“Summers Will Never Be The Same” was a book written by Christopher Martin-Jenkins as a tribute to the late great cricket commentator Brian Johnston and at the moment it’s title could not seem more apt. Whether it’s down to climate change or selective memory I know not. What I DO know is, it’s July, mostly windy, often wet and well short of anything that could be considered sunbathing temperatures. I knew I should have brought one of my poncey leather coats!
Still, it is the summer holidays – for us anyway – and that of course means that once again we are away in Patsy our mature but well preserved Coachman caravan.
North Devon is our first port of call and we’ve returned to the lovely Warcombe Farm looking even more beautiful than it was three years ago. Warcombe Farm joins a very small list of site that we’ve visited more than once. There’s a few around Cambridge thanks to visit’s to see HRH aka Trev’s Mum and Crystal Palace too for numerous visits to London.
Wednesday saw us make the 231 mile trundle west, leaving Patsy’s storage site soon after 7am. We were both a little jaded having made a couple of 500 mile round trips to the Peak District in the days preceding for the school kids Duke of Edinburgh expedition.
Traffic was as expected but we avoided the worst of the inevitable hold ups around Worthing, Arundel & Chichester thanks to the early start and, having swapped driving duties a couple of times arrived on site soon after 1pm, with Rosie managing just shy of 28mpg.
The welcome at Warcombe was as warm as we remembered and with check in completed we were shown to our pitch, it’s copious proportions bringing back memories of our time in France last year.
In the evening site managers Judith & Mike joined us bringing with them some grub from the on site eatery – an addition since our last stay. Tonight was nachos and very tasty they were too. There’s a different theme every night, be it Indian, Chinese, Italian or more traditional with options available for the less adventurous. A full cooked breakfast can be had most days too, as well as afternoon tea.
We’d kept in occasional contact with Judith through the wonder of social media but it was still good to catch up face to face and we had a very pleasant evening, even managing to sit outside for the duration.
Thursday morning was wonderfully lazy – reading and the occasional snooze. It was late afternoon when we finally emerged for foray to the nearest supermarket to stock up, returning only to load the fridge before heading to the nearby village of Mortehoe for grog and grub. The food was good but the ale – not quite local but from neighbouring Cornwall - was even better. Particularly at less than three quid a pint.
Friday saw us head south to Clovelly – a preserved and privately owned village on the coast. The cobbled main thoroughfare is too steep for vehicles and for years donkeys had the unenviable task of traversing the steep incline. Now, every property owns a sledge for transportation of goods.
It is steep – very steep in places and suitable footwear is a must. It’s just as well we visited in the summer or I’d have been shod in my usual winkle pickers and would probably have skidded to the bottom on my backside…
A delightful little harbour greets you at the bottom as does the thought of getting back up again. You can hitch a ride up along a back road for a small fee and I was expecting (and half hoping if I’m honest) that Trev would go for this option. He was determined to walk back up though and walk we did, showing just what a great job his heart surgeon did nearly 13 years ago.
The entire village is owned by one family and the entrance fee helps pay for the traditional upkeep of all the properties. We heard a great exchange from a couple who passed us on their way down. She said “You mean we’ve paid seven quid just to walk down a hill?” He said “No, you get to walk back up it as well!” Brilliant.
On Saturday we headed north to sample the delights of the Lynton – Barnstaple Railway. The name is at first a little misleading as currently there is only a short section of track open – from one of the original stations at Woody Bay. Plans are afoot to reconstruct the entire length of the narrow gauge line.
As it is the two mile return journey is a very pleasant one offering some cracking views over the Devon countryside from well renovated carriages. The tea room, back at the station is a delight and well worth a visit.
We stopped in Ilfracombe after pausing along the coast at Combe Martin. Ilfracombe’s harbour was bustling with Damien Hurst’s ‘Verity’ still attracting attention. Even the sun graced us with it’s presence for a little while.
Across the bay can be found – according to a local – the Ilfracombe Elephant forged over thousands of years by Mother Nature alone. Can you see it?
Back at the site it was time to fire up the CADAC for the evenings banquet. Something we decided we would try and do on this trip is Buy British. You can read into this what you will given the recent referendum but we’ve managed it so far save for some Egyptian red onions which leapt into the basket when our guard was down. Oddly the two food shops we’ve been in seem full of goods emblazoned with the Union Flag, so it hasn’t been that hard to do so far.
Of course, buying British is one thing, but cooking is another. It’s been an interesting exercise trying to find out where stuff is actually made. So far we’ve cooked outside on a South African CADAC and French Campingaz stove and Moulinex flatbed, the latter most definitely being made in China. In the winter we would have used the caravan’s cooker – made in Sheffield but owned ultimately by an American company as is the fridge. And where does the steel come from to make it?
It may be Calor powering these but Calor is now Dutch owned. The electricity supplied to site may well be produced in the UK – but perhaps not from British coal – and is quite likely to be French or German owned. The caravan is British designed are built but some components are sourced abroad. Our car was built in Swindon by British workers for a Japanese company – and again where did the steel come from? The diesel that powers it? Refined in the UK most probably but unlikely to have come from the North Sea. The more forensically you analyse it the harder it is to buy ‘pure’ British in such a globalised market.
Even real ale is not immune – many breweries now source their hops from abroad, but rest assured this won’t impact on my ongoing ‘research’ project!
Check back soon for Part Two, hopefully I’ll be able to show some pictures of this lovely site with the sun out as well as what else we’ve been up to.
In the meantime, check our Site Arrival video for Warcombe Farm HERE