A seal experience

After reading a recent post of Becky’s my own comment on that post got me thinking back to an amazing wildlife experience I had at a place on the Lincolnshire coast back in 2007, so in the absence of a Monday walk I thought I would post an account and a few photos of that experience. I can’t remember now how I first found out about this particular place – probably from the camping forum I frequent – but the more I read about it the more I wanted to go there so I started doing some serious research and came across a very informative website for photographers.
Donna Nook National Nature Reserve covers over 6 miles of the Lincolnshire coastline and is made up of sand dunes, sand and mud flats, salt marshes and inter-tidal areas ; it’s also part of a larger area owned by the Ministry of Defence and the sand flats are used during the week for RAF bombing practice. Interesting plant communities flourish in the salt marshes and 47 species of birds breed regularly in the area, with over 250 migrant species passing through, but the main attraction for visitors is the large colony of grey seals which, from the end of October to late December, use the sand flats and salt marshes in one particular area for breeding and giving birth to their pups before returning to sea.
A special enclosed double-fenced viewing area at the foot of the dunes is staffed by volunteer wardens from the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, but back in 2007 serious photographers were allowed to go out onto the sand flats to observe and photograph the seals at close quarters, though certain rules had to be followed. Anyone wanting to photograph these creatures close up would need  to be serious about it too as there was a bitingly cold wind blowing and the mile trek across the sand involved wading through water channels several inches deep ; it was necessary to wear at least three layers of warm clothing plus dark coloured waterproofs and wellies and in some instances to act like a seal by crawling or sliding along the wet sand.
In the course of my research that year I found out that there was a nice little camp site only a couple of miles from where the seals were so I booked four nights for myself, my partner and our caravan and off we went at the end of November, arriving at the site at lunch time. Our first full day there was treated as a recce of the seal area and even from behind the fence I could see that this place was pretty special ; hundreds of seals, both young and adult, were dotted about over a huge area and as far as the eye could see, and several were close up against the fence with one pup having its head actually under  the inner fence.
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A small part of the seal colony
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The following day, suitably dressed in warm layers, waterproofs and wellies, we set out from the viewing area on our trek across the sand and out towards the sea, following a designated marked out route to avoid the possibility of being blown up by some unexploded object buried in the sand – presumably, as long as we followed the rules and the route, we would survive with arms and legs etc intact. Eventually we got close to the sea – seals were dotted about everywhere and I spent well over an hour getting shots of various adults and pups. I got close but not too  close – I had to kneel, sit, crawl or lie on the wet sand several times but it meant that I got the shots I wanted without disturbing the seals so it was worth any minor discomfort.
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The next day we returned to the reserve as I hoped to see a seal pup being born, though this time we stayed behind the fence. Unfortunately I didn’t get to witness an actual birth but I did see a little one which had obviously been born not long before. I got several more photos of these wonderful creatures but the intermittent sunshine wasn’t enough to give any warmth to the day and it was bitterly cold so reluctantly I said goodbye to Donna Nook and we returned to the camp site for our final evening.
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A newborn pup
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Maybe the world looks better upside down
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A final view of Donna Nook
Five years later I went back to Donna Nook on my own. I’d enjoyed the previous experience of getting close to the seals on the sand flats so much that I wanted to repeat it but when I got there I found that things had changed – access to the sand flats and beach had been blocked and all  visitors had to stay behind the fence. On talking to one of the wardens I was told that since my previous visit the handful of serious photographers allowed onto the beach had turned into coachloads of visitors and as many as 300 people a time were walking out across the sand flats. This meant that at least 65 seal pups per season were being lost, abandoned by their mothers and left to die because of all the human disturbance.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that I couldn’t repeat my previous experience ; I was  disappointed as it had been such a fantastic thing to be able to do, but I fully understood and respected the reasons for preventing public access to the beach while the seals were there – just one pup lost to human interference is one too many. Seals have been breeding at Donna Nook since the 1970s and numbers have been increasing each year, with a total of 2,066 pups being born during the short 2018 season.  My once-in-a-lifetime experience back in 2007 had proved to be just that, but if I ever go to Donna Nook again I know I’ll still get some great photos even if I do have to stay behind the fence.

2018 – Looking back

As 2018 draws to a close I thought I would recall just some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. On January 3rd, after making an official complaint at the local hospital three weeks previously about the apparent misdiagnosis and lack of proper treatment of his broken ankle, Michael finally got to see the relevant specialist and was put on the emergency list for an operation asap. That took place just three days later when he had a bone graft and a plate and a couple of screws inserted to bring the broken bits together, followed by six weeks in plaster. His recovery was long, and certainly very painful in the early stages, but he finally went back to work ten-and-a-half months after he first broke the ankle.
Early February saw me succumbing to the much-talked-about-at-the-time Aussie flu virus and taking two weeks off work ; it was the first time in my life I’ve ever had flu of any sort and I’d never felt so ill before. The up side though, if you can call it that, was the opportunity to catch up on some reading and I got through several books in the time I was off work. Late in the month my washing machine gave up the ghost and after trying in vain to get someone to repair it I ended up getting a second-hand-but-almost-new one from a local shop ; it was in absolutely mint condition and is still working well. After several weeks of wet and often cold weather the last few days of February turned out dry and gloriously sunny so the end of the month saw me taking the dogs for a walk along one of my favourite routes through a local golf course and the Last Drop Village. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable walk and just rounded off the month nicely.
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The golf course pond
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The Last Drop Village
Early March saw the return of the sparrows which, the year before, had taken to perching on the outside window sill of the spare bedroom. I hadn’t expected them to come back so it was lovely to look through the glass and see them less than 3ft from where I sit when using my pc. In mid March, after several months of searching on the internet and in various camping stores, I finally ordered a new tent to replace my much-loved previous one which had sustained an irreparable tear in its roof the previous year. It wasn’t quite the same as my old one but it was near enough, it satisfied all my criteria and came at a good price with free delivery so I was more than happy. One evening late in the month saw part of my street turned into a river when a main water pipe burst and sent a substantial amount of water flooding across the road – it took two days for United Utilities to fix the problem but not before many gallons of fresh water had gone to waste down the drains. The end of the month saw the start of the Easter weekend and my 4-day break in North Wales, a break which wasn’t the best for many reasons and one in which the word ‘break’ could be taken literally.
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One of my feathered friends down in the garden
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My new tent
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A river in the street
The month of April certainly didn’t get off to a very good start for me. It rained on and off for most of the Easter weekend and put the kibosh on many of my plans, and on the Monday I woke to find that during an unexpected overnight snow shower which had turned to ice my brand new tent had collapsed on top of my belongings ; two of the three poles had broken completely and the end where I would have been sleeping had been totally flattened – thank goodness the dogs and I had been in the van. Fortunately the two broken poles were the only damages my new tent suffered and back at home a few days later I took them to my nearest camping store to get the broken sections replaced. The rest of April passed fairly uneventfully with the only other highlight being a visit to the animal sanctuary spring open day later in the month, and with Michael still being off work he came too – the first time he’d ever been there and he quite enjoyed it.
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My brand new tent – what a disaster!
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Disney at Bleakholt sanctuary
The beginning of May saw Michael finally going back to work on a phased return just over ten months since he first broke his ankle in June last year. It also saw a dramatic change in the weather with the rain of the previous months gone and the start of what was to be a very long and very hot summer. The first bank holiday weekend of the month saw me suggesting (very unwisely) that we go to a car boot sale on the Sunday and then on to St. Annes – the weather was extremely warm, the world and his wife were out on the roads and we ended up getting stuck in nose-to-tail traffic, going miles out of our way and missing the car boot sale completely. It took ages to find somewhere to park at St. Annes but once we did we had a very enjoyable afternoon with a good meal and a couple of dog walks along the beach. On the middle Saturday of the month I went to Hornby Castle gardens, somewhere I’d never been before and where I got some lovely photos, then the following day I managed to burn my foot with scalding water from a recently-boiled kettle. Silicone dressings prescribed by the doctor helped to ease the pain and promote healing, and after resting it as much as possible for a week I couldn’t ignore the continuing good weather any longer so the final weekend of the month saw me taking the dogs for a local walk to Smithills Hall and gardens.
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St. Annes promenade gardens
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The walled garden at Hornby Castle
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Smithills Hall gardens
My planned 11-day holiday on Anglesey at the beginning of June was shortened by several days due to circumstances beyond my control but I managed to get six days out of the eleven and with the continuing good weather I really made the most of them by exploring as many places as I could in the time that I had. The highlight of the week just had to be finding and photographing the old abandoned brick works at Porth Wen – it was difficult to get to and involved a long walk with a couple of hairy moments but it was an amazing place and well worth the effort for the photos I got. The rest of the month was fairly uneventful but then the 28th saw the start of a wildfire up on the moors not far from home, a fire which would eventually cover more than five square miles, mean the closure of several local roads including the one running past the end of my street, and would involve more than 30 fire crews while it was at it worst.
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Porth Wen old brick works
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Porth Wen sea arch
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Part of the Winter Hill fire on the west side
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Part of the fire on the east side
At the start of July Michael and I had a lovely day out in Southport then for his birthday in the middle of the month he went over to Ireland for a few days, where he encountered a coach driver who didn’t know the route from Dublin airport to Roscrea and had to be directed a couple of times. The highlight of the month though just had to be the tour of the new outdoor Coronation Street tv set ; with great weather, a very knowledgeable tour guide and the freedom to take as many photos as we wanted it was a great tour and one I would certainly do again.
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Southport promenade
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Lord Street gardens, Southport
Rovers return
This needs no explanation
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Our official photo
Although most of the Winter Hill fire had been extinguished by the middle of July and the number of fire crews reduced there were many hot spots still burning under the surface so it wasn’t until early August that it was officially declared to be completely out after a total of 41 days. On the 9th of the month I took my first walk up there the day after the land was reopened to the public and was shocked and saddened to see the large scale devastation the fire had caused. Two days later the highlight of the month came when, at the town’s central fire station open day, I got the opportunity to go up in the air on a fire engine hydraulic platform – from 100ft up the extensive views all round the town were brilliant and I got some great photos.
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Fire ravaged land on Winter Hill
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The hydraulic platform going up
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On the way up
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Winter Hill from 100ft in the air
The highlight of September came early on in the month when, during a Heritage Open Day, I got the opportunity to climb the 180ft bell tower at the local parish church and also try a bit of bell ringing. Although the weather wasn’t the best – the long hot summer had finally ended locally the day after my fire station visit – I still got some good photos from the tower roof and the bell ringing was quite an interesting experience. A very sad time came in the middle of the month when I accompanied my friend Janet on the day she had her dog Aphra put to sleep, then later in the month I had my second short holiday on Anglesey, with an impromptu visit to my blogging friend Eileen on the way there. The weather wasn’t the best to start with but it got better as the days went on so I still got out and about and had plenty of sunshine for my photos.
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A view from the parish church tower roof
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Benllech beach, Anglesey
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A Llanddwyn Island beach looking towards the Snowdonia mountains
Apart from when Storm Callum hit the UK towards the middle of the month October was really nice weather-wise and still quite warm for the time of year so I went on long walks with the dogs as often as I could, both to local places I’ve often been to and some I hadn’t even known about. In the process the lovely autumn colours gave me lots of great photos and I even had one featured in an online edition of the local evening paper.
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Farnworth park
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Firwood Fold’s hidden lake
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Close Park, Radcliffe
A dull day in early November saw me taking a photography trip to Preston Dock (now known as Preston Marina) after reading the very interesting history about it, then on brighter days I continued my autumn dog walks in the local area. The highlight of the month though was a dazzling light display which lit up the front of the local town hall on two consecutive evenings – unfortunately it was very poorly advertised and I think I may have missed some of it on both occasions but what I did see was amazing and I still got some reasonably good photos.
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Preston marina
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The town hall light display
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My short holiday in Ireland at the beginning of this month was very enjoyable and a day of exploration round Dublin city centre was so interesting that it left me determined to go back in the future and for much longer, as there’s so much to see that it can’t be done in just one day. Just over a week ago I developed a nasty sore throat, cough and cold which came from nowhere and robbed me of my appetite so Christmas in the Mouse House was rather a non-event, although as there was only me and Michael anyway it didn’t matter too much. I’m feeling much better now though and tonight we’ll probably drive up to the moorland road near here and watch the fireworks going off all over town.
So there it is, just some of the highlights of my year, and all that remains now is to thank everyone for visiting this blog over the last twelve months and to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – cheers!

A few days on Anglesey, now back to reality

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.
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Day 2 – Benllech beach
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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.
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Day 3 – Steps in Dolbadarn Castle tower, Llanberis
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Port Dinorwic marina
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.
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Day 4 – View from the slopes of Parys Mountain
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The Sanctuary in Llanbadrig church
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Holyhead marina
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.
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Day 5 – Along the Menai Strait
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A strange ‘sculpture’ in a car park
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Phoebe, an adorable little dog I met along the way
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Newborough beach, looking across to Snowdonia
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A beach on Lladdwyn Island
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.
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Day 6 – Conwy Castle
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Conwy quayside
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Lancaster Square and the Prince Llewelyn statue
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!

Boot sale bargains and a kite festival

Back in the 1970s, in the days when Woolworth’s sold furniture, I bought a small display cabinet/bookcase to house my growing book collection and a few ornaments, and when we moved to this house in 1979 the cabinet came with us. Over the years though, as I began to replace various items of living room furniture, it was relegated to the spare bedroom, still with the books in it, and that’s where it’s stayed. Fast forward through the years and just over eighteen months ago the spare bedroom became Michael’s room when he moved back home, and since then he’s amassed quite a collection of dvds and PS3 games which he needs to find a home for, so a couple of weeks ago he asked if he could box up all my old books and use the cabinet for his own stuff.
Now call it sentimentality or whatever but the books in the cabinet aren’t ones which I want to see boxed up and hidden away in the attic so I said Michael could only have the cabinet if I could find a reasonable alternative for the books. I wasn’t really sure what I had in mind other than it needed to be narrow enough to fit in a certain space in the living room – it was very much a case of “I’ll know it when I see it” and last Sunday I found the very thing.
With the weather being nice we decided to have a ride to the big car boot sale at St. Michael’s near Garstang and on one of the stalls I came across two not-very-wide dvd/video units, the type which swivel so you can put stuff in each side – and they were narrow enough to fit in the space I had in mind. With the swivel bases removed we had a choice, we could either have one each or I could have both and put one on top of the other, which would be more than adequate for the books which needed to be relocated. When I enquired about the price of them I fully expected to be told they were about £10 each, which would have been okay, so I was really surprised and more than happy when the stall holder told me I could have them both for just £5! That really was a bargain, so I rang Michael who was in another part of the field and between us we carried the units back to the van then continued on our mooch round.
It was while I was looking along the next-to-last line of stalls that I picked up my second bargain – a short black leather-look skirt fully lined and with a colourful embroidered front, just the sort of thing that I’ve always liked. It was obviously new too and still had the original shop label attached – unfortunately there was no way I could try it on but I was sure it would fit, and for just 50p it was a no-brainer, I just had to have it. If it was too big I could always have it taken in but when we got home and I tried it on it was a perfect fit – I also tried half a dozen books in one of the units and they fit well too so I was more than happy.
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The bargain units – actually nicer than they look
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My bargain skirt
From the car boot sale we headed over to St. Anne’s for a meal in our usual cafe, but even though it had been nice and sunny at the boot sale it had clouded over quite a bit by the time we got to the coast. Driving along Lytham sea front we got held up in slow moving traffic but it wasn’t until we got round onto St. Annes sea front we realised there was something going on somewhere – there were cars parked everywhere and on the approach to the cafe we saw that the nearby green had been turned into a massive car park and in the sky up ahead all sorts of brightly coloured objects were floating about in the breeze. Luckily when we got to the cafe car park someone was just about to leave so I pulled into the space and we went for our meal – it turned out that we’d arrived in the middle of St. Annes Kite Festival and the coloured objects were all kites flying above the beach further along.
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After our meal we went for a walk along the promenade – stalls lined each side as far as the pier and there were so many people that it was difficult to walk in a straight line or find a decent space to take some photos. Down on the beach was a funfair, bouncy castles and other attractions, and hundreds of huge colourful kites were flying above the sand at each side of the pier – even with the very grey sky it was worth taking a few shots when I could find a space to get them.
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With the possibility of the dogs being accidentally trodden on or tripped over I didn’t want to walk back to the van through all the crowds so I decided to go through the gardens instead – it was much quieter there and in spite of the grey sky I snatched a couple of photos as I walked through. Back at the car park we decided to return to the cafe for another brew then we set off for home at 5.15, arriving back just after 6pm.
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Had we known in advance about the kite festival we probably wouldn’t have chosen to go to St. Annes that day as it really was incredibly crowded but if we hadn’t gone to the car boot sale I wouldn’t have got my great bargains so all in all I think I can say that our day out was quite a success.

A summer afternoon in Southport

On a visit to Southport last October, after not having been there for several years, I was so impressed with the changes that have been made along the promenade and sea front in recent times that I decided I just had to pay another visit sometime this year, preferably during the summer months when the promenade gardens would be full of colour. That opportunity came at the beginning of this month when Michael had a weekend off work and we decided to go for a Sunday afternoon drive with Southport being the chosen destination. Of course the continuing good weather ensured that the world and his wife were also out that day so finding a parking space wasn’t easy, however while we were waiting for someone to come out of a space in the car park overlooking the Marine Lake a young boy came to me and said he and his family were just about to leave if I wanted to go in their nearby space – and he also gave me their car park ticket which had been paid for all day, which was an unexpected but welcome bonus.
Arranging to meet up again at 5pm Michael and I went our separate ways and I wandered along the lake side first. A bright yellow speedboat with half a dozen passengers was roaring up and down that part of the lake, twisting and turning and doing the boat equivalent of a car’s handbrake turns, making the female passengers scream loudly. It looked like good fun so I made a mental note to try that one on a future visit when maybe I wouldn’t have the dogs with me.
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From the lake side I walked up to the promenade gardens but if I was expecting to see flower beds blooming with colour I was destined to be disappointed. The plants seemed to be too spaced out with many of them looking rather withered in the heat, and what would normally have been lush green lawns were just large expanses of yellow dried up grass. Further along I came to an ‘oasis’ of shrubbery surrounded by more dried up grass and with an odd-shaped tree in the centre; a path took me from there to the lower promenade and on past the King’s Community Gardens where several families and groups were sunbathing or having picnics on the grass. Beyond there were a couple of bowling greens, looking suspiciously green where most other places were yellow, and eventually I emerged from the gardens near to the entrance of the Pleasureland amusement park.
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Promenade gardens
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King’s community gardens
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A splash of colour near the bowling green
To say that the amusement park was busy was an understatement, it was heaving, and every single attraction and stall was busy or had a queue. The whole place was very colourful though and I got lots of photos, but just watching the way some of the rides turned people round and upside down convinced me that I’ve always been right in my resolve never to try these things myself.
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A wonky-looking fun house
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No way would I ever go on this thing!
From the amusement park I made my way along the lakeside path to the wide wooden foot bridge which crossed the middle of the lake, then back on the lower promenade I went round to the beginning of the pier. Down below, on a stage outside the Marine Lake Cafe, a group was singing and playing a great mix of 60s and 70s songs and some people were even dancing in whatever space they could find. The music was quite infectious so I stayed to listen for a while before making my way down to Lord Street where many of the shop are.
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Swan pedaloes on Marine Lake
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A very busy cafe area
It was while I was on Lord Street last October that my photo taking was curtailed when I ran out of space on my camera card so this time I made up for it. Having the dogs meant I couldn’t go in any of the shops so keeping an eye on the time I wandered through the gardens on the other side of the road and took shots of anything that looked interesting or nice. After I’d first left the van the sky had clouded over somewhat even though it was still hot, but by the time I was wandering along Lord Street it had cleared up, the sun was out again in full and the blue was back so I got several really nice shots.
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War memorial and monument
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Christ Church, Lord Street
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Council offices and The Atkinson theatre and arts venue
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The bandstand
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Gardens between Lord Street and St. George’s Place
By the time I’d taken the last shot it was getting on for 5pm so I rang Michael to find out where he was – he was close to the pier so I said I would meet him by the carousel near the entrance. We were both ready for something to eat by then but as it was far too hot to leave the dogs back in the van we needed to find somewhere with outside tables – one of the new buildings just across the corner was a casino and part of the ground floor was The Waterfront restaurant with an outside eating area, so as it wasn’t far from the car park we decided to go there. By the time we’d finished our meal it was well after 6pm so not wanting to be too late back we made our way down to the car park, where I took Sophie and Poppie for a very quick, very short walk along the lake side.
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A final view of the lake
With the dogs settled back in the van we set off for home – it was a very pleasant drive back in the early evening sunshine and we arrived home just before 8pm. It had been a lovely afternoon and I’d got some good photos but being ever mindful of the time I hadn’t explored as much as I would have liked, so I think next time I go to Southport it will be a solo trip while Michael is at work!
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she’s been walking round the grounds and gardens of one of my regular yearly haunts, Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire. Time to put the kettle on now and see where the other Monday walkers have been to this week.

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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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!

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!