One evening, over tea, my daughter asked whether we could go to Wales during the Easter holiday, for a day trip. I pondered the idea, remembering "Destination:....Criccieth?" and replied, non-committaly, "Hmmm we could, I'll see'
Some time later, on a different day, she asked again, "Could we go to Llandudno, in the Easter holidays? I'd like to go up the Great Orm, and they have ALL sorts of things there" and went on to tell me all about them, because it transpired they had done a class assembly all about Lewis Carol, who'd spent his summers there, entertaining 'Alice' the little girl he wrote the 'Alice in Wonderland' Stories for.
And she got a map out to 'show me' where it is. "Yes, it's in North Wales" I said, continuing to dig a hole for myself... "I used to go there camping on a weekend, when we did our 'Jail-Breaks' from work"
"CAMPING!" Exclaimed both children together, "We've never BEEN camping! Would you take us?!"
"We'll SEE!" I replied sternly, realising the trap I'd fallen into! "I don't make promises, I don't know if I can keep them, remember!"
So I set about trying to work out if I could arrange a camping trip in North Wales 'sometime' over Easter..... and given my infirmity, it was a rather daunting notion!
However, after eighteen months being 'off-line' I had finally got myself sorted with a new ISP, and was trying to get the connection set up, and after dropping the children off on a Sunday evening, and set about doing some research.
I had a few things in mind, and one of the more important ones, was finding a new Range Rover, as I had figured the economics of fixing Jacqui, and the physical effort of undertaking necessary works, were probably beyond me. But, first port of call on the 'net, was the Land Rover Owner International 'Forum'..... and a new bod on the boards (to me anyway!), making a lot of noise was 'Mrs M'.... who just HAPPENED to be trying to organise a camping & P&P weekend in Bala..........
I sipped my coffee, and an idea percolated through my mind! North Wales...... Camping...... Range Rover....... Easter...... and it ALL seemed to sort of fit together, and for a few hours, of utter serendipity, it seemed almost TOO good to be true!
I had 'found' a likely looking Rangie. It was in Yorkshire, but, the price was right, and the description was good. It was a 3.9 Auto, on gas. It was red, described as 'tidy' and having twelve months MOT and Tax. This, I thought boded well. All I had to do was go up and see it. Make sure it was all it was advertised as being, hand over some wonga, drive it home, and I could be loading it full of camping gear to take the kids away...... Ah! Yes...... 'Camping Gear'........
I pondered that for a few moments, remembering the tent I had always used, was packed away in the loft, last used in 1998 when I went to the Isle of Man TT..... my last bit of 'freedom' before marriage! It MIGHT be serviceable, but it is a tiny two man tent, not REALLY suitable for taking two children away in! Who do I know with a tent?
The more I thought about it, the more daunting the practicalities became....... but I persevered. I rang my auntie, and got my cousin Mouse's new telephone number. I'd taken her to a couple of motor-bike rallies a few years ago, and remembered she had a rather useful four man tent that wasn't too tricky to put up, unlike the alternative, which was my Mother's 'family' tent, which we'd used when I was a kid. It slept six, and had a huge living room in the front, but it was the size of a marquee, and took four people and much swearing to erect! "No Problem!" Says Mouse, when I called her. "I'll get it out of the loft for you"
One problem solved. So I PM'd the daunting Mrs M, saying I had no Landy, no tent, and no money, but if I could get one or all three by Good Friday, and get myself to Bala, would there be room for me and the kids on the camp-site?
I THINK she thought I was joking; because in the banter surrounding the event, just three days before it wad due, I admitted to having gone backwards in my preparations!
The 'Stunning' Range Rover with full tax and test, I did not get to see. I was all ready to go up to Yorkshire, with a cover-note in my pocket, and the seller txted me literally JUST before I walked out of the door, to tell me that it didn't ACTUALLY have 12 months MOT..... it had been going to have one..... but it failed! So I didn't go see it..... Then Mouse called; "I've got the tent down..." She said..... "Only the 'boys' borrowed it.... and I think they may have wrecked it"
Mrs M put a note against my name in the 'roll call' of Bala Attendees. It HAD said 'Teflon - Possibly'. It now said 'Teflon - a very slight chance'!
By the end of the week-end before though, things were looking up. Mouse had set the tent up in her back garden, and scrubbed the sun cream off the fly-sheet, and stitched the clippie things to hold the liners up, back on, and called me to say it was useable, if I still wanted to borrow it, even treated me to Sunday Lunch. Which meant that we COULD go to Bala but we'd be going in a Honda Chavic!
I collected the kids, and we spent the day shopping. First stop Argos for a primus stove, and a sleeping mat. Next stop Asda for everything we wanted to eat over the week-end. Then we went and pillaged the Caravan for sleeping bags, and kitchen utensils, and made lists and things of what we needed.
the adventure began! The first discovery of which was that Honda Chavics have PATHETICALLY small boots! Last time I went camping, with mouse, the tent and everything we needed to go with it, fitted onto a pair of fishing stools wedged into the straps of my throw-over panniers on the Dawg! OK, so we hadn't taken three days worth of groceries, but even so! Took us to lunch time to squash everything in!
Then we had to go to the petrol station, where probably the largest portion of the week-ends budget was seen to accumulate on the rather rapid display of the Full Price Fuel pump! But, after £30 worth of unleaded, we were on the road, and the kids quickly settled down to that usual Bank Holiday ritual of asking 'How far is it' or 'How much longer until we get there'..... until they fell asleep!
They woke up, though, once we were in the mountains, and Rhys, picked up the OS Land Ranger, and followed the route on it until we turned off the A5 just after Corwen, where he stared giving me directions, nay! Pace Notes! Delighting in being able to tell me what was round each bend before we came to it, and directed us, unerringly to...... Bala 4x4...... This was NOT where we wanted to be!
Poor lad was mortified.... had to point out he'd directed us BRILLIANTLY to the EXACT spot marked on the map..... only that spot was in the wrong place. I'd copied it off the Google map posted on the forum.... which HAD marked both the Camp-Site and the P&P Site, but of course, not being able top do the P&P I only marked the one..... the WRONG one......
So I got out the car and hobbled over to the first Land rover I saw, and asked:-
"You don't know of a bunch of nutters from the Land Rover Owner forum camping in a field round here do you?"
"Yes!" came the reply, "Thats US! Come on, you can follow us back."
So, first job was to erect the tent. Here the kids dived in with much enthusiasm, and we rather made a meal of it... but hey, that's what camping is all about..... isn't it!?
But, after a bit of fiddling sorting poles and untangling lines, I sort of got it straight, except for not having left myself enough room and had to move the car....
So got Rhys to do it....... I sat next to him, gripping the hand brake..... and he backed it out.... oh, twenty feet, and put it back in again, much to his delight!
So, with the tent up, time to cook tea.... barbecued beef-burgers.
And the kids tore off to climb the 'mountain', which according to the OS map is called Garth Goch
And I took a picture of them at the top.....
And they took a picture of us at the bottom!
I also took some pictures of the camp-site and stitched them together to make a panorama.... not very good, but still!
Meanwhile, as the BBQ was getting hot, I took the opportunity to say hello to a few of the folk around us. To our immediate right, and in the pic doing something at the back of the two-tone Rangie, is Lee, or Slaterfet as he is known on the Forum.
On our left, just before the Morgan's camp, was a quiet couple with a Blue Disco, whose names I have COMPLETELY forgotten.... sorry!
However, while chatting to them, Rhys bounded back, full of his adventures, and berated me for leaving the car unlocked..... it had the cooking stuff in it...... "OK, where's the keys?"
There was one of those, pregnant pauses you read about so often and wonder exactly what they are..... as every-one sort of looked, and had the same question in mind, but dared not voice it!
Sure enough..... there they were...... behind the glass..... swinging from the ignition!
The Honda Chavic has been christened by 'Chappers' the forum bobby, "The Little Silver Safe"!
Of course, I don't have a spare set of keys for it... it came with one, and apparently they are a dealer only part, and you have to send away to Japan for a copy, which costs more than the car did..... actually a new air freshener would cost more than the car did, but that's another story! Cutting to the chase of this one, breaking in to a Honda Chavic is no easy task, at least without smashing a window!
And it gave Chappers and I and a few other Forum folk quite a vexing three quarters of an hour, to succeed in the feat, by which time the barbeque was WELL alight, to be able to get the burgers out of the back!
They were however delicious, and after a round of the camp, saying hello to a few people, including Mrs M, and paying the site fee, it was time for an early night.
Remember, the kids had NEVER been camping before so this was all new and exiting to them! Cramped, cold and uncomfortable to an old crone like me!
So we snuggled down, and I read them to sleep...
Which I mention, because there HAVE been requests for me to release a 'talking book' so that other forumers on the site can hear the end of the story!
In answer to those requests, the book was "Moonfleet" by J Meade Falkner, a children's classic, published by School Book Fairs Ltd, ISBN 0 7498 0514 5
Now I have to say, that given it was April, we were, for the MOST part blessed with brilliantly sunny weather.
At least in the day time!
Saturday morning, and every other come to that, we woke up to ICE on the INSIDE of the tent!
It was COLD!
So I billied up inside the tent, to make my morning brew, still inside my sleeping bagS!
But, after a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, made after I had borrowed some butter to fry it in as I had stupidly forgotten any, and while the ardent mud-larks readied themselves for the Pay & Play day, we set about heading to Llandudno, as my daughter had originally asked.
This time Shinika did the navigating, taking us the scenic route over the mountains, so we could stop to take pictures. Rhys was fascinated by all the wind turbines.
On the way we came across this doubtful duo. A Ewe and her lamb, out on the road.
Isn't it so QuuuuuuuuuuT and cuddly!
I can enjoy such sentimentality these days; when I was a kid, Easter meant Lambing, and all hands to the pumps on the family farm!
I pointed them out to the kids; "Dont you think they are so cute?" I asked.
"No! Tasty. Specially with some new potatoes, broccoli and a bit of mint sauce"
You know, at times my daughter has a distinctly ruthless side to her character......
Quite right though...... bit of rosemary, little wild garlic..... Yum!
Anyway, we reached Llandudno a little before lunch time. Which was nice. If we'd taken a day-trip as originally suggested, we'd have been lucky to make it all the way from Nuneaton much before mid afternoon, but Shinika's air of utter dissapointment when she saw the rocky beach was palpable.
But, undeterred, and after a sandwich, off they went to play on the beach, before we headed up the prom to investigate the town.
It was a little disappointing that we didn't get to go up the Great Orm, but the cable car ride was, frankly exorbitant; the folk that were doing the Pay & Play had paid less for their fun than the three of us would to have ridden up that rope! So we wandered back to the pier, and found the wobbly slide, which was a lot more fun, instead.
But by the time we'd had a wander, and an ice cream, unfortunately the boat rides around the bay had stopped, so we made our way back to the car, for a snack, and a little more play on the beach.
Only trouble was, that as soon as they took their socks and shoes off for a paddle, they realised how hard the rocks were, and I had to rescue them from the water line! So I suggested we head around the coast to Rhos to find a sandy beach.
I have to say I likes Rhos. It's sort of.... what the sea side should be! Lots of colourful boats about, and 'stuff' on the beach. There's a lot of clam and muscle beds along the coast, so there's a lot of shells for the kids to find, and rocks, and well, all sorts of 'stuff', not just sand, or stones!
As we were walking down the slip way to the water, the tide just going out, all the barnacles on the concrete were snapping shut with a crackling sound!
So, as the sun started to wane, we headed back to Bala for tea, and some more of 'Moonfleet'.
Sunday I woke up with frost on my hair! I lit the billy and tried to thaw myself out, before the kids woke up! And to be honest, was suffering. I had overexerted myself running around panicking, trying to get everything together for the trip, then the driving down, and the trip to Llandudno & Rhos, keeping up with the kids. So, Sunday morning, my legs did NOT want to work. Luckily, Mrs M had 'entertainments' planned.
Here she is, in full swing, 'organising' Morgans...... who seems to be looking around vainly for support! But no, they did a Stirling job, despite hang-overs, arranging an 'Easter egg Scramble' for the children, and a Welly Wanging Competition for all!
On your marks, get set SCRAMBLE!
Don't these pics just beg for silly captions?
Meanwhile the kids stuff their bags with chocolate!
And onto the Welly Wanging
I decided to err..... clear the impact zone, when it was time for the groan-ups to have thier go, and was roped into having a wang by my kids.... didn't win! But Shinika appointed herself chief wanger-backer, and kept chucking the wellies back at Mrs M!
Bala 4x4 was open again on the Sunday, so after the ents, many headed of back to have another go on the slimy stuff, or took to the hills for some green-laning. We weren't sure what to do. I was thinking about going and exploring round Bala and the lake, while Rhys was determined to get me to climb Garth Goch with him, neither of which I was particularly up for!
But then AJB rounded up all the straglers, and suggested a 'Grey-Laning' expedition.... sort of like a green-laning trip, but on made roads! So, we chucked everything in the Little Silver Safe and joined the convoy!
Stopping here and there for a photo and a scramble
Shinika.... Tree.... yup, that's where she'll be!
The route took us round Lake Vynwry, and Rhys HAD to take a picture of the tower!
And so, back to camp, via a chip shop for tea!
Where the children convened games of 'Mr Wolf' and 'The Farmer's in his Den' until the sun went down...
And yes, another chapter of Moonfleet!
Time to pack away and say good-bye. The morning was spent, breaking camp. And every-one heading off there separate ways. Many had a long journey home, some were going to try a few more trails before heading homewards, but we planned to go to Llyn and have an afternoon on the beach. So after making or farewells, we pointed the Little Silver Safe westwards and headed for Criccieth... or more precisely Phwelli, as I always get the two confuddled!
This is one of THE most unspoiled and beautiful 'sandy' beaches in the UK, yet, its so quiet, and even on a sunny bank holiday, almost deserted!
Between sand castles and games, we dug out the primus and billed up on the beach, making a lunch of hot-dogs and baked beans!
And then, home, stopping in Cearnarfon, where Rhys managed to grab a very nice pic of the castle, for some chips.
We got home late, and thoroughly exhausted, but, it was a great week-end, and the kids have decided they like camping!