Christmas in Devon - Camping!
I scorn the usual Christmas festivities and take my girl camping for a couple of nights.
The annual celebration of the birth of Christ saw my partner Jo and I in a position to do anything we wanted. Freed from the responsibilities of family commitments we weighed up our options and Jo, rather sportingly I thought, suggested a couple of nights camping in the Carawagon at our favourite site in South Devon. Mount Folly Farm in Bigbury on Sea is a simple site, with minimal amenities, but a commanding 180º view of the Devon coastline. We phoned the owners, John and Jane, to ask whether they would be open over Christmas. By the time they had finished laughing, they confirmed they would be, as their cattle did not celebrate Christmas and would need feeding, but speculated we would be the only ones there, as ours was the first such request!
The Carawagon was in fine fettle, as I was heading off to North Africa immediately after the festive season, so we loaded it with food, drink and an encouraging quantity of gift wrapped items and hit the road south. Most will remember that the few days before Christmas had been particularly cold with snow bringing many areas to a standstill, but by 24th most of it had cleared and we had an easy run down the M5 arriving in Bigbury at about 8.00. Too late for the carol singing on the green, but in time to join the throng in the pub afterwards for a well earned pint. Pulling on to the camp site we were rewarded with the romantic sight of the silver moon reflecting in a still sea and Burgh Island a silhouette opposite.
I stepped out of the drivers door into a generously proportioned cow pat, laughed and stepped into another. The cattle clearly liked the best view as well! Arming ourselves with torches we found a dryer area and erected the rear awning, popped up the top and enjoyed a casserole that had been cooking in a slow cooker on the way down. We slept well and easing back the duvet cover in the morning revealed a strong shaft of sunlight creeping in through a gap in the blinds. Wiping the sleep from our eyes we looked out at a clear blue sky, flat sea and a view that could have been a spring day. There was a bit of a nip in the air, but it was mild enough to roll up one side of the awning, light our Chiminea and sit in the sunshine for breakfast. Then, to the reassuring crackle of burning firewood, we settled down to an exciting half hour of present opening!
A long walk followed, along the banks of the river estuary, where we stumbled across another couple of Christmas refugees cooking sausages on a driftwood fire. “Are you the couple camping in John’s field?” was their first question. Clearly, word spreads fast in a small community. As the tide receded we were able to walk across the sand to Burgh Island and enjoy a drink in The Pilchard Inn, before heading back up the hill to the camp site and Christmas Dinner of duck breasts, jacket potatoes and veg.
The weather hinted at deteriorating that evening with a change in wind direction. I opted to do nothing, but as the wind increased I was worried that the awning might blow itself to pieces so, feeling like The Ancient Mariner, I wrapped up warm, went out and removed the awning, stashing it against the wall with our other junk and drove down to a more sheltered spot whilst a storm raged most of the night. Surveying our options on Boxing Day, we decided to pack up at a leisurely pace and head home at lunchtime. I had noticed John head off on his tractor to feed some cattle in the next field, so decided it would be polite to go and thank him for a memorable Christmas. This was a mistake! The field dropped off quite sharply and trying cross the top edge of it, the back end of the Land Rover was slipping sideways down the hill, whilst the front wheels desperately tried to find grip at the top. I ended up stuck, facing uphill and unable to go anywhere. John, from the security of his tractor thought this very amusing and compared my tyres (Michelin XS sand tyres - fitted for forthcoming desert trip) to his bald head! We hitched a rope to the back of his trailer and with ease the tractor pulled us back up the hill and out onto the safety of the track. With the Land Rover covered in mud we bid farewell to Devon and our Christmas with a difference and headed back up the M5 to resume a more normal existence for the New Year.
Toby Jo -3256.jpg. With the Chiminea lit and the awning side rolled up Jo and Toby settled down to half an hour of present opening in weather more akin to Spring than Christmas Day.
Toby Jo -3276.jpg. Jo takes full advantage of the mild, sunny weather and peels a couple of layers off. The stunning view of the South Devon coastline includes Burgh Island and the famous, Art Deco, Hotel named after the island and the 18th Century Pilchard Inn.
Toby Jo -3845.jpg. A couple of Christmas drinks at The Pilchard Inn looking back at the mainland. When the tide is in the only link with the mainland is via the Sea Tractor - an hydraulic engined platform that takes passengers across the short stretch of sea with the water lapping at the deck!
Toby Jo -3865.jpg. A slightly embarrassing end the the break having to be towed out of the field by the farmer’s tractor. A case of the wrong tyres for the job.