On Tuesday I arrived back home from my 4-day break in North Wales and to say I wasn’t a happy bunny is an understatement. This has been the third Easter in a row that my break has been blighted by rotten weather, curtailing any planned trips out and ruining the possibility of taking a certain few special photos I wanted to get – add to that the mother of all disasters which happened on Monday and my current frame of mind is that I wouldn’t care if there was never another Easter ever again!
Admittedly the weekend started well enough last Friday morning when I left home in the sunshine; it did cloud over a bit while I was en route but by the time I’d reached the camp site the sun was out again and things were looking very promising. My new tent proved to be exceptionally easy to put up and I found there was more space in the living area than in my previous tent, though I’d decided before I left home that I would actually sleep in the van – which, as it later turned out, was something I was eternally thankful for. The rain started that evening – I’d taken the dogs for their final walk just before it went dark and the first drops appeared as I got back to the van. From then on it was heavy and prolonged showers on and off all night, though at least it would test the new tent for its waterproof-ness.
It was still raining on Saturday morning and by early afternoon I’d had enough of being marooned in the van so I decided to drive into Llangollen for a look round the shops – those shops which I’ve looked round heaven knows how many times before and which never seem to change, but at least it was something to do. Fortunately the rain eased off and it did stay fine for a while so even though it was a very grey day I did manage to snatch a few photos, and I even discovered a nice little church with some lovely stained glass windows.
I’d not been back at the camp site for long when the rain started again, lasting through the evening and well into the night, but when I woke on Sunday morning it was to a cloudless blue sky and sunshine – perfect for going back to Chirk Castle later on and getting the blue sky garden photo I wanted. As I was preparing to leave the site I noticed some little bluetits flitting about and landing in a nearby tree so I grabbed the camera to try and get a couple of shots of them – they were very quick though and I missed most of them but one stayed still just long enough for me to catch it, although it’s not exactly a brilliant shot.
Now while it may have been lovely and sunny when I left the site at 10am it wasn’t like that a few miles further east; driving along the A5 it started to cloud over and by the time I got to Chirk the sun was only coming through in fits and starts. Not what I really wanted but I was there so I decided to make the best of it; I didn’t bother going in the castle itself as I was only in there last year and nothing will have changed since then so I concentrated on the gardens but I must admit to being very disappointed. There was very little colour anywhere this time, the flower border nearest the castle contained nothing but a few tulips, most of the lawned areas had been roped off because the grass was so wet, and the mass of white daffodils which had featured in my lovely photo last year were no more than clumps of green leaves. Fortunately I did see a bit of blue sky and sunshine through the breaks in the cloud so I managed to get a few shots but still didn’t get the one I really wanted.
From Chirk I headed back to Llangollen; driving along the A5 I’d noticed snow from a previous occasion lying on top of the highest hills so thought a visit to Horseshoe Pass might get some good snowy shots but once I got up there I found there was only one hillside with a light dusting of snow on it. By then the clouds had rolled in good style and the day had turned very grey but the views were still quite clear so I did at least manage to get a few reasonable shots. My original intention had been to stop off at Valle Crucis Abbey on my way back into Llangollen but the day had turned so grey I didn’t bother and just drove back to Corwen instead.
Never having explored Corwen properly – it’s only a small place so there’s not really that much of it to explore – I decided to stop for a while and in my wanderings I discovered a waterfall I didn’t know existed and also got a great shot of the lovely little Wesleyan chapel on the main road. Next on the itinerary was Rhug chapel just off the A494 but I found when I got there that it’s only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so I did a quick about turn and headed back to the camp site for the rest of the day.
It was sometime during the night that I half woke up and heard the sound of light rain on the van roof – well that was nothing new, it had been raining for most of the weekend, but I didn’t realise then the disaster which was about to happen. I’d pitched my tent on the nearside of the van and on the next pitch, at the other side of the tent, was a 4-berth touring caravan; when I woke on Monday morning and looked across the van I could see the side of that caravan through a gap in the van curtains. That was strange, I hadn’t been able to see the caravan before because my tent was between it and me – except it wasn’t. What I’d thought was light rain during the night must have been the beginning of a snow shower which had landed on the tent and frozen, with the weight making the tent collapse. Two of the three poles had snapped and the end where I would have been sleeping, if I’d been in there, was completely flattened – thank goodness the dogs and I had been in the van otherwise the tent would have come down on top of the three of us.
The worst of it was, most of my belongings were in there under that lot, and it was only the height of the tall larder unit which was stopping the other end from falling down completely. I had to get everything out somehow so I set to clearing all the snow and ice and pulling the poles out, and once they were out of the way I managed to unzip the back door and crawl inside, then item by item I dragged everything out and packed it in the van. And while I was doing all this it was raining steadily so by the time I’d finished there was water inside the tent as well as on it and I was literally soaked through to the skin. There was nothing I could do with the tent just then so I left it where it was while I got changed, had a brew and got warmed up, then a while later a guy from a caravan further down the site came to help me with it and between us we managed to lift it up, get the water out of it and carry it over to the back fence where it was draped along to hopefully dry out if it stopped raining.
In spite of the bad start and the constant rain I was determined not to waste the rest of the day sitting in the van on my pitch so I decided to drive into Bala, and that’s when the second disaster struck – the van wouldn’t start. I’d unthinkingly left the ignition on the evening before and the battery was flatter than flat, so once again it was Paul from the caravan further down who came to my rescue, jump-starting the van with his own trusty Toyota Rav 4. Eventually I got to Bala though it was still raining, so leaving the dogs in the van I went to get some provisions from the Spar shop and had a quick walk along the top end of the lake before heading back to the camp site.
The ‘B’ road back to the site took me through some lovely countryside with great views worth several photos, however the only place I stopped was in a lay-by close to where the road went over a narrow bridge. The normally narrow stream running under the bridge had swollen with all the rain and there was quite a torrent of water running down the gulley and out at the other side of the road – well worth a photo or two before I continued back to the site.
It was later that evening that Paul came and asked me if I fancied a brew and a chat back at his caravan so I went down and spent several hours in good company, just the thing I needed to round off what had been a very difficult and trying day in more ways than one. In fact I enjoyed myself so much that it was 3am before I went back to my own van.
If I’d been hoping that the tent would dry out before I had to pack it away my hopes were dashed on Tuesday morning – after a fine night for once it was raining again so I had to accept that this thing was being packed away wet. I’d got some wheelie bin-sized liners the previous day so Paul came up to help me and between us we got the tent off the fence, folded up and into a bag, with the wet groundsheet going into another bag – and Sod’s Law decreed that once everything was packed away the rain stopped, the sky cleared and the sun came blazing through, and it stayed like that for the whole of my drive back home. At the moment I feel too tired, fed up and disillusioned to even contemplate any future Easter camping holidays but who knows? In twelve months time I could have quite a different outlook – it remains to be seen.
**Full details of the weekend with more photos can be found on my other blog, starting here.