to be my last shots of the day, and back at the tent I settled in for the evening, only emerging again to take the dogs for their bedtime walk. I just timed it right too as I'd no sooner got back to the tent than the first drops of rain fell - at least it had waited until then and hadn't rained while I'd been out at Bala. Now I was back in the tent it didn't really matter what it did, but as I settled down in bed a while later I kept my fingers metaphorically crossed that the following day would turn out to be nice.



Saturday May 27th 2017 - Another break at Felin Uchaf

A very warm and sunny morning at 9.30 saw me leaving home for another break at Felin Uchaf camp site in North Wales. I had to stop off at the local Asda store to fill up the van with diesel and also get some provisions, and although I wasn't in the store long I was quite surprised when I came out to find that the sun had clouded over and it was starting to rain. That was just typical - several days of very warm sunny weather then it rains at the start of the bank holiday! It certainly didn't bode well for the weekend, however by the time I'd covered about a third of my journey the rain had stopped and although grey and cloudy it was fine for the rest of the way.

My original intention, had I left home much earlier, was to stop off at Chirk Castle to take some photos of the gardens, but with the grey cloud there wasn't much point so I just carried on to my destination. With a brief stop in Corwen to get a takeaway lunch - I can recommend the freshly-made egg mayo sandwiches from Yum Yum's cafe - I got to the camp site just after mid day and pulled up onto my pitch. With no sign of either Gwyn or Nan, the site owners, I couldn't book in straight away so I demolished my lunch then set about putting up the tent, and I'd just about finished getting everything inside when Nan came to find me. After I brief chat with her and the couple on the pitch across I took Sophie and Poppie for a walk down the lane then drove back into Corwen for a look round the shops.

Back at the site the sky was still cloudy and grey and it was getting too late in the afternoon to go anywhere anyway so I just chilled out in the tent with a couple of dvds and a magazine, emerging for the bed time dog walk just before the light faded. Even though it had been cloudy it was still quite warm so I was keeping my fingers crossed that the sun would return the following day so I could get out and about with the camera.



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.