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

Monday July 3rd 2017 - Discovering something I didn't know existed

I woke that morning to find that the previous two days' blue sky and sunshine had been replaced by grey clouds and no sun at all, though it was still very warm. After the usual dog walk I made and ate a leisurely breakfast then started the packing up process, and by 11am I was ready for leaving my little corner - everyone had to be off the fields for 12 noon and for once I could say that I wasn't the last to leave. On my way across the fields I stopped to say goodbye to the group of camping friends who were still packing up then left the van just inside the entrance gate while I took the dogs for a walk round the nearby castle grounds.

My original intention had been to walk up The Ride, the long wide tree-lined grassy avenue leading to the castle, then round the bottom end of the lake and back through the woods but it didn't quite work out like that. I'd only got a quarter of the way up The Ride when I saw a woman further up, coming towards me with four off-lead dogs - I didn't want them running about round Sophie and Poppie, who were on the lead, so I veered off to the left and took a path through the woods. I'd never been in the woods on that side of The Ride before and I hadn't gone very far when I came to a clearing with a long red brick wall and a sign pointing the way to the Old English Garden. This was something completely new to me and as gardens usually mean photos I just had to check it out. 

Following the path took me through an arched gateway in the wall and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found on the other side. High well-trimmed hedges enclosed an area where many different brightly coloured flowers and plants grew rampant on each side of a gravel path, and an archway through another wall at the end took me to a lawned area edged with bushes and flowering shrubs and with a gazebo at one end. Beyond the gazebo a low stone wall topped with a fancy iron railing separated the lawns from another smaller area where four gardeners were tending to the plants; it was a really pretty area but I could only manage one photo before someone got in my way. 

By the time I'd finished wandering round the gardens I hadn't got long left before I needed to get back to the van. I didn't want to risk it being locked in the field, although the stewards were still there in their tent, so it was time to head back. There was only one thing wrong though - where I came out of the garden wasn't where I went in, and the path I followed took me miles from where I wanted to be. I found my way back to The Ride eventually though and with one quick shot of the lake I headed back to the van and got there only a couple of minutes after noon.

After saying goodbye to the stewards I set off for home and as I left Elvaston Castle behind patches of blue began appearing through the clouds followed by brief shafts of sunshine; the further west I went the nicer it became and by the time I'd reached the outskirts of Stoke-On-Trent it was just as nice as the previous two days. I was back home within two hours and as I downloaded my photos onto the computer I said a silent 'thanks' to the unknown woman with the four dogs I'd seen earlier - if it hadn't been for them I wouldn't have veered away from my intended walk and I wouldn't have discovered the lovely Old English Garden. And now I know about it I'll certainly be paying another visit next time I'm there.

Sunday July 2nd 2017 - Part 2 - A final look round the show ground

Arriving back at the camping fields I parked just inside the entrance and went across to the show ground for a final look round. I managed to catch the last few minutes of the steel band playing in the marquee - they are from a local college and are very very good - then went to see the owls and parrots at Winged World before ending at the fairground. The bright colours of the rides and stalls really stood out in the sunshine and were well worth taking a handful of photos before I finally found something to eat and went back to the van.

Back at the tent I made a brew and settled down with the sausage roll and sandwich I'd just got then after an hour spent with my book I set out to visit my friends Ken and Shelagh who lived just a couple of miles away. I wasn't sure if they would be in but they were, and I spent a very pleasant couple of hours in their company before driving back to the camping fields. Some of my camping friends were leaving very early the following morning so I stopped for a chat with them for a while then finally went back across the fields to my own tent.

As the daylight faded I took Sophie and Poppie for a walk round the top end of the field then once they were tucked in their beds in the back of the van I made preparations to get into my own bed - and it was when I checked my step counter that I got quite a surprise. Even though my actual step challenge had finished two days previously I was still using the counter, and with the combination of walking across the camping fields and round the show ground plus my walk along the canal I'd done a total distance of six miles that day and a staggering 21,339 steps!

The little man in the corner of the counter waved his arms in glee and I thought it was a shame in a way that those steps hadn't been part of the challenge - that really would have been a good total to write on my daily record to show everyone.

Sunday July 2nd 2017 - Part 1 - A canal walk at Shardlow

Sunday morning arrived sunny and very warm and after the first dog walk round the top end of the field I went over to the show ground to get some breakfast at the same place as the day before, though this time I got it as a 'takeaway' and went back to the tent to make my own brew. The morning was spent relaxing with my book then at lunchtime I set out to explore along the canal running through the village of Shardlow a couple of miles away.

The Trent & Mersey Canal, engineered by James Brindley, was the country's first long distance canal; constructed between 1766 and 1777 it runs 93 miles from the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook in Cheshire to the River Trent at Shardlow. Shardlow itself was, at one time, an important river port with several wharfs and associated warehouses which are now, in the present day, part of a conservation area with over fifty Grade ll listed buildings converted for business use or as private dwellings. With several public houses within the conservation area Shardlow is now considered to be Britain's most complete surviving example of a canal village.

Turning off the main road through the village a short distance down a residential lane took me to a gravel-surfaced free car park and from there a wide footpath led between hedgerows to the canal a couple of hundred yards away. With a choice of going left or right I chose left first as I'd gone to the right the last time I was there. Past a short row of waterside houses the path took me under a bridge, past a boatyard and under another bridge to where the canal widened out into a basin. The old warehouses there had been converted into apartments and a couple of waterside restaurant/bars with pleasant tree-shaded gardens, and just beyond were lock gates and the lock keeper's cottage. Past the lock I was heading into open countryside and with no idea where I would end up I decided to turn round and retrace my steps.

As I passed the last of the canalside houses I saw the oddest thing; a couple of times I'd heard what sounded like the hooting of a steam locomotive although there was no railway line anywhere near there, but running round the large garden of that last house was a miniature steam loco complete with open carriages and several children as passengers. It seemed to be a strange thing to have running round a private garden, but just beyond the end of the garden was a small backwater where a few boats were moored and a place which looked like it could be a pub so maybe it was connected to that.

A few more minutes of walking took me past the attractive backwater of Chapel Farm Marina with its corner gardens, then further along the path took me under a bridge and I came to another set of lock gates where a large information sign designed for canal and river traffic told me that I wasn't far from the River Trent. Just beyond there the path on the canal side was lined with some form of foliage with creamy-white flowers which gave off a lovely scent something similar to (I think) honeysuckle; apart from the really obvious ones I wouldn't know one wild flower from another so if anyone knows what this was then I'd love to know as it really was nice.

Eventually I came to the end of the canal where it joined the River Trent and the River Derwent, and the path took me to the right and up a gentle incline to Long Horse Bridge. The original bridge was a timber construction which crossed the Trent at the Derwent junction; after collapsing in 1893 it was rebuilt, then in 1932 it was replaced at the same location by a bridge made of reinforced concrete. After 70 years the bridge was suffering from severe concrete degradation so for safety reasons it was closed in 2002 and demolished the following year. The new Long Horse Bridge, with a span of 170ft, was constructed across the Trent in 2011, 140metres upriver from the original one, and was opened in November that year.

At the far side of the bridge I wandered along just far enough to take a handful of photos then I made my way back across and headed back along the canal to where I'd parked the van. I'd had a good couple of hours walk and I could have gone further but I wanted to get back to the show ground for a last look round and to get something for my tea before everything started closing down. It had been such a nice walk though that I'll certainly do it again another time.

**Since arriving back home I've found out that the miniature railway is in a private garden which is open to the public on certain days as part of the Open Gardens scheme. What looked like a pub was just another house, but if I'd gone to take a look I would probably have been able to look round the garden properly and maybe have a ride on the train. Something to remember for next year if the weekend coincides with the steam rally.

Saturday July 1st 2017 - A weekend at Elvaston Castle

The ridiculously early time of 5.15am saw me setting off for a weekend's camping at the Elvaston Castle steam rally in Derbyshire, and after a nice easy drive I arrived at the camping fields just after 7am. The stewards were already up and about so I booked in and collected my weekend passes then drove over to my favourite quiet spot at the far end of the far field, found a nice level section of ground and set about putting up the tent.

Everything went well until I was about to put the last pole in, then it happened. I'd just got the tent standing up nicely on three poles when a breeze came out of nowhere and pushed it over, so to stop it from collapsing completely I grabbed the bottom corner and pulled it back up. Now I've done that before and never had any problems but this time was different; as I pulled there was a loud tearing sound and a big ninety degree rip appeared in the side wall - it was about 12 inches across and a good 18 inches down. Disaster!

Now although I've only had the tent for just over four years it's obviously been long enough for the material to degrade in the weather over that time and it had become brittle in places, hence the rip. There was no point crying about it though; although I was actually sleeping in the van I still needed the tent for somewhere to wash and dress in comfort and make a brew, so I put the fourth pole in, pegged it down all round then got out my roll of insulating tape to try and mend the tear. With the side wall being on a slope and the tape only being narrow it wasn't easy, especially as I really needed to be both inside and outside at the same time, but I managed it after a fashion and keeping my fingers crossed that it would hold for the weekend I set off to get some breakfast over on the show ground.

There was a new catering wagon not far from the entrance and it had proper solid wooden tables/bench seats outside so at least there was somewhere decent to anchor the dogs to while I got served. Breakfast came in the form of a cheeseburger and coffee; the coffee was actually quite good and the cheeseburger so large and filling that I couldn't eat it all so Sophie and Poppie got the last bit between them. A walk round the stalls followed, although I didn't buy anything, then I made my way back to van to chill out for a while.

Passing the stewards' tent I got chatting to one of them and when I mentioned the tear in my tent he said he would come and have a look at it for me. He brought with him a roll of Gorilla tape and stuck some on both sides over the tape I'd put on, and though it wasn't the most elegant repair it would probably last reasonably well and would hopefully keep the tent weather-proof.

After a couple of hours relaxing with my book I went back over to the show ground to watch the camel racing. There were four camels all dressed up with brightly coloured blankets, tassels and pompoms, and with their riders in 'Arabian' costumes; the races went from one side of the main arena to the other and back again several times but there was a lot of messing about by the camels and their riders between races so I found the whole thing a bit boring. It was fun for kids though as they all had to shout for number three as it was always last.

A performance by the dancing diggers followed, though I didn't get any photos of them this time as I've taken loads in previous years. After another look round the stalls I went back to get the van and drove to the supermarket in the nearby village to get some batteries for my lamp, then the rest of the afternoon and evening were spent in the company of various camping friends, ending with a very pleasant couple of hours chat with John from Norwich who I often meet up with while camping down in Norfolk. 

The daylight was fading by the time I made my way back to the tent, and though I could have gone back to the show ground for the evening entertainment I decided against it. It had been a long day, and even though it was much earlier than I would usually go to bed it was time to settle down for the night - and I didn't read much of my book before I was well and truly in the land of nod.