A few weeks ago Tom and I decided to book to go away in the van for a few days over the Easter long weekend. Upon reporting this to friends and family we were mostly met with “areyoumaditsgoingtobefreezing”. But we soldiered on, praying for some sun and fondly remembering ‘the great heatwave of Easter weekend 2012’. Sadly, it did not come, and so on Friday we found ourselves loading up the van with thick coats, blankets and duvets, with my sandals and sundresses packed away for another day.
We stayed at a little campsite with beautiful views of Dunkery Beacon, in Porlock in the Exmoor National Park (Somerset). Tom has a T5 Transporter van with a full width bed in the back and we had electric on the site so we could plug in our electric heater. We arrived late on Friday afternoon, put up the awning, loaded up the bed with quilts and blankets and then went for dinner at a nearby pub to warm ourselves up.
On Saturday morning we began to realise quite how cold it was going to be. The campsite led to a lovely walk through the forest and we took Bodhi for a good jaunt – hands thrust in pockets to protect from the biting winds, necks swathed in scarves and toes turning numb in not-quite-thick-enough wellington boots.
After our walk we headed into Lynmouth, a pretty little village with a harbour and lots of pasty and fudge shops. I didn’t take any photos as my hands were still firmly cocooned in sherpa lined pockets and unwilling to come out. We then drove up to the next town, Lynton, where we had lunch in a little café and I bought a lovely retro coffee set from a charity shop – will share this in another post.
Luckily, the sun then decided to put his hat on which offered some respite from the icy winds. We went to the Valley of the Rocks – huge cliffs with wild goats trotting around and impressive rock formations. We walked Bodhi along a coastal path and enjoyed the beautiful views and sunshine. I even had to put my sunglasses on, so we had a little dose of ‘summer vacation’ despite the cold.
I realise these aren’t exactly outfits you’re going to be desperate to emulate anytime soon but I am wearing about a million layers so forgive me if I look a little ‘Michelin Man chic’. One thing I am glad that I packed is my Dr Martens boots which I bought when it snowed in December. I haven’t really worn knee-high boots before but these were a god-send, especially with the fleece-y socks Tom bought me as a present from the camping shop! I usually pack wholly unsuitable shoes for trips like this and then spend the whole time whinging about having cold feet so having toasty toes was quite a novelty.
All that walking had generated an appetite that could only be satisfied by an afternoon tea, so we went to Watersmeet, a National Trust site with a tea gardens where you can drink tea and listen to the sound of two rivers tumbling together in a gorge. Sadly we failed to spot the rather hidden ‘indoor seating’ until after we’d finished our cream tea but we soldiered on through the cold, warming up with pots of tea (me peppermint, Tom Earl Grey) and scones with lashings of jam and cream.
After all that adventuring we were suitably exhausted, and so we headed back to the campsite, armed with local ciders we’d picked up from a little shop in Lynmouth. Dinner was crisps and dip, consumed under blankets in the van, with the fanheater chuffing out warmth and Lord of the Rings watched on Tom’s laptop.
After a lengthy slumber of the kind only endured after long walks and lots of fresh air, we awoke on Sunday morning feeling refreshed and eager to enjoy some of the sunshine sneaking through the gap in the van’s curtains. Not too eager however, as no day on a campsite is begun without pausing to prepare bacon and put the kettle on.
This is our awning, with guard-dog Bodhi marking the entrance. And no camping trip is complete without bunting, of course.
Bodhi loved getting out in the fresh air, even if the wind did rather muss up his haircut.
Our campsite was attached to a working farm, so I couldn’t resist a peek at all the lovely lambs. Lambs just epitomise Springtime for me and seeing them darting around the fields never fails to make me smile, especially if they appear to be smiling themselves!
I loved these two, this photo looks like one is telling the other a secret… perhaps he is asking where he can get himself a raincoat too?
After we’d done extensive cooing at the lambs, we ventured on for a walk on Exmoor, settling on a walk in Doone Valley. Tom’s van was a little too wide to comfortably fit over the little stone bridge so he took much delight in driving through the ford. And then back again. And then back again for a photo opportunity.
The walk itself was just utterly beautiful, through moorland and through valleys, with a river meandering alongside. We splashed about in the river in our boots, Bodhi stopped to jump across rocks and find the coolest place to drink, we admired the views and walked for miles until our bellies rumbled to signal it was time for a late lunch.
We stopped at a restaurant on the way back to the campsite which turned out to be a real gem. Tom had scallops and then roast beef with huge Yorkshire puddings and I had beer-battered halloumi which was utterly divine. I only have a bad quality phone snap but I needed to show you the amazingness of a huge block of battered cheese….
We headed back to the campsite exhausted and happy. Our pitch was in front of a huge field with horses in at the foot of the hills and as the sun set all of the horses started galloping wildly around the field and so we sat silently and watched for a while, it was mesmerising.
This morning we packed up the awning, loaded up the van and headed back home. I feel like I have eaten about a week’s worth of food in three days but I feel very happy and relaxed. This has been a mammoth post so kudos if you’re still reading, and hope you had a lovely Easter weekend too.