The first May bank holiday always feels like the start of summer to me – the days are long, the weather is (usually) behaving itself a bit more and the idea of sleeping under canvas starts to sound quite attractive. We decided we would start the summer with a short camping trip, just a couple of nights, to give the tent an airing and explore an area that’s a bit too far to easily do in day trips. We’d heard a lot of good things about the North Devon coast so decided to go and investigate, finding ourselves a lovely, fairly quiet campsite near Ilfracombe. I think this might be one of the best views I’ve ever had from a campsite!
We knew Saturday was going to be the best day as far as the weather went, so we got our tent pitched quickly, ate the picnic we’d brought with us then went down the hill into the small town of Combe Martin. We explored for a bit then found a welcoming pub called the Pack O’ Cards. It had a really lovely childrens’ play area which Lucy enjoyed while we had a nice drink in the sunshine. Then we walked back a longer route, out of the village, through nearby woods. We found a couple of geocaches while we were there.
We actually went back to the same pub later in the evening for dinner, as we’d had a look at the menu and decided it looked good. It turned out to be a good choice, and one we’ll remember if we’re in the area again. When we got back to the tent we found the sunset was beautiful. Even more beautiful was the night sky when I got up for a toilet visit at about 2am – there’s very little light pollution in this area and I could see far more stars than usual – absolutely stunning (but beyond my skills to photograph). One of the reasons I love camping is this feeling of being close to nature and seeing such sights.
Sunday was a little more cloudy, so we decided to make it a walking day. I’m really, really proud of Lucy because she walked a long way with us. They say a child should be able to walk a mile for every year old that they are – which means she should be able to walk 5 miles. I’d doubted that she could do this, until today, when I saw her do it, largely without really complaining. She had some school homework to do – go and find bugs and take pictures, draw them, and make a list of what she’d found. We started our day at Watersmeet, as we thought this would be a good spot for finding bugs – a woody gorge where several rivers meet. One of my friends, Rachel Cotterill liked this place so much she used the name for a book she’s written. I trust Rachel’s judgement so thought we would go and have a look while we were in the area.
It's a stunning place, so I'm really glad we did. We parked in what I would descibe as the bottom (Combe Park) car park, which was free for National Trust members with an honesty box for everyone else - the main car park near the café is not free, even for NT members. This worked out really well as we then had a pleasant walk of about a mile to the café, which is inside an old fishing lodge. The café was lovely, as National Trust cafés tend to be, though we were slightly annoyed that they didn't serve hot food until 12 - we had got there just after 11 and really fancied the soup that was advertised, but had to wait. So we did, as we hadn't brought lunch with us. We entertained ourselves watching the many chaffinches, robins and other birds which were playing in the garden, quite unafraid of the visitors. I suppose they know they'll get crumbs and so on.
After we'd eventually had our lunch, we carried on a bit further, but we soon realised we weren't going to get to Lynmouth and then get Lucy all the way back to the car. So, we followed the river back, stopping for more bug hunting, stone skimming and the occasional rest, as it was largely uphill.
We then drove over to Heddon Valley, anoth National Trust site nearby. After refuelling Lucy with ice cream we started walking again. The sign said it was a mile to the beach at Heddon Mouth, which we thought Lucy wouldn't manage, but to our surprise she did, fairly happily. The going here was easier - it was much flatter and the path was very wide, as it has been designed to take mobility scooters. We soon found ourselves at a little shingly beach where we sat and watched the waves.
By this time, we could see the weather was starting to turn, so we took a slow meander back up the valley and then went and found a pub serving a carvery roast dinner, Lucy's favourite, which we were all more than ready for.
When we got up the next day, we were pleased to find it wasn't raining. We packed up and managed to get it done before the rain set in. We didn't like to head straight home, so we stopped in Braunton for a look round. I'd hoped to walk out to Baggy Point, but by this point it was really raining, so we abandoned that and got some lunch instead, then drove home. By the time we got back to Bude the sun was shining down, which is pretty typical of round here - we have very changeable and very localised weather.
All in all, I think that the weekend was a pretty great start to the summer. We've got at least one more camping trip planned, for a week in August, but I'm hoping to pencil in a couple more short weekend trips like this one, as it's such a cheap way to have a fun few days. I do love discovering more lovely areas just around the corner - this was only an hour's drive from home.