After months of searching both on the internet and in various camping stores I’ve finally ordered a new tent in readiness for my forthcoming Easter break. Finding a tent exactly the same as my old one has proved impossible so I’ve gone for the next best thing; it’s a Kampa Burnham 4 in blue (my preferred colour) and although brand new it’s theoretically three years old as that model came out in 2015 – it’s since been discontinued but it’s the only one I could find which matched my criteria and is similar to my previous tent.
The most important ‘must haves’ for me were a good head height, a bedroom at each side and a fully integrated groundsheet, and although my searches have found several of the right style they’ve all been lacking in one of the most important points, usually the integrated groundsheet. After my very wet experience last September with the tent given to me by a friend, and which doesn’t have an integrated groundsheet, I would never now consider camping in a tent without one, but although I’ve been able to find tents 6-berth or larger with integrated groundsheets it seems that, with the exception of the Kampa Burnham, smaller tents of that style don’t have them.
So the Kampa Burnham has been ordered and all being well should arrive sometime next week. I got a good deal on it too – the price on the store’s website had already been reduced by £50 but I found a voucher code giving £15 off orders over £150 so that brought the price down below my budget. And with free delivery thrown in I really feel like I’m on a winner here.
With panorama windows (with blinds), interior storage pockets and a wet weather canopy it has a couple of ‘extras’ which my previous tent didn’t have so I’m really looking forward to trying it out – and I just hope I get to love it as much as I loved my old one.
As we come to the end of 2017 I thought I would look back on some of the events in my life over the last year. The first few days of January were very cold and frosty but with clear blue sky and sunshine it was great dog walking weather. My New Year walk was taken along a section of the Bolton to Bury canal which I hadn’t been along for about fifteen years, and it was during this walk that I had the lovely surprise of seeing a beautiful Mandarin duck swimming around in a clear section of water.
It was towards the end of the month that Michael finally called time on a very bad 10-year marriage and came back home; initially I expected him to stay only for a few days like he’d done on many previous occasions but this time he stuck to his guns and he’s been here ever since – and I have to say that although I like living alone it’s been good to have his company.
Early February saw me taking the dogs for a walk along a section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, a walk which turned out to be much longer in distance and time than I remembered it to be. Needless to say, the dogs and I were glad of a rest when we finally got back home! In the middle of the month my bedroom tv finally died a death after eight years of faithful service and it was replaced by a pink model of the same make but a bit larger, then towards the end of the month Storm Doris arrived and caused a fair bit of havoc, though locally the day afterwards was beautifully calm and sunny and I got some nice photos while out on a dog walk.
Locally March turned out to be quite a rainy month so there wasn’t much opportunity for any decent dog walking, but a couple of dry sunny days in the middle of the month gave me the chance to walk up to the top of Winter Hill which, although only three miles from home, is somewhere I hadn’t been for many years. There’s a lot of local history attached to the place and it was good to find and photograph various points of interest. Mother’s Day at the end of the month brought me an unofficial ‘present’ of two packets of hot dog rolls, two packets of teacakes and a packet of sandwich rolls courtesy of Michael’s daft sense of humour, although he did give me some proper presents as well, and as it turned out to be a nice day we drove out to the coast for a meal and walk along the beach.
The first Sunday in April saw me having a major clear out in Michael’s room to make way for all his clothes and other possessions which had been dumped in my garden one evening, and during the proceedings I managed to get my large gym-spec treadmill wedged in the bedroom doorway with one of its legs part way up the wall, though I freed it eventually and found a new home for it on the landing. The following weekend turned out to be glorious so I did a two-part walk, going up Winter Hill for the second time in three weeks then driving round to Rivington and walking up to the top of Rivington Pike on the far side of the moor – the path wasn’t the easiest and the climb was steep but it was worth it for the views when I finally got there.
The Easter holiday was spent camping at the lovely quiet and peaceful little site of Felin Uchaf near Corwen in North Wales, and apart from my first full day which was reasonably sunny the weather was mainly cloudy and grey though it didn’t stop me from getting out and about. On a visit to Bala lake I encountered the most difficult stile I’ve ever had to climb over, at Chirk Castle I came across the prettiest garden view I’ve ever seen, and on the way to a llama trek I got shouted at by the most verbally aggressive and awful woman I’ve ever met – not an experience I would want to reapeat.
In May my scheduled camping trip on the first bank holiday was reluctantly cancelled as I felt it was too soon after Easter; that was the weekend we heard scratching noises behind the wardrobe in Michael’s room and thought we had an unwanted rodent living there but it turned out to be the neighbours scraping wallpaper off the wall in the adjacent room next door. Weather-wise it was a bit mixed but the sunny days were lovely and I went on several good local walks with the dogs; it was on one of these walks that Sophie went for an unexpected swim when she fell into a stream. Sticking with the ‘animals’ theme it was while I was at work one morning that I found the tiniest little baby frog behind the kitchen bin; it was scooped up to safety and released in the nearby woodland, hopefully to find some friends and live a nice life.
The bank holiday at the end of the month saw me camping again at Felin Uchaf but after several previous days of glorious hot sunshine and blue skies the weather let me down and became very grey and wet, though on a second visit to Chirk Castle I did manage to get some reasonable shots of the many colourful rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.
June was the month in which I undertook to ‘Walk All Over Cancer’ and raise money for Cancer Research by walking a minimum of 10,000 steps every day for the whole month in memory of Michael’s dad who passed away six months previously. With plenty of sunny days and lots of dog walking I exceeded the target every day and at the end of the month I’d done 336,151 steps and walked a total of 66.5 miles. A hot sunny day in the middle of the month saw me going for a longer-than-expected walk round a local reservoir and a couple of days later Sophie went to the vet’s for an operation to remove a small non-cancerous lump from her front right leg. Less than a week later Michael had an accident and broke his left ankle quite badly, ending up with a late night visit to the local hospital.
The first weekend in July was spent camping in glorious weather at Elvaston Castle Steam Rally; it was also the weekend when I gained the first tear in my much-loved tent. Just over a week later, on the first day of my Anglesey holiday, the tent finally died a death when it gained a much larger and probably irreparable tear across the roof, though I’d already got a back-up plan in place so it didn’t really spoil the holiday. Weather-wise the days were mixed but there was more sun and blue sky than anything else so I got some good photos on my travels both on and off the island. This was also the holiday when I got cut off by the tide while looking for and photographing an out-of-the-way beach, though fortunately the situation wasn’t too serious and I was able to wade the short distance back to dry land.
August was very much hit-and-miss weather-wise with not many sunny days so I didn’t do any really good long dog walks. With Michael being unable to work because of his broken ankle he was spending a lot of time in Ireland and one day in the middle of the month saw me almost losing my patience and the will to live because of a glitch in Ryanair’s online check-in procedure and the apparent incapability of one of their customer services staff to sort out the problem. The weather improved for the August bank holiday and Michael and I spent a great weekend camping at Manorafon; on the way there we met up with my blogging friend Eileen and her little dog Annie, then over the course of the weekend we visited Gwrych Castle not far from the camp site, Talacre beach and Barkby beach, and Anglesey.
September started with the mother of all disasters when a shelf fell out of a kitchen cupboard while I was cleaning at the boss’s house and several items of crockery got broken; it was a complete accident though and luckily the boss was very understanding about it. My camping holiday in Norfolk was full of mishaps and disasters right from the start and it turned out to be the wettest holiday I’ve ever had there – I only had three really nice days out of the ten and one of those was the day I came home. It was so bad that at one point I was really considering giving up and coming back early, though I did manage to get some nice photos on the days when the sun came out.
A grey start to October saw me attending the autumn Open Day at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary, then a couple of weeks later Michael and I spent a gloriously sunny afternoon at Southport, a place I hadn’t been to for several years, and where a meal in the lovely old fashioned Westminster Tea rooms made me feel like I’d stepped back into the 1920s. That month also saw me joining Postcrossing and to date I’ve sent 24 postcards and received 24; it’s a great hobby and I’ve had some lovely cards from different people in different parts of the world.
A sunny Sunday in early November was a great opportunity for a dog walk along part of the local canal and the last day of the month saw me flying over to Ireland for a memorial mass for Michael’s dad and uncle Jimmy on December 2nd. November was also the month when Michael brought me the wrong bread from Asda, not once but twice!
My five days in Ireland at the beginning of this month were very enjoyable and with some good weather I was able to explore a couple of different places and get some good photos. A couple of weeks ago, after looking to make a complaint at the local hospital, Michael finally got an appointment to see a specialist about his still very damaged ankle. At the moment he’s still a touch off colour with the bug he’s had for the last week but he’s getting better slowly and tonight we are driving up to the moorland road not far from here, where we can see all over the town and for miles beyond so we can watch all the fireworks going off in various places.
So there you have it, a round-up of my year, although to be honest this post has turned out to be a lot longer than it was intended to be – I hope I haven’t bored anyone! All that remains now is for me to thank everyone for visiting this blog over the last twelve months and wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year – I hope 2018 is a good year for everyone.
I finally arrived home yesterday evening from my ten days in California, Norfolk, and I have to say that of the 35 years I’ve been holidaying in that area – 20 of them camping at the same site – this is the first time I’ve ever truly felt like giving up and coming home early. In fact if I could have got a refund on my pitch fee I would have been back within three days, however I stayed, and now I am back I’m wondering if it was really worth all the hassle as it’s been a holiday fraught with disasters and problems from start to finish.
Day 1, and just over an hour into the journey from home I stopped at a roadside truck stop and got a takeaway coffee, but I only managed to drink a mouthful of it before I accidentally knocked the rest of it all over the floor of the van between the two front seats – and that one minor mishap seemed to set the tone for the rest of the holiday. Arriving at the camp site I found that the pitch fees had increased substantially since last year and are now beyond my personal budget; finding somewhere cheaper at such short notice would have been almost impossible without internet access so I paid up – well I suppose someone has to pay for the demolition of the toilet block and the brand new statics and tarmac road which have appeared since last year. Finally on my pitch on the camping field I found that it was too windy to put the tent up so I spent the rest of the day and the evening in the van.
Day 2, and with more wind and on/off rain showers it was a morning spent in the van, though the afternoon was sunny and by 7pm the wind had dropped so I finally managed to put the tent up and get everything set out inside it, although I was actually sleeping in the van.
Day 3 arrived gloriously sunny and I planned a good day out to get some photos, but when it came to actually leaving my pitch I found I wasn’t going anywhere – after a short drive to the local late shop the previous afternoon I’d unthinkingly left the ignition on and the battery was flatter than flat. A quick call to the AA soon sorted that though and less than an hour later a very nice man arrived and soon got the van going again, and I went on to have what was probably the best day of the whole holiday.
Day 4 was nothing short of diabolical. The wind had come back during the night, worse than it had been previously, coupled with several prolonged heavy downpours, and when I unzipped the tent door that morning I was greeted by a scene of total devastation. Everything in there had been up-ended by the wind and was scattered all over, and one of the bedrooms had a huge puddle in the middle of the floor though fortunately the bag with my clothes and personal stuff hadn’t been affected. With dark grey skies, on/off rain and high wind it was another day spent in the van, although during the afternoon I did attempt to walk to the local shop but didn’t get far before I got caught in another downpour and got soaked to the skin.
Day 5 was another day of on/off heavy downpours though it did come reasonably nice for a while during the late afternoon so after a shopping trip to Asda I drove the few miles to Gorleston and took the dogs for a good walk along the promenade and gardens.
Day 6 started out beautifully and I had a lovely morning walk up to Hemsby along the cliff top and back along the beach. I’d planned to visit a large garden that afternoon and actually drove out to it but by the time I got there the sky had clouded over and the rain hammered down again, so that put paid to that idea and I drove back to the site and spent another afternoon in the van.
Day 7 brought yet more rain so my garden visit was put on hold once again and I went into town to do some shopping instead, though it did make an attempt at brightening up during the afternoon. That evening I went to visit some friends who live a mile or so from the site, however I’d forgotten that I’d left the half full kettle on the floor in the middle of the van and as I went round a corner it up-ended, though fortunately most of the water went down onto the side step rather than onto the carpet.
Day 8 turned out to be beautiful all day and I finally managed to do the garden visit, though I’d initially thought I wouldn’t be going anywhere unless I walked. Several lengthy bouts of heavy overnight rain, added to what had fallen over the previous few days, had softened the ground so much that when I tried to reverse off my pitch the back wheels got stuck in the mud and I couldn’t get out; luckily the site owner’s son had a 4 x 4 and a big chain so he dragged the van off for me. The garden visit was followed by a drive down to Redwings Horse Sanctuary to see my adopted pony Cauli then the day was finished off with visits to my friends Ady and Jane.
Day 9 was grey and showery in the morning though it did brighten up at lunch time and the afternoon turned out to be fairly pleasant, though not really sunny enough for long enough to go anywhere proper so I paid a second visit to my friends Eileen and Ron – it was Eileen’s birthday, and although she’s now lost much of her sight I still took a card for her.
Day 10 arrived gloriously sunny after several bouts of heavy rain overnight – it was also going home day so I abandoned the morning dog walk in favour of getting everything packed away and the tent taken down while it was nice. Packing up the van was no problem but I had a lot of mopping up to do before I could sort out the tent. On my shopping trip into town I’d got a cheap mop and bucket from Asda, knowing I would have some mopping up to do, but I didn’t realise just how much. It took ages, and I had several inches of water in that bucket by the time I’d finished.
After a good dog walk along the beach I finally left the site at 12.30pm though my problems still weren’t over; twice I hit queues of very slow moving traffic, the first lot caused by a broken down farm vehicle meaning two lanes were going into one, though there didn’t seem to be any reason for the second lot. Those delays meant that by the time I was heading west the sun was getting low and in my eyes and unfortunately I missed the correct exit off a roundabout, meaning I was heading for somewhere I didn’t want to be so I had to find somewhere to turn round and go back. I got it right eventually though and finally arrived home at 7.45pm.
So there you have it, a potted account of my holiday – or maybe I should say nightmare? Whatever it was, I certainly don’t want another one like it, in fact I feel like I now need a holiday to get over the holiday. I suppose there was one good thing about it though – with all that rain stopping me from getting out and about like I wanted to I had plenty of time for relaxing, and I didn’t spend much money either. Now that’s a bonus!
** A full account of the holiday, with photos, can be found starting here for anyone who wants to read it 🙂
Hopefully, if things go to plan – which they probably won’t – I’ll be leaving home at 7am tomorrow for my annual 10-day holiday in Norfolk. I really wanted to leave earlier than that – 5am would have been ideal as it’s a six hour journey – but I’ve had so much to do today and various things have conspired against me to make sure some of them didn’t get done, so I need to finish them off in the morning before I go anywhere. My friend round the corner is feeding the cats for me until Michael comes back from Ireland on Thursday, then he’ll take over until I get back the following Tuesday. The van is packed and my bag is packed so I only need to finish off the things which didn’t get done today then I’m off – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back and hopefully I’ll have lots of photos for here and my other blog.
On Tuesday afternoon I got back home from a long weekend at Manorafon Farm camp site in Abergele, North Wales – a weekend where, for once, I hadn’t been camping alone as Michael had been with me. I’d actually asked him last Tuesday if he wanted to come with me as I thought a few days of sea air might help his continuing recovery from the broken ankle but he’d refused and said he was quite happy to stay at home. I’d left the van packed up from my Anglesey holiday a few weeks ago so his refusal meant that I didn’t need to re-organise and re-pack it with extra stuff for him, however at half past midnight last Friday he suddenly said he wanted to come, the deciding factor being that as there would be electric on my pitch he would be able to charge up his phone. So at 6.30 on Saturday morning I was busy packing the van with camp bed, mattress, extra bedding and food etc, and instead of leaving home at my intended time of 7.30am we didn’t leave until 8.30.
Although it had been rather overcast when we set off the sun started shining not long into the journey and from then on the weather just got better and better. My usual route down the M56/A55 was abandoned for once in favour of the A548 running close to the River Dee estuary as I wanted to stop at Greenfield Dock to take a few photos – I’d read about this little place on Ruth’s blog but when I wanted to find it for myself last year I’d missed the turning off the main road so didn’t get there. There was nothing much there other than a little creek with a handful of small fishing boats beached on the deep mud banks but in the sunshine the views across the Dee estuary were worth a couple of shots and it was nice to have a short break from driving.
I’d originally intended to make a stop at Talacre beach further along the coast, but the later-than-planned start to the journey meant I was running out of time as I’d arranged to meet my blogging friend Eileen at 11am and I didn’t want to keep her waiting too long. Having met properly for the first time last August it was lovely to see her and her adorable little dog Annie again and a very pleasant couple of hours was spent chatting over a coffee and a walk round her local boardwalk before we said our goodbyes. It was just after 1pm when I got to Manorafon – I’d been able to select my pitch when I booked online back in May so I knew exactly where I was going and with Michael’s help, albeit limited because of his foot, the tent was soon put up and pegged down and the inside sorted out, then the rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the sun.
Late morning on Sunday saw us driving the 43 miles to Anglesey; although it was only a few weeks since my holiday there I was going for a particular reason – to photograph Parys Mountain with the heather in full bloom, which it hadn’t been back in July. And it was certainly worth going – in the six weeks since I last walked round there the mountain had burst into colourful life with pink and purple heather everywhere, and needless to say I took far more than just a handful of shots. My walk round the mountain was followed by a drive up to Penrhos for a cheeseburger then it was back across the island to Benllech where we spent some time by the beach before finally leaving the island and going back to the camp site.
On Monday, while on a morning dog walk, I discovered that the old castle up the lane from the site was partially open to the public so Michael and I had a walk round up there. It was good to see what progress had been made in the restoration over the last year but I was rather disappointed to find that the most interesting parts of the place have been closed off since I was at the open day last August. Later on we had a drive along the coast and I finally found Talacre beach and its lighthouse and got the photos I wanted, then on the way back to the camp site I called at Eileen’s with a brochure which I’d forgotten to give to her on Saturday. I’d left Michael at one of the amusement places down near the beach and on my way back to collect him I managed, from Eileen’s directions, to find and photograph a possible ‘escapee’ from the local zoo peering over someone’s high hedge.
After some overnight rain Tuesday was dull and overcast though the sun did keep trying to break through the clouds. A leisurely breakfast was followed by the packing up process and by 11.15am we were ready for leaving the site; a dog walk down on the beach was followed by an early lunch in the nearby Pantri Bach cafe then it was time to set off homewards. The day brightened up as we got further north and we arrived home at 3.15pm in glorious sunshine, a fitting end to a very varied and enjoyable North Wales weekend.
I arrived home late yesterday afternoon from my holiday on Anglesey; weather-wise the eight days had been a bit of a mixed bag, with two days of rain and a day-and-a-half of grey cloudy sky, but the other days were full of sunshine and blue skies and also quite hot. Other than a few weekenders who arrived last Friday and left on Sunday the camp site was very quiet and I was the only one in the field where I’d chosen to pitch – the peace and quiet were absolutely blissful.
The start of the holiday wasn’t without it’s problems though; if I’d thought that getting a rip in the side of the tent a couple of weeks ago was a disaster then this was a catastrophe of Titanic proportions. I’d got the tent up and was in the process of pegging out the guy lines when it decided to give up the ghost completely – there was a horrendous ripping sound and a huge – and I mean really huge – tear appeared right along the top. The tent was definitely dead this time but luckily I had a back-up plan, which will be explained on my other blog, so it didn’t affect the holiday too much.
My out-and-about days produced plenty of good photos including various animals, birds and flowers, and I even found a couple of places which I’d never been to or seen before. I finally found a beach I’d been looking for for several years and at another beach I managed to get myself cut off by the tide, though fortunately I was able to wade the few yards back to dry land. The dogs had to swim though, and while Poppie was okay with that Sophie wasn’t too impressed. On Monday, armed with a tin of black paint and a couple of artist’s brushes, I took a walk to Tyger’s memorial stone near Rhoscolyn and repainted the faded lettering engraved on it – I really needed a finer brush but it didn’t look too bad, and no doubt by next year it will have faded again so I can do it better next time.
A couple of the grey days were spent on the unsuccessful hunt for a new tent and on one of the days I got a free meal and coffee at the Morrisons cafe in Caernarfon. I also visited my cousin, who I managed to track down at my second attempt, and I spent a good couple of hours with him and his wife, catching up on our respective news over a coffee or two. The sunny days produced some lovely sunsets and glorious colours in the late evening sky and the bedtime dog walks were spent rabbit spotting as there were loads of them hopping about round various parts of the camp site. Early morning yesterday saw me walking the dogs along the nearby beach and at only 6.30am we had the whole place to ourselves; after breakfast a final fling before packing up to come home was a photography walk round Parys Mountain.
With well over 200 photos taken during the eight day holiday, and the hot sunny days making up for the dull ones, my much-needed time away was very enjoyable in spite of the tent giving up the ghost at the start. My back-up plan had worked out well enough that the demise of the tent didn’t really spoil things so all in all it was a good holiday. Now all I have to do is sort out my photos and update my other blog – it may take a while!