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

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.

Sunday April 16th 2017 - Part 1 - Chirk Castle

After a couple of heavy rain showers during the night that morning arrived fine, grey, cloudy and cool. Leaving the site at 9am my first port of call was the big car boot sale on the outskirts of Chirk - in good weather this sale is seriously huge and takes ages to get round. There was plenty of space to park though so I backed the van into the shade of a tree on the far edge of the field just in case the sun did decide to put in an appearance; I long since learned not to take any of my dogs round a car boot sale for several reasons, especially if it's a really busy one, and on such a dull cool day I knew they would be okay while I was away.

As usual I was on the lookout for mouse ornaments but I didn't need to stop at every stall; there wasn't a mouse to be found anywhere but I did get myself a lovely black, white and silver glittery 'going out' top for £1.50, and another couple of quid got a nice new rug in a neutral colour for Michael's room. Back at the van I took the dogs for a good walk right to the top of the field, all the way round the next field and back, then set off to my second port of call, Chirk Castle.

Not being exactly sure where the castle was in relation to the car boot field I asked one of the marshalls near the gate and was told to turn right at the entrance, turn left at the end of the lane, go straight on at the roundabout then turn left at the next roundabout and go past the Co-op shop. Simple enough you might think, but as I got onto the first roundabout I realised that going straight on would take me onto the A483 heading north, which was totally in the wrong direction - I should have gone left, so I went all the way round and came off onto the A5 heading back towards Llangollen. 

At the next roundabout there was a 'castle' sign pointing left and as I turned onto that road I realised that was the way I'd gone to get to the car boot sale. If I'd turned left out of the field instead of right I would have been on the right road within seconds; instead I'd just needlessly driven round in a big circle. So much for that marshall and her directions! From then on it was easy to find the castle as there were several signs for it but even when I got there I hadn't done with the minor irritations.

Car parking was in a huge field with marshalls directing the way and indicating where to park. I was directed to the right where I would be parked in the open near a fence, but seeing some cars parked in the shade of a line of trees on the left I asked if I could go over there as I had two dogs in the back, only to be told abruptly by the young marshall "No, there are no spaces!" It looked to me like there was loads of room so I asked again, only to get the same abrupt reply; it did cross my mind to drive round and park there anyway but I didn't - instead, just to confuse the issue, I parked several car-widths along from where I was told to, and if it messed up their system then it was their problem!

Fortunately the rest of my castle visit was undertaken with no problems and I really enjoyed going up and down various staircases and looking through all the different rooms. It was a big place, built in a square round a central courtyard; completed by Roger Mortimer in 1310 it served as a border fortress until 1595 when Thomas Myddleton bought it to create a family home. Since then its many occupants have left behind lavishly furnished interiors, a diverse collection of art and curiosities, and acres of beautiful gardens and parkland. The castle is now in the care of the National Trust but members of the Myddleton family actually lived there until 2004. 

The first place I looked in was the dungeon, almost 30ft below ground down a steep and uneven stone spiral staircase at the bottom of one of the towers. There was nothing down there, it was just a large circular space with two simple narrow benches and would have been in total darkness if it hadn't been for the dim light which had been set above the doorway. Back at ground level another steep staircase led up to a barely-furnished room which had been used by Thomas Evelyn Ellis, 8th Baron Howard de Walden, as a study while leasing the castle from the Myddleton family between 1911 and 1946. This simple, almost empty room was certainly a great contrast to the opulence of all the grand state rooms in the rest of the castle.

Just off the entrance to the 'lived in' part of the castle was the Cromwell Hall with its medieval-style fireplace and collection of English Civil War armour and 17th century muskets, originally purchased in 1680 to commemorate the family's exploits during the conflict. From there I found my way to a grand staircase which led to a large and airy landing with marble pillars and decorative coving round the walls and ceiling, and if I'd read every information board in every room after that I would have been there all day so I just wandered round and took photos where I could without really registering which room was which.

Eventually I walked through the long gallery with its ornately carved chairs, benches and tables set along the walls, and just off to one side was a bedroom with decadent wallpaper and a four-poster bed adorned with heavy brocade drapes. Then at the end of the gallery and through another door I came across something totally unexpected; thinking I was walking into another room I was quite surprised to find that I was on a balcony in the chapel, with a vertigo-inducing view over the rail to the floor below. I don't normally mind heights but I certainly wasn't expecting that one!

From the chapel I only had another couple of rooms to see, one of which I knew was the Bow Room. A couple of ornaments on top of the fireplace roused my curiosity as I couldn't make out what they were; they could have been jugs but they looked more like animals of some kind - maybe sheep, but having seen them on an internet picture they could possibly be dogs. The little blue rabbit sitting just down below was a modern addition though - it was part of an Easter rabbit hunt specially for kids and there was one to be found in some part of every room.

With my look round the castle rooms over it was time to explore the gardens, but that's for another post. I wasn't sure how well my indoor photos would come out as I'd been asked not to use flash so I was relying on the camera's night shot facility and any natural daylight in the rooms, but if I got just one decent shot of each room I'd be happy.