After my well earned coffee and cake break at the Allonby Tea Rooms my quest continued round the corner on the main road where the Ship Hotel is situated. A Grade ll listed building, the Ship was originally a 17th century coaching inn with stabling for horses and was popular with those travelling on the old coaching route to London. In 1857 Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins stayed overnight at the Ship while touring northern Cumberland, and though Dickens didn’t think much of the village itself (describing it as ‘a dreary little place’) he did like the Ship and described it as ‘a capital little homely inn looking out upon the sea….a clean nice place in a rough wild country’.
A few yards along from the Ship a stone built bridge carries the road diagonally across Allonby Beck. In former times the beck was much wider and shallower than it is now and was crossed at road level by an old cast iron bridge which was unfortunately destroyed in 1904. A traction engine, hauling a steam-driven fairground ride, started to cross the bridge but never made it to the other side ; the bridge cracked under the weight and the whole lot ended up in the beck which was swollen after a period of heavy rain. Following that incident a new stone bridge was built in 1905 and it’s still in use today.
On a corner near the seaward end of the bridge and overlooking the play park is The Codfather fish and chip shop. It doesn’t feature on my list of properties to find and I don’t have a photo of it but I mention it because I find it a little odd. To find the next property in the brochure I had to look near the post office but search as I might I couldn’t find a post office anywhere ; eventually I asked a local and was told that the post office counter, such as it is, is only open on Thursdays between 10 and 11am and is actually in The Codfather – how bizarre! I know in these times of companies and businesses downsizing and making cutbacks a post office can often be found within a supermarket but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of one in a fish and chip shop!
Once I’d located the ‘post office’ it was easy enough to find the next two properties. The Grapes was one of two pubs situated only a few yards apart and a narrow lane running at the side of The Grapes once led to the fish yards owned by a local family. Now a private house with a modern front door and windows, structurally it still looks the same as it was many years ago although strangely there’s only a brief mention of it in the brochure. The 3-storey Solway Hotel stood on the corner of the block; there were two versions of it and in more recent times the second one was known for a while as The Ocean Liner. It was a highly successful establishment providing good food and entertainment, and Country & Western nights were popular with acts like Boxcar Willie bringing in the crowds. Following a fire in the 1990s it was demolished and a modern 2-storey house built in its place but with an identical roof line to that of the hotel.
Back on the main road, across from The Codfather and set back off the road itself, is Pig In The Bath antiques/junk shop in what was once Allonby Mill. The present mill building dates from the 19th century and stands on the site of a much earlier building which may have been a corn mill. Between Pig In The Bath and the road bridge a footbridge runs over the beck to a small square of cottages and the one on the left was once The Queen’s Head Inn which, in the mid 1800s, became Allonby’s first and only Temperance Hotel. Tucked away down a very narrow passage behind this property is tiny Cruck Cottage, named after the building method used in its construction ; a timber frame of oak ‘crucks’ or trunks provided the main foundation for the structure then it was in-filled with laths and a mixture of animal dung and straw. Cottages like these were known as ‘clay dabbin’ cottages.
Set back in the square, and at the beginning of Garden Lane, is Glen Cottage, a nicely renovated holiday let which still retains some of its original features including wood beams and an inglenook fireplace. It was once the home of well known Cumbrian artist Percy Kelly who lived there for ten years. The initials AK – PK – 1958 can still be seen engraved on the lintel in the bedroom, with AK being his first wife Audrey and 1958 being the year they moved in ; it was while living in Allonby that he produced some of his best watercolours of the region.
Percy moved out of Glen Cottage in 1968 after Audrey discovered that he was secretly cross-dressing ; she continued to live there and after they divorced he eventually remarried, moving to Kendal, then Wales, and finally Norfolk. His second wife left him in 1983 after twelve years together, and while taking HRT, convinced he was becoming a woman, Percy changed his name by deed poll to Roberta Penelope. After spending his life steadfastly refusing to sell much of his work he died in 1993 in obscurity and poverty, though his cottage was later to be found crammed with his work. More information about Glen Cottage and Percy Kelly can be found here on the cottage’s website.
Garden Lane was once part of the main thoroughfare through the village and continued further than it does now ; it’s cut off by the beck which runs through the back of the village but when the beck was wider it had a shallow ford and Garden Lane was linked to Brewery Lane. The present narrower channel was dug by POWs during WW2 and being deeper it effectively separated both lanes. One of the properties in Garden Lane had large ovens in the cellar which could be accessed from outside, and as many homes didn’t have ovens at the time villagers would take their tattie pots to be cooked at the house in Garden Lane, earning it the name of Tattie Pot Lonning (Lane). The garage at Rainford House in Garden Lane was originally a clay dabbin cottage though at some time it was extended upwards by adding a stone-built gable. In recent years the present owner has restored the clay structure with antique bricks but a piece of the original clay and gravel has been ‘framed’ on the garage’s side wall.
Back on the main road, heading south and next door to the Baywatch Hotel, is Twentyman’s ice cream shop and general store. Twentyman’s had originally been boat breakers but when that trade died out the family saw an opportunity to provide ice creams and refreshments to passing visitors. The business was founded in 1920 and over the years has become famous throughout north Cumbria for its ice cream, made on the premises from a secret family recipe, although the modern property of today bears little resemblance to that of 1920.
The penultimate building on my list, the church vicarage, was built in 1872 to replace a smaller vicarage which was situated in what is now the church graveyard. When Allonby parish merged with nearby Crosscanonby the vicarage was sold and in the 1950s it became a holiday home for children with disabilities, with actor and comedian Richard Hearne, famous for his ‘Mr Pastry’ character, being a fund raiser for the venture. Since then the building has been a hotel and a private home before becoming what it is now, West Winds Tea Rooms.
Christ Church is the last building on the main road through Allonby heading south. The original chapel was built in 1743 but a hundred years later it was deemed to be too small for the growing congregation ; it was rebuilt in 1845 then enlarged in 1849 and again in 1885. The low roofed part of the building on the north side was once a school for about 100 children, it was built in 1741 before the original chapel and eventually became the Church school.
With Christ Church being the last on my list I finally had everything in the brochure found, photographed and ticked off. It had been a long, varied and interesting (sometimes mildly frustrating) day and with the late afternoon sun turning into an early evening sun and casting shadows where I didn’t want them it was time to return to the van and head back to the camp site. I’d completed my quest and the three of us had walked and wandered far enough so a good couple of hours of chill out time was more than justified.
Tomorrow morning sees the start of my 10-day holiday in north west Cumbria, camping at the same site I stayed at over Easter. Since late Monday afternoon the weather here has been abysmal with rain for most of every day so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that once I get up there things will change ; while I can’t expect to get the same continuously wonderful weather as I got at Easter I’m still hoping that most of the days will see some sunshine as there are so many places I want to see and explore.
The van has been packed up since Easter but it’s not as simple as just putting in a few last minute items and the dogs and setting off – my wonderful son has seen to that! After his night shift tonight Michael has four days off so he recently decided he would spend those four days over in Ireland ; with a relatively last minute booking his choice of flights was limited to early morning or late evening so to maximise his time there he chose the morning one, flying at 8am. And guess who he asked to take him to the airport?! So on the very morning I’m driving myself up to north west Cumbria I’m going in the opposite direction first!
Michael would normally finish his shift at 6am but he’s managed to wangle a 5.30 finish which will be better ; there shouldn’t be much traffic on the roads so early on a Sunday so unless there’s an absolute major motorway hold up I should be able to get him there in plenty of time. As it happens my pitch at the camp site won’t be available until 1pm so once I’ve dropped him at the airport I can have a good couple of hours chill out back here before I set off for Cumbria – and thinking about it, it seems weird that he will be on the coach to Roscrea before I even leave here, and he’ll be at the family home before I get to the camp site. Time and distance can seem so strange sometimes.
At the camp site I’m booked on the same pitch I had at Easter so with good weather I should hopefully get more or less the same views as those above. I’ve been looking forward to this holiday for a while so with any luck I should be able to do lots of exploring and I’ll come back with a ridiculous amount of photos, many of which will no doubt end up on this and my other blog – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back.
Last weekend it was my birthday – Sunday to be exact – and as Michael was originally to be off work that day we had planned on having a day out somewhere and maybe stopping off at a car boot sale, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that. When he got his shift rota for the week he was down to work that day and because of some stupid football match on Saturday no-one would swap shifts with him as they all wanted to go to the pub, watch it on tv and no doubt drink enough beer to render themselves unfit for work the following day. After working a 12-hour night shift on Friday Saturday was supposed to be his sleeping day but he said if I woke him at lunch time we could go out then instead of Sunday and he would catch up on his sleep later on.
So that’s what we did and we had a drive out to St. Annes as I wanted to go back to Ashton Gardens to take some more photos now the trees are in full leaf, except the weather was so dismally dull and grey that the photos I did take aren’t worth bothering with – most of them will be deleted and certainly none of them will make it into a blog post. After a meal in our usual café we just came straight back home, but because our trip out was something we would normally do on a Sunday I had the confusing feeling that it was Sunday, although to be honest I felt like I’d only gone out for the sake of going out.
On Sunday itself, to make up for missing a proper day out with Michael, I planned on taking myself and the dogs out somewhere, however the weather wasn’t the best so with a cash gift from Michael I decided to go in search of a new folding camp bed, something I’ve been wanting to get for quite a while. The Blackburn branch of Go Outdoors is an easy drive away and not far from there is Witton Country Park so I could kill two birds with one stone – a look round Go Outdoors first then a dog walk round the country park afterwards.
I found the camp bed I wanted in the store but the one on display was the only one they had and there was a slight fault with the mechanism so they wouldn’t sell it to me, however the very helpful assistant phoned the Preston store to see if they had any – they had, so they put one aside for me to collect later on. Unfortunately when I came out of the Blackburn store it was raining hard – a walk round the country park was out of the question so I just drove straight over to the Preston store and picked up the camp bed from there. With the on/off rain and no umbrella there was no point going anywhere else so I just came straight back home and the dogs never got their walk after all.
Michael arrived home from work at 5.30pm that day and we went to our usual eaterie, the Black Dog at Belmont, for a proper birthday meal. I don’t usually have a dessert but this time I did – salted caramel and vanilla ice creams with fresh cream, chocolate sauce and crushed Maltesers ; it was divine. Back at home I spent the rest of the evening reading a book which I’d recently got as a birthday present to myself. It had been an odd sort of day – well an odd sort of weekend really – but that was then, and I’m now looking forward to a nice long camping holiday coming up in a couple of weeks time.
Just as in June circumstances beyond my control decided to wreck my recently planned 10-day holiday away so instead of going to Norfolk as I normally do at this time of year, a change of destination and departure day saw me heading off on Thursday morning last week for another few days on Anglesey. I stopped off en route to visit my blogging friend Eileen and just as I was leaving there it started to rain – and that set the tone for the next couple of days. It was still raining when I finally reached the camp site, it was windy too, and with no chance of putting the tent up I spent the rest of that day and all the following day living in the van. It did turn out really nice later on Friday afternoon though so I took advantage of it and took the dogs down on the beach, and with not many people around it was vastly different to when I’d been there in June.
I woke early on Saturday morning and found that the wind had gone, there wasn’t even the whisper of a breeze, so I took advantage of it and got the tent up while the going was good – I was really only using it to store most of my stuff as I’d already decided to continue sleeping in the van. The day was really grey and cloudy but after spending most of the previous two days cooped up in the van I was still determined to go out somewhere, and after having the van cleaned as part of a charity car wash at the local fire station I went over to Llanberis on the mainland to explore round an old castle which I’d found out about in June. The only part of it still standing was the tower and it was possible to climb the steps inside it but being extremely steep and narrow they are definitely not for anyone with claustrophobia or vertigo.
Also while in Llanberis I looked round a lovely old church and the Snowdon Mountain Railway station – and with the high prices charged for a ride to the top of the mountain I certainly won’t bother going up there. On the way back from Llanberis I called to see my cousin Dave in Llanrug then with the weather improving I stopped off at Port Dinorwic, where I was lucky enough to see a heron ‘posing’ on the end of a seaweed-covered breakwater.
Sunday started off cloudy but came nicer as the morning went on and by lunch time it was lovely so I took myself off to explore a part of Parys mountain I hadn’t previously seen. From there I went to Llanbadrig church, which I’d missed while on my quest to find Porth Wen brick works in June and where I learned some interesting history, and my final stop – via a cheeseburger from Pete’s Burger Bar at Penrhos – was Soldier’s Point and the marina at Holyhead.
Monday was just like the previous day, starting off cloudy but coming nicer as the morning went on, and this time I went to explore a corner of the island I’ve never really been to – a stretch of the coast towards the south side of the island alongside part of the Menai Strait. From there I went to the outskirts of Newborough to find the Giant’s Stepping Stones then into Newborough itself and through the forest to Llanddwyn Island – by then the weather was getting better and better and the views across to Snowdonia and the Llyn peninsula were beautifully clear. There was a BBC film crew making a documentary about life on the island at the beginning of the last century and though I couldn’t go near the old cottages I was able to wander round the rest of the island and I got some beautiful photos.
Tuesday was coming home day and the morning was partly sunny/partly cloudy and also very windy – taking the tent down wasn’t too much of a hassle but I had to fight with the groundsheet before I finally bundled it up and got it into the van. I left the site at 10.45 am, much earlier than I would normally leave but with it being so windy there was no point staying any longer, however over on the mainland the weather got better and it turned into a gloriously sunny day so I stopped off for an hour or so in Conwy. As a long-time follower of the Quest tv programme Salvage Hunters, just for curiosity I went to look in Drew Pritchard’s shop, and though there were a couple of things I liked most of the items were grossly overpriced and horrible – it beats me why anyone would want some of the things that were on display.
On the way from Conwy I called to see Eileen again but unfortunately missed her this time as she was out somewhere, so I continued homeward and arrived back at 3.30pm – and since then I’ve really known that the holiday was over. Less than a couple of hours after getting home I had a call from the PA at my evening job, she had mistakenly thought I was back at work that day so wondered why I hadn’t turned up. At my morning job yesterday no-one had done anything in my absence so I had lots to catch up on, then later on I went out to the animal hospital to collect Aphra’s ashes for my friend Janet, though she’s asked me to keep them until she feels more able to deal with things.
We also have workmen in the empty house next door, yesterday they were rewiring the whole place and the drilling and banging were horrendous – Michael is currently working 12-hour night shifts but couldn’t get any proper rest because of the noise, and it was so loud at one point that we couldn’t hear each other speaking even though we were only three feet away from each other. After the previous few days peace and quiet on a relatively empty camp site that sort of noise is the last thing I want to hear – fortunately they seem to have been fairly quiet today but any more noise like yesterday will have me wishing I could go straight back to Anglesey!
*Larger versions of these photos and more will eventually be part of a full update on my camping blog, including some interesting history and facts about a few places I’ve seen while away – now all I have to do is get round to writing everything up!
On Tuesday evening this week I arrived back home after a short almost-six-days holiday on Anglesey. I’d actually booked seven days off work and with two weekends I should have had eleven days starting on the first Saturday of the month, but circumstances beyond my control kept me at home for the first few days. I finally set off for Anglesey late last Thursday morning, with the recent good weather staying with me all the way from home, and once at the site, which was very quiet, I was able to set up camp in near enough the same place as last year. Having had no opportunity to open out and dry my new tent, which had been packed away very damp at Easter, I was dreading what I might find so I’d packed my spare green one ‘just in case’ and set up the van to sleep in but I needn’t have worried – although quite a bit of moisture had got trapped between the plastic windows and the blinds the rest of the tent was fine and surprisingly there wasn’t a mark on it anywhere. After a quick wipe over the moisture on the windows soon disappeared in the hot sunshine and the tent served me well over the next few days.
Day 2 arrived sunny and warm again so I decided to have my ‘big day out’ off the island and set off late morning for Llanberis, just over 18 miles away on the mainland. Ages ago a cafe in Llanberis had been recommended to me as a good place to get a meal so I decided to try it and I wasn’t disappointed – I opted for a cheese and onion toastie and it came absolutely oozing with filling and with a salad garnish, and Sophie and Poppie even got a treat of a sausage each. Unfortunately not long afterwards the sky clouded over and the sun played a good game of hide-and-seek but it didn’t spoil the afternoon too much and I still walked right along the lake side to the slate museum and back. When I got back to Anglesey I found the sun and blue sky were just as bright as when I left so with hindsight maybe I should have stayed on the island.
Day 3 was another hot and sunny one and after starting off at the car boot sale just outside the village I made a return visit to Portobello beach in Dulas Bay, which I first went to last year. This time though I went when the tide was going out and almost at its lowest so there was no danger of getting cut off on the riverside like I did before. From the beach I drove into Llangefni and parked up at Asda then took the dogs for a walk through The Dingle nature reserve and up to Cefni reservoir and back, and it was when I was approaching Asda from the entrance to The Dingle that I noticed an old windmill with a strange top, on a rocky outcrop above and just beyond the store. Of all the times I’ve been to Llangefni I’ve never noticed that before so I just had to find it and photograph it.
Day 4 started off at the big car boot sale on the Anglesey show ground then from there I went over to Rhosneigr in search of Sausage Castle. Not actually a castle but a large house with castellated walls – real name Surf Point Villa – it was built next to the beach in the early 1900s by Charles Palethorpe, a member of the famous pork butchery family, and soon became known as Sausage Castle. A short walk along the beach soon found it and from there I continued along the sand to where the Afon Crigyll flowed out across the beach.
From Rhosneigr I drove up to Penrhos Coastal Park and enjoyed a coffee and cheeseburger from Pete’s Burger Bar overlooking Beddmanarch Bay, then went to Breakwater Country Park on the far side of Holyhead. After a walk round the lake I tackled the steep path up Holyhead Mountain but only went up far enough to get a couple of photos overlooking the park and the rest of Holyhead; it was getting on for 6pm by then so time to make my way back to the camp site.
Day 5 was hot and sunny once again and this time I was on a quest to find and photograph the old abandoned brickworks at Porth Wen, a place I’d been told was very difficult to find and get to, so difficult in fact that many of the locals didn’t even know how to get there. I was put on the right track by a lovely old gentleman I got talking to while wandering round Cemaes harbour but it still proved to be quite a long and challenging walk along part of the Anglesey Coastal Path, with a couple of rather hairy places where the path was within inches of a very steep and unprotected drop down the cliff into the sea. I found the place eventually though and also had the added bonus on the way there of unexpectedly finding the old Llanlleiana Porcelain Works.
Day 6 was going home day but it was still hot and sunny so I decided to prolong the day as much as I could. I took my time packing everything away and left the site just before 1pm, but as is my usual custom I took the dogs for a final walk along the beach; it was so nice down there that I decided to stay a while longer and as it was lunch time I made myself a couple of sandwiches from some chicken I had in the cool box and got a takeaway coffee from the nearby kiosk, then sat in the van and had a leisurely lunch with a great view of the beach.
It was getting on for 3pm before I finally managed to tear myself away and set off for home, though I did make three more stops on my way along the coast. The first was at Llanfairfechan, a lovely little place I hadn’t been to for several years, and the second was at Penmaenmawr, smaller than Llanfairfechan and maybe not quite as pretty but still very pleasant. My third and final stop further up the coast was an impromptu visit to my blogging friend Eileen, and we spent a very nice couple of hours having a good natter over a mug of coffee. It was nearly 7.30pm when I finally set off on the last leg of my journey and after a very quick stop at Chester services, where I briefly saw a squirrel near the van, I arrived home at 9.15pm.
Admittedly the holiday hadn’t been near enough as long as I’d originally intended but I’d made the most of the few days I did have and packed as much into each day as I could so I hadn’t missed out on too much. At least I’d found out that the tent was okay after its Easter collapse and subsequent soaking, I’d found and photographed a couple of out-of-the-way places, the weather had been great all the way through and I’d gained a near-enough Mediterranean tan just by walking about and exploring so I can’t complain too much. Now all I have to do is update my camping blog with more details and photos from the last few days – that should keep me occupied for a while!
Reading a post on Anabel’s blog just recently I found it so interesting that I decided I could do a similar post of my own. Some of you reading this will know from reading my camping blog that one of the places I return to regularly is Anglesey – and here’s why.
Back when I was a child I never got the chance to go camping. Many of my friends went with their families, or with their other friends and families, or with the Brownies and Guides or even the school; I would have loved the adventure but whenever I asked my parents if I could go the answer was always the same – “No!” No explanation, just an outright “No!” So the nearest I ever got to camping on a warm sunny day was an old sheet thrown over the back yard washing line, pulled out at an angle and held down with a few bricks, and a piece of old carpet or a cushion to sit on. Sometimes my mum would come out with a plateful of sandwiches and a cold drink for me – I would read whatever book I had at the time and pretend that I was camping.
Family holidays with my parents back then were always taken at a hotel in a seaside resort somewhere in the UK. I well remember the “Where shall we go this year?” discussions, and following a plethora of holiday brochures arriving by post mum and dad would spend hours going through them and making a list of possible places to go to. Finally a decision would be made, a hotel booked and my mum would tell me “”We’re going to **** this year”. I remember as a child going to Eastbourne, Llandudno, London, Great Yarmouth and the Isle of Man among other places, then in my early teens it was the Isle of Wight, Torquay, Folkestone and Scarborough. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all those holidays, especially when, at the age of 12, I was given my own proper colour camera with all the lenses and filters, meaning I could take my own photos of all the places we went to – but for some reason we never went to Anglesey, and all through those years I still never went camping.
Fast forward into adulthood, through two long-term relationships and the birth of my now-adult son, and back in 1994 I met my last partner, Peter. Previous to us getting together he’d camped at a particular site on Anglesey several times while on fishing trips with his brother and he’d told me about it more than once. Then in 1997 it happened that my birthday in early June fell on a Saturday – with the whole weekend available and the weather being warm and sunny I wanted to do something different and suggested that he take me to the place on Anglesey that he’d so often told me about. We had no real camping gear, not even a tent, so we packed his hatchback car so we could sleep in it, added a few basics plus the two dogs, Skippy and Sandy, and off we went. I’ll never forget Peter’s words to me as we were driving along the A55 coast road “I hope to God you like it ‘cos I’m telling you now there’s sod all there!” – and there wasn’t. The camp site was very basic, just a few fields with a couple of rough toilet blocks and the odd fresh water pipe here and there – well you can’t expect much for £1 per night can you?
And so began one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. The site was on a slope and as we drove along the top to pick a nice spot the view of the bay opened out in front of me and it was just “Wow!” Our cooking facilities were very basic and sleeping arrangements in a car with two dogs were cramped, but for two nights we managed and I loved it. We only had the opportunity to go to a couple of places on the island but it was enough for me to know that I wanted to see more – we returned to Anglesey a couple of weeks later after buying a two-man tent and some proper accessories, and my love of camping and my love of the island began. Even though we had a 2-week holiday in Italy every year we always went back to Anglesey at some point during the summer, and since that first time there’s only been two years when I haven’t been there – once when our planned long weekend was cancelled due to bad weather and again in 2009 when Peter and I went our separate ways and I couldn’t drive. Other than that I’ve been to Anglesey at least once each year and yes, the camp site is far better now than it was the first time I went!
I have to admit that there was a time a couple of years ago when I felt that I’d been to Anglesey so many times that there was nothing left for me to see, and as beautiful as the island is I should consider having a change. That was until I read Ruth’s coastal walking blog, and found out that she had been on Anglesey at the same time as me that year, although she was two days ahead of me – and through her blog I realised that there are still many places on the island that I haven’t yet seen or been to. And so my love affair with Anglesey will continue for some time yet – whether it’s the sentimentality of it being the first place I camped with someone I loved, or the beauty of the island’s countryside, fabulous beaches and wonderful places, something keeps calling me back. And as long as that something keeps calling then I’m quite happy to go.
I’m linking this post to Cathy’s blog, where her most recent call to a place is to the Four Corners area of the USA, and which, through Anabel’s blog, has inspired me to write this – follow the link for some great photos and to find out more.
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.