A local walk in the sunshine

After weeks of interminably wet and often cold weather the last few days locally have been dry and gloriously sunny so I’ve finally been able to take advantage of it and get out with the dogs for a decent local walk. A two-and-a-half mile drive north took me to the Last Drop Village – under normal circumstances I would walk all the way from home but my recent bout of Aussie flu has been detrimental to my energy levels so I didn’t want to tire myself out too much. Leaving the van in the car park behind the village I set off across the nearby fields; way over on my left was Winter Hill with its tall tv mast and on my right, separated from the field by a line of trees and a footpath, was the edge of Turton Golf Club.
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Looking across to Winter Hill
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At the far side of the field a kissing gate took me onto a rough path through an area of scrubland which in turn led onto a tarmac lane which ran past the old Cox Green quarry. The quarry was used from 1840 to provide sandstone to build houses for local mill workers, and though I remember it still being operational when I was a child (we could hear the blasting from where we lived) I can find no information on when it actually closed down. The tarmac lane was originally used by quarry vehicles but with the closure of the quarry it was blocked off and eventually pedestrianised, making a very pleasant walk along its length. Although the quarry itself is fenced off the place has seen a few tragedies over the years as there’s more than one body been found at the bottom of the 60ft drop. In recent years the quarry and its surrounding land have been sold – who by and who to isn’t known but the steep rock faces are now used by various clubs for rock climbing.
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Eventually the lane turned into a country road with modern houses on one side, fields on the other, and I took a path which skirted round the forested edge of the quarry. A narrow stream, overgrown with vegetation, ran between the path and the fields but with all the recent wet weather it had overflowed in a couple of places and spread itself right across the path; fortunately I had my wellies on but looking at all that water I would probably have been better with a wetsuit and flippers. Sophie wasn’t too keen on paddling all the way through it but we got to the end eventually and had the choice of left or right – I went left along the edge of the sheep field then turned onto the path through the golf course.
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I’ve always enjoyed taking that particular route and it was nice to see that in spite of all the recent cold wet weather the gorse was already coming into flower in the sunnier parts of the golf course. Eventually I came to the pond and found that too had overflowed onto the path at one point, although it wasn’t a great lot and it was easy enough to walk round the puddle. A right turn took me gradually downhill past various greens to where a stream ran under the path and at the top of the next incline was the club house and its car park with far reaching views over the countryside.
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Across the cattle grid at the entrance to the club car park and a little way along the lane a stile took me into a field bordering another part of the golf course. A couple of ponies were grazing peacefully, taking no notice of us as we passed them and not even looking up when I stopped to take their photo, then across the field a kissing gate took me onto the path leading back to the Last Drop village.
Not actually a true village the Last Drop was originally converted from a group of derelict 17th century farm buildings known as Orrell Fold, belonging to successive generations of the Orrell family. In 1930 a well known farmer and racehorse owner who lived locally bought the farm for stabling and exercising his horses but the unoccupied buildings gradually fell into disrepair and eventually in 1963 the farm was sold. The new owner was a man of considerable foresight and he soon began the task of creating the Last Drop Village out of the derelict buildings. The first building to be completed in 1964 was the restaurant and during a celebratory meal the owner’s friends offered him ‘the last drop’ of a bottle of wine, and it was that which gave the place its name. The village today is home to a hotel, spa and leisure suite, banqueting suites and conference rooms, a quaint tea shop, the Drop Inn, several independent small shops and a gallery, and is also a very popular wedding venue.
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The Last Drop Village
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With the last few shots taken I briefly thought about getting a much needed coffee from the tea shop but I couldn’t take the dogs in with me and in spite of the sunshine it was too chilly to sit outside so I made my way back to the van and headed for home instead. It had been a very enjoyable walk, far enough to give Sophie and Poppie some decent exercise but not so far that I got tired, so I can safely say that all three of us were happy.
My walk, clockwise from yellow spot
I’m linking up with Jo’s Monday Walk this week where there are some wonderful views from high up on the walls of the castle in Serpa, Portugal. Time to put the kettle on now and see where the other ‘Monday walkers’ have been exploring.

2017 – Looking back

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.
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Snowdrops after the storm
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.
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Winter Hill
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One of my ‘official’ Mother’s Day presents
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.
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Rivington Pike tower
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View from the Pike
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.
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Bala lake
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Gardens at Chirk Castle
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Eddie and Kubera
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.
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The creek where Sophie fell in the stream
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A grey damp day at Chirk Castle gardens
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.
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View over Anglezarke reservoir
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Sophie post-op
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.
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The fairground at Elvaston Castle
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Nefyn beach
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Sunset over the camp site
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.
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Manorafon camp site
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Talacre beach
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Parys Mountain, Anglesey
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Benllech beach, 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.
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Overlooking California beach
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Potter Heigham on the River Thurne
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East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens
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.
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Some of the Bleakholt residents
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Southport – Marine Lake
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!
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Bolton – Bury canal
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.

A canal walk and a few photos

After fine but heavy rain which lasted through most of yesterday afternoon and last night today turned out to be gloriously sunny, and with just a light breeze it was perfect for a dog walk. As I had to call at a store which was south of the town centre I decided to stay in that direction and go along a section of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury canal which I’ve been along several times before. My walk started in Moses Gate country park and after doing a circuit of the wildlife lake I made my way via a short bit of road and a footpath to the upper part of the canal.
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The canalside path was extremely muddy in many places so I was glad I’d changed into my wellies before I left the van; there were a couple of spots where I had to be careful I didn’t slip and fall into the water but other than that it was a really pleasant walk. About halfway along I came across a pony grazing quietly in a rather waterlogged field, then a bit further on I was greeted by a family of three swans who glided along to say hello; they weren’t impressed by the dogs though and one of them hissed at Sophie. It was this section of the canal where the recent incidents concerning the other two swans had taken place, and other than a few ducks it seems that these three are now the only residents – I just hope that they are left alone to live their lives in peace and tranquility.
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Eventually I came to where the canal had been blocked off to make way for a wide bridle path and though I could have gone further I didn’t want to run out of sunshine so I made that my turn round point and headed back the other way, then with one more photo taken I left the canal itself and took a path down through the nearby woods which eventually took me back to the country park.
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By the time I got back to the van our rather muddy walk had taken its toll on both me and the dogs – their legs and undersides were completely black and soggy and my trousers, which I hadn’t  thought to tuck into my wellies, were wet round the bottom and splashed with mud right up to my knees. It had been a very enjoyable walk though, and both the dogs and the trousers could easily be cleaned up when we got home.



Another sad story

Following on from this post which I wrote back in April, this story has just been in my local paper
                                 Swan put down by RSPCA after suffering severe injuries on canal
A swan which survived an attack on a local canal several months ago has had to be put down after it suffered severe injuries in another incident.
In April this year a male swan was shot and killed by a gang of youths on the stretch of Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal in Little Lever, and its partner has now died. The cause of the female swan’s injuries has not yet been discovered but the RSPCA said the bird had not been shot.
The charity went to the canalside to try to catch the bird after a member of the public called to say it had been seen with injuries above its beak. RSPCA animal collection officer, Gina Ratcliff, said: “I was very lucky to catch her at all, someone else had been out the night before, but had no success. She was very wary of me and the water was quite deep where she was so I knew I only had one chance from dry land. I lay down on the canal bank and luckily managed to get hold of her with a swan hook.”
“We don’t know what caused the injuries she had sustained, but they were severe. She was taken to our specialist wildlife centre RSPCA Stapeley Grange in Cheshire but very sadly there was nothing that could be done for her and she had to be put to sleep. It’s always upsetting when things go this way, but more so here because of what previously happened to her mate.”
Patrols along the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal have been stepped up in response to a rise in illegal incidents affecting the bird population in recent months. Anyone with information about what caused the swan’s injuries should call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018.
With no mention of any cygnets I can only assume that any eggs she had at the time her mate was killed didn’t hatch; there’s currently no evidence to suggest that she was targeted by the same youths who killed her mate, but however she came by her injuries the fact remains that a whole family has now been wiped out – and that’s just so, so sad.

Animal sanctuary open day

Today I took my friend Lin and her daughter Dee to the autumn open day at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary about ten miles from home. It’s a place we visit regularly and it’s open daily from 10am to 4pm, with the special open days being held four times a year. As well as the normal gift shop and book shop they have stalls in the courtyard and one of the barns, a bouncy castle and other attractions, and in dry weather they have fun dog agility classes which anyone can join in for free. These events are always well attended and they make a good couple of hours out. The place seems to be very well named though as it’s close to the moors and in winter it really is bleak, although it’s lovely there in summer.Bleakholt open day
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Views from the picnic area
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Nudging the balls to get the treats out
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A resident in ‘Old Woofs’ block
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Waiting for a forever home
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Archie, now reserved
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Part of the remembrance garden
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A resident in the kitten block
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Two ‘oldies’ residents
Although the morning had been cloudy and grey it did brighten up at lunch time and the sun came out, but unfortunately it was very brief and it soon clouded over again. While I was in the cat block, sitting in with the oldies, it started raining and when I came out it was pouring down, so I found my friends and we took shelter in the cafe where we had a meal and a brew so none of us had to cook anything when we got home. We were in there for quite a while but it was still raining when we came out so we just had one more look round the stalls in the barn then called it a day and set off for home. It was such a shame that it started raining as it literally put a dampener on the afternoon for everyone, but it won’t be long before the pre-Christmas open day which is always a really good event, so hopefully the weather will be kind and the sanctuary will have lots more visitors then.



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.