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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Trip report: Salisbury Plain and Exmoor

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sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 07/26/11 03:37pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It had been a few weeks since our tour of France and we were getting withdrawal symptoms - truck camping does that to you, so another trip was necessary to feed the addiction.

Our friends Cees and Marja from Holland were planning to be in Exmoor for several weeks with their little truck camper so this was a good excuse to join them for a couple of nights.

The previous few weeks had been tiring ones - long days on a customer site in Portugal only to return to find one our least accessible and tallest tree had split and one third of it was making a slow journey in the direction of our neighbour's glasshouse. So lumberjack impressions were required (together with attempts to get my old chainsaw to run properly). We had done Exmoor a number of times so there was no big agenda and I was therefore looking forward to a quiet weekend of getting up late to recharge my batteries and not getting covered in sticky sap.

A couple of modifications first though: I decided to add a handle to the cork that seals our water tank to make it easier to remove - Nothing like a bit of unnecessary brasswork:

[image]

The tie-down system had worked well around Europe, but I adjusted it this time using a better tie-down point on the camper, which also gave more of a forward pull too. Plus following SoCalDesertRider's question "What, no rear tie-downs?" I used a couple of heavy duty ratchet straps on the back, attached to the frame mountings of the tow bar. This worked very well when off road, so I am very pleased with the result:

[image]

Unfortunately it was start of the vacation season and a few miles before Stone Henge the traffic came to a complete halt. The road drops from 4 lanes to 2 before Stone Henge, any many people turn off there causing a traffic queue. So we took chose a detour. Just north of us was Salisbury Plain; a large Army training range complete with areas for live firing of everything from small arms to main battle tanks and mortars. Most civilians wouldn't go near it, but it is crossed with many rights-of-way which you can drive on when they are not firing:

[image]

So we headed off-road onto the plain and found a quiet spot to park for lunch, checking we were not about to park in the middle of a NATO exercise:

[image]

The great thing about Salisbury Plain is that despite being used for live firing, tank driving, etc. it has almost become a national park. There is farm land on the plain, but much of it is left natural and has returned to wild pasture:

[image]

There are also a few warning signs you don't normaly see in town:

[image]

[image]

After continuing west through the plain we eventually returned to public roads, passing Glastonbury Tor on the way:

[image]

Hunter S. Thompson produced that memorable phrase about the high-water mark where the wave of '60s energy broke and rolled back. I guess you can still see little rock-pools left by that wave in places like Sedonna. The equivalent in the UK is Glastonbury, though these days there seems to be more commercialism than hippy ideals, with plenty of shops selling crystals and tie-die clothing.

Arriving at the camp ground a spot had been reserved for us next to Cees and Marja, who had already demounted their camper and were enjoying some rare British sunshine:

[image]

Soon the wine and beer was out and it was time to put the world to rights:

[image]

And we could start the serious business of looking at each others' latest modifications. Cees had fitted air springs to his Toyota Hilux - very tidy:

[image]

With a compressor in the cab:

[image]

He found that if left at a relatively low pressure the air springs improved the ride noticeably. I might think about this later, but it is more money than I really want to spend right now. Cees had also built a heavy sliding platform for the camper to sit on so it cleared the cab roof - the rear sliding section slides out over the tail gate to offer support to the back of the camper without applying too much weight on the tailgate:

[image]

The next morning we decided to explore some of the less visited parts of Exmoor. I have a sixth sense for locating unconfortably narrow or steep roads - this one was rubbing the jack mounting points on both sides of the camper - luckily other drivers avoided the road - not somewhere you want to find much traffic coming in the other direction:

[image]

We found a spot on top of the moor for lunch; the native ponies that live wild on the moor hung around, hoping for scraps. Having the camper with us Sally could produce something hot for lunch:

[image]

From there my sixth sense detected a little used side-road that crossed the valley. It went through a farm yard forcing Sally to get out and open the gate to let us through. The farmer turned up on a quad bike with his sheep dogs, but was very pleasant - I was worried he would say "what are you doing on my farm yard?". From there the road descended very steeply. The map showed it as 20% or steeper; experience tells me it was at least 25% - this is the bit just before it drops off:

[image]

At the bottom a 90 degree turn lead to a very steep climb which I had to do in first gear. It was so steep the truck even spun a wheel at one point. However I could always engage 4x4 low if needed. When we reached the top we passed a group of very surprised mountain bikers who were cycling up in an extremely low gear, not expecting to see a motorhome come up the hill behind them - I was equally surprised to see anyone mad enough to be trying to cycle up that hill.

Back at the camp ground we decided to explore the surroundings. A set of steps led from where we were parked down to a stream in the valley below:

[image]

Never much direct sunlight here:

[image]

Looming over the valley were the supports to a now missing railway bridge, dismantled maybe 50 years ago during a time of major cuts to the British railway system:

[image]

A path appeared to lead along the old railway, but with no map of the area to confirm it we struggled through as the the undergrowth got thicker:

[image]

Eventually the jungle opened up to reveal a pond with a seat and some ornamental features, albeit neglected:

[image]

Unfurtunately, after the pond the path was blocked and the only way through would have been through one of several farmer's fields, and it was not clear that there was any official path through. Not wanting to risk a confrontation with the farmer we turned round and battled back through the undergrowth.

Approaching dinner time (we always seem to be eating) Sally heats up a Spaghetti Bolognese she had cooked at home - a nice luxury to have home-cooked food when travelling; all washed down with a bottle of sparkling wine from our Alsace trip.

[image]

In the morning we bade farewell to Cees and Marja and headed back east. Cees and Marja recommended a large factory retail outlet on the way home with designer clothes for reduced prices, but bless Sally she actually decided she would prefer offroad driving on Salisbury plain to fashion shopping! That's my girl! So we drove straight past the fashion stores heading for the historic countryside of Wiltshire.

Approaching Stone Henge (Remember "This Is Spinal Tap"?) we turned off down a dirt road running along the back of it. The site was unbelievably busy - maybe there was some festival going on:

[image]

[image]

Alone again further up the dirt road (nature calls):

[image]

Then through an Army town and onto the plain again. However, we didn't get far before we saw the dreaded red flag - no communists here, but instead indication of a live firing exercise in progress:

[image]

A right-turn at the control post took us away from the artillary range heading east through a part of the plain where there was less risk of being hit by a depleted uranium shell, leading to a secluded spot for lunch:

[image]

Continuing along their all-weather track we pulled over to allow a large tanker to pass - mainly because I always like to see the big boys toys:

[image]

A couple of miles on revealed a huge offroad driver-training area, but the signs made it clear civilians weren't welcome to play there:

[image]

A couple of guys in a historic Austin Champ waited for us to crest the hill. An expensively built type of Jeep, the Champ was only used briefly before the Army settled on cheaper Landrovers. The driver was taking it for a run prior to a military vehicle event at the end of August at the nearby musuem of army flying. He kindly extended an invitation to us but having sold the duece and a half and the Landrovers I no longer have any ex-military vehicles to take along.

So you don't forget where you are there are frequent reminders of what awaits you if you go off the track:

[image]

Eventually we ran out of plain and had to revert to normal roads. The fun was over so we just set course for home.

We had travelled just 375 miles in total, used 53 litres of diesel on the trip, costing us £75 but averaging about 32MPG imperial (27MPG US), which I was very pleasing given the amount of low-gear driving, steep hills, and offroad action on Salisbury plain. But it is still a lot of money for less than 400 miles though.

A couple of hours after arriving home the utility of the truck camper was demonstrated again - camper demounted and truck now working hard clearing our garden of the remains of the tree. I couldn't have done that in a class C!

[image]

Oh, and thanks to Clattertruck for his advice on improving photos with very bright skies: Ron - I found the Free photo software I already use actually has a backlight feature so I tried it on a couple of pictures, though I don't have your experience, but it did improve them.

Steve.


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Oldtymeflyr

Arapahoe Hills, CO

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Posted: 07/26/11 04:07pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks I needed that.

Rick

TexasShadow

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Posted: 07/26/11 05:38pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

thanks again for your pictures. brings back memories of past trips to that area.


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Clattertruck

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Posted: 07/26/11 07:39pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Be careful to not hook your lovely brass knob on the trees while on the narrow roads. I have scratched the sides on my big camper on much wider roads.


Clattertruck
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whazoo

Idahome

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Posted: 07/26/11 08:07pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice trip Steve,
That's one tall cairn, must not be much wind through there. I love the moors, sounds mysterious, even though I've never been there till now. Thanks again Amigo, it was much enjoyed on this hot summer night.

rwj146

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Posted: 07/26/11 08:20pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks again for another outstanding Trip Report.

I will never see those areas myself, but it is a pleasure to see them thru your eyes. Your narratives are first rate too. Many thanks for posting. Bob J.


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Matho

New Mexico Texas

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Posted: 07/26/11 08:33pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Real nice of the farmer to let you pass thru the fence. There are lands with ranches here that have the fence that you can pass thru, just be sure to put it back up.

Nothing like a TC at Stone Henge. Thanks for the photos.


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Less Stuff

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Posted: 07/26/11 09:09pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice report. Thanks for posting.
The British Isles are still on our list.

We have a copy of Stonehenge in Washington state.
Mary Hill Stonehenge


Would love to see the real thing in person one day.


DG
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5percent

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Posted: 07/26/11 10:27pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Lovely photos of a lovely place. Thanks for posting.


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Charlie+Em

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Posted: 07/27/11 04:38am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great photos and write-up, thanks for sharing.


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