A short holiday away

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.
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All dried out
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.
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The cafe where I had lunch
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Llanberis lake side
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.
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Portobello beach
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Afon Goch (Red River) estuary flowing across the beach
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Bridge over Afon Cefni, The Dingle
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Cefni reservoir
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Llangefni windmill
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.
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Sausage Castle (Surf Point Villa) from the beach

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Afon Crigyll estuary
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.
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The lake at Breakwater Country Park
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View overlooking the park
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.
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Cemaes harbour
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Difficult to photograph through the hedge but I couldn’t resist this one
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Llanlleiana old porcelain works
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Porth Wen
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Porth Wen old brick works
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Porth Wen stone arch
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.
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Benllech beach
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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.
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Llanfairfechan
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Penmaenmawr promenade
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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!
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Bank holiday hell

Just before 7pm this evening I arrived home from an afternoon out with Michael – and he is now under strict instructions that if I ever again  suggest going to a car boot sale on a bank holiday weekend he must take away my van key and lock me in the house! It was only last night that I suggested going to this particular car boot as Michael was only doing a short 4-hour shift at work today, and as he would be finished at 11am I could pick him up and we could go straight there. The car boot is a big one at St. Michael’s near Garstang, we could be there in less than an hour and as the stalls don’t pack up too early we would have plenty of time to look round.
All went well until I drove off the M65 to join the M61 – the motorway heading north was jammed with nose-to-tail traffic which was barely moving, and in the current hot weather with two dogs in the back I didn’t fancy sitting in that lot for any length of time, so I went twice round the roundabout to give myself some thinking time then came off just before the motorway exit. I was heading for somewhere I’d never been before but if I could get to the A6 , which is where I was originally heading for anyway, albeit at the far side of Preston, I could make my way from there. However, it didn’t work out like that….
For once, in spite of my excellent sense of direction, I had to admit that I really hadn’t a clue where we were – one road led to another which in turn led to another and another, there were no signs for the A6 anywhere and wherever we went there were roadworks, traffic lights by the dozen and queues of traffic everywhere. Eventually I saw a sign for Lytham and St. Annes, and as we had planned on going there anyway after the car boot sale I took that turn-off – even then we seemed to be going all round the houses and in totally the wrong direction but eventually we emerged onto the A583 at the far side of Preston and heading for Blackpool. We were a long way from the car boot sale though and to get there would have involved a lot more mileage so we decided to give up and just go straight to St. Annes. Our traffic problems weren’t over when we got there however….
Although there were no problems driving along the seafront through Lytham it was a different matter when we got to our usual cafe at St. Annes. The place is next to a large pay-and-display car park and has about 30 designated spaces which are free to cafe customers, however every single space in that car park was occupied and I very much suspected that many of the cafe spaces were being used by non-cafe customers. I drove round and round several times but there was no sign of anyone vacating a space anywhere so eventually I gave up and went elsewhere, finally finding a quiet avenue about three streets back where I could leave the van for as long as I liked. And finally, after taking over two hours to do what would normally take less than an hour, we sat down at an outside cafe table and had a brew.
With the brew finished we went for a wander along the promenade and while Michael went in the pier amusement place I wandered round the gardens and took some photos, then we met up again a bit later and went back to the cafe for another brew and a meal. A walk along the less populated part of the beach followed then we made our way back to the van – I’d originally intended driving on to somewhere else but after the horrendous journey getting there I was in no mood for any more of the same so we just set off for home, and sticking to the A roads I had no problems at all coming back.
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A very busy corner of St. Annes beach
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The bandstand and empty paddling pool
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Promenade gardens and shelter
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Mother duck and her family
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A less populated part of the beach
Of course, with hindsight, I should have realised that on a bank holiday weekend and in such good weather the world and his wife would be out on the roads, but the problem has never occurred before. On bank holidays I’m usually away camping somewhere and I always make a point of going very early on the Saturday morning and not coming back until the Tuesday, thereby missing any traffic jams in either direction – and I’m so used to doing it that way it never occurred to me that a simple afternoon out would be blighted by horrendous traffic problems. Needless to say it’s a lesson learned, and the next time I’m at home on a bank holiday weekend that’s where I’ll stay – at home!

An afternoon in Southport

Almost six weeks since I last saw him, Michael finally arrived home from Ireland early last Friday morning ; circumstances kept us both busy on Saturday but yesterday the weather was looking quite promising so we decided to have a ride out somewhere and Southport was the choice. We arrived there at lunch time and with four hours on the car park ticket we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up again at 3pm to go for a meal somewhere – it had been several years since I was last there so I wanted to be off exploring and taking photos and I didn’t expect Michael to trail round with me.
Starting off near the pier I walked along one side of the Marine Lake then went up onto the bridge which crossed the lake and took me to Princes Park, then from there I wandered along to Pleasureland, the large amusement park. On my last visit to Southport the funfair had been a partially closed small shadow of its former self so this time I wasn’t expecting to see much, however I was quite surprised to find that it’s now grown into a large vibrant and colourful amusement place with rides and attractions everywhere I looked.
After wandering round there for a while I made my way back to the lake and headed through King’s Gardens towards the pier then went down to Lord Street, the long main shopping street. With many nice old buildings, monuments and gardens I could have taken several photos along there but unfortunately I ran out of space on my camera card ; having the dogs with me meant that I couldn’t really go in any of the shops and as it wasn’t far off 3pm anyway I just made my way back to the van and waited for Michael.
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Southport pier
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Marine Lake
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Pleasureland amusement park
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Hook A Duck stall
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Colourful artwork on the carousel canopy
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King’s Gardens
As Michael had been a frequent visitor to Southport over the last few years he said he knew a nice place to go for a meal so I settled the dogs in the back of the van and off we went back to Lord Street and to the Westminster Tea Rooms – and this place wasn’t just any old cafe. With wood panelled walls hung with old pictures and mirrors, ornate coving, chandeliers, white table linen and proper napkins, tea and coffee served in silver pots, afternoon tea served on 4-tier cake stands and the waitresses in black dresses with white collars and aprons, it had a very 1920s feel to it and I felt as if I’d stepped back in time. The meal was good too and once we’d finished we made our way back to the van and I took Sophie and Poppie for a short walk along the lakeside before we set off for home, arriving back just before I needed to put the van lights on. All in all it had been a really nice afternoon, and the old fashioned tea room experience had made a nice change – I don’t know when I’ll get to Southport again but at least now I know of a really nice place for a meal when I do go back.

The holiday from hell?

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  🙂

Off on my travels again

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.

A great weekend in North Wales

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.
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The Dee estuary from Greenfield Dock
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.
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Manorafon Farm
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One of the site’s many residents
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.
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Parys Mountain in bloom
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Benllech beach
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.
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Gwrych Castle
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Talacre beach & Point of Ayr lighthouse
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Anyone lost a giraffe?
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The Pantri Bach Cafe, Pensarn
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.

Back from Anglesey – and I definitely need a new tent!

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.
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Nefyn beach – finally found after several years
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Amlwch harbour
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A lake on Parys Mountain
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A random garden at Amlwch
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Garden flowers at Porth Dinllaen
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Lesser black backed gull at Holyhead port
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Late evening sky over the camp site
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!