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 > Trip Report: Christmas camping 2014

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sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 12/28/14 01:15pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You may remember that last year we decided to forego visiting relatives and try camping over Christmas. It must have worked out because Sally was keen to do the same thing this year too.

We selected Devon, on the border with Cornwall in the South West of England. Sally suggested various northern destinations, but given less than 8 hours of daylight at this time of year in Southern England I didn’t want to suffer less daylight and worse weather by going north.

Monday 22nd – The shortest day

Yep, less than 8 hours daylight up here, but on the plus side it gets better a day at a time from now on.

Camper on truck, tyres checked and inflated as necessary, water tank filled, plenty of food and drink on board (though I should have checked the exact inventory of the latter) and it is time to get on our way.

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First stop after an hour is the big Go Outdoors store in Basingstoke (for those unfamiliar with England the name “Basingstoke” conjures up images of a quaint village – a visit there will very quickly correct that mistake). I need to pick up some gloves, a tool for extracting climbing protection from rock faces and Sally wanted another book on mountaineers. We also looked at tents – we have a cheap dome tent but wanted to get ideas about a better one for use if travelling with just the truck and a canopy, or with the Suzuki Samurai.

The rest of the trip South West was uneventful. The Jet Stream had moved and we now had strangely warm windy weather – 13 degrees C, which is not what you expect on the run up to Christmas. So much for a “white Christmas”.

The campsite was a fairly budget affair. Run by a recently widowed grandfather who lives on site full time in an old cheap touring trailer. I was glad for the four wheel drive to get across the sloping muddy grass:

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Attempts at making a water feature clearly hadn’t gone well:

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Dinner tonight: chicken curry, rice and naan bread with half a bottle of Chablis.

We trudged across the muddy grass struggling to see the way using a small flashlight. The shower was coin-operated but workable.

Tuesday 23rd

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The camper was rocked by high winds during the night, and the morning wasn’t looking any better. The campground was about a mile from the coast and we followed a farm track which seemed overly busy with vehicles – turned out the farm was selling turkeys for Christmas. The manor house opposite the farm had left out a traditional offering for the garbage men – Stella Artois beer, otherwise known as “Wifebeater” following an alleged link with binge drinking and associated marital violence.

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Descending towards the coast a heavy rain squall soaked us – hmmm, was this Christmas camping thing such a good idea after all? It soon became apparent that this was a pattern and we learned to seek shelter from the horizontal soaking for 10 minutes in every 30 as each successive squall came through.

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A bush with a comb-over – there were many of these – no problem telling which direction the weather comes from.

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Turning the corner we could see some of the old marine defences for Plymouth harbour.

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Some of these still appeared to be used for military exercises – how do we always find these places?:

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I believe this wall is part of a rifle range

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Around the corner and Plymouth can be seen. We have already walked quite a long way and I don’t want to walk into the outskirts of the city itself, so we turn right and cut straight across the peninsula we have just rounded, heading directly back to the campground.

Dinner tonight is cottage pie – well, we don’t have an oven to properly bake a pie, so Sally cuts the minced beef and very rich sauce she has pre-cooked at home from its vacuum sealed bag, heats it on the stove and makes up some packet mashed potato. Stupidly I failed to check the fridge before coming out – I fancied a beer with this meal, but found the fridge only contained pilsner – aaaaaggghhh, where was all the proper ale?

Wednesday 24th – Christmas Eve

Weather is better today so we head north / inland to the edge of Dartmoor. The lanes are very narrow – it in necessary to weave the camper with care through the overhanging trees and stone walls.

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Luckily our camper is only around 7ft wide, but most of the lanes appear to be 8ft at most. I have no problem weaving through these tight and steep lanes – I can drop into low ratio to avoid burning the clutch out and give me back some of the low speed manoeuvrability an automatic transmission would have given me. The real problem though is traffic. Meeting an oncoming car down such lanes is a real pain, and luck usually means you have another vehicle behind you when that happens, so backing up becomes a challenge too (if it isn’t difficult enough already).

We park by the tumble-down remains of a china clay works, probably several hundred years old and cross the river Plym, a mere stream at this point.

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We climb up the nicely made trail to the Dewerstone rocks. The reason for starting the walk here was the presence of some rock climbs just below, so we descend to find the top of those climbs

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I scramble part way down to look at the rock faces from the side:

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Sally is still struggling with a bad ankle – she is due for an injection next month, so I leave her at the top. I hate to think what the doctor would say if he knew the sort of things Sally got up to on the ankle. It takes me a while to scramble down and back up again and I am worried she might think I’ve had a fall down there due to the time I took.

Reunited we head north east across the moor. There are little outcrops of rock all over the moor. I try out some ‘friends’ I got for Christmas. No, this isn’t some sad internet shopping service where you can rent friends to make yourself more popular; instead they are climbing protection devices that work on a cam principal. Easier to try them out here from the comfort of the ground than when hanging onto a rock face – less cursing this way.

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We wander on and find a small artificial lake – undoubtedly the result of past china clay workings, but it makes a good place to stop for lunch.

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Although there is a bit of a beach around the lake, it drops away alarmingly quickly under the surface, and prodding it with the trekking pole showed the material was very loose.

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The river Plym where it comes off the top of the moor:

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We followed a trail along the edge of the river as it dropped rapidly through a gorge.

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Towards the end of the trail we could see the rock faces we had investigated earlier:

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On returning to the camper Sally pointed out it would be light for another hour at least so maybe we should try to find the path leading to the bottom of the rock faces. We (I, as Sally pointed out) had missed this on our earlier ascent. This time we were more careful and spotted the turn-off (well, Sally spotted it, so there was some resulting smugness).

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There were a range of interesting rock faces. It took a while to identify which ones were which in our climbing guidebook. We had no intention of attempting them today as they were all damp and slippery, but were interested to see whether they were something worth returning for in the summer.

[image]

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I did notice a few things though when I checked close up – we probably didn’t have enough gear or large enough gear for this type of climb. It was worth looking at these, but I think they will be consigned to our list of things to do once we have more experience and gear.

Back to the campground and we set-up our Christmas decorations (well actually “decoration” since we only had one thing – a rope light). But it made the atmosphere more cheerful and I finished off the bottle of Chablis with some of Sally’s pasta, which also added to my personal cheer.

[image]

Thursday 24th – Christmas day

We had each claimed that no gifts were required, but we had also each snuck a secret card and gift into the camper – better safe than sorry (you don’t want to risk Christmas conversations starting “But you said you didn’t want anything…”). Sally bought me a woollen hat and I, being wise, came bearing a tin of dates from the east – the Middle East specifically. To fit in with the seasons it even had pictures of camels on it – luckily there was quite a good selection in the airport Duty Free (whoops, just broken the image of me scouring Middle-Eastern souks and haggling with traders – don’t tell Sally).

The weather was stunning – the wind and rain was completely forgotten and today was calm with sun and blue skies. We drove east around the coast to Bigbury on Sea. Directly opposite this seaside village is Burgh Island:

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At low tide the island, the art deco hotel and Pilchard Inn pub (dating back to 1336) can be reached by foot, but when the tide is in a 4x4 passenger tractor ferries guests over at £2 per person per direction.

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Hardy folk were enjoying a Christmas day swim in the English Channel (rather them than me, despite the warm weather and sun):

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Others were enjoying other forms of watersport:

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The tide was going out so we clambered around the rocks onto a neighbouring beach – actually, we couldn’t tell whether the tide was still going out or if we were at risk of being cut off as the tide turned, but I was confident that I could climb the rock cliffs (in retrospect assuming the same of Sally with her ankle might have been unwise).

[image]

From there we carried on up a small river inlet – there was one heck of a flow of water coming down this – probably due to the inlet being tidal rather than natural fresh water flow.

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Further around we found a spot to stop for lunch.

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We couldn’t continue any further as the sand and rock gave way to mud.

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Instead we turned inland and headed up the hill – we found a very basic campground run by a farmer – again, nothing more than a field really, but with a great view.

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We could then look down on the town and island and descended through farmland back into the village and onto the now dry causeway between the village and the island.

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We didn’t stop at the pub, although it did smell tempting (the combined smell of beer and an open fire), but explored the island, keeping in mind that we didn’t know the tide times. Checking afterwards showed the pub received some quite bad reviews due to its alleged policy of reserving the nicest parts of the pub for locals and hotel guests – then again it is a small building and I guess they need to prioritise.

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We crossed back long before the island was cut off by the tides again, and returned to the camper, which I found I had forgotten to lock.

We drove back to the campground, hooked up and Sally turned on the electric heater to get it nice and warm for us (why waste my propane if I’m paying for electric hookup); being after 2PM the sun was getting low and the temperature was now dropping.

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Since it was still sunny we headed back down to the coast below the campground, having only seen it in bad weather on Tuesday. In the sun it turned out to be lovely.

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Plus around the corner, up the river inlet, were a host of quaint properties and moored boats.

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We returned to the camper passing some historic almshouses on the way:

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It was now time for a non-conventional Christmas dinner of minced beef in Bolognese sauce and rice (Sally is intolerant to gluten / wheat so conventional pasta is a problem). To go with this Sally had procured a nice bottle of something bubbly.
After dinner we watched a movie on my little netbook computer (I keep a DVD drive in the camper) but were soon tired and went to bed before 11pm.

Friday 26th – Boxing day

Well, yesterday’s weather didn’t last. Back came the rain and wind with a vengeance. High winds and continuous heavy rain. It didn’t take too much thought to decide we would spend today relaxing in the camper, reading and watching movies. It was probably good to have a rest from walking up and down hills (certainly good for Sally’s bad ankle). We left the de-humidifier running all day, and had to empty it after dinner.

The weather forecast showed Saturday would provide some sunshine, but also heavy rain showers throughout the day, so we decided to call it a day early and use tomorrow as a travel day so we could get home in time for better weather on Sunday.

Tonight’s meal was a simple one – just a can of sausages and baked beans with mashed potato flavoured with HP sauce and washed down with some Czech beer.

Saturday 27th

The grass surface of the campground was awash with water – I was very glad of the 4 wheel drive. We ambled our way back home, detouring off the major highway when the traffic became too heavy and found a lovely route with quiet roads and beautiful countryside. We arrived home just as it started to get dark.

Steve.


'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
'98 Jeep TJ 4.0
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mikebreeze

Manassas, VA

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Posted: 12/28/14 01:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the report and the great pics. I didn't know that they made a truck camper for the Ford Ranger. It looks like you have a good amount of room in it.


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Tiger4x4RV

Inland Empire, Southern California

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Posted: 12/28/14 01:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for another inspiring trip report.


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cewillis

Tucson, az, usa

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Posted: 12/28/14 01:47pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Haven't had time to read through yet, but already I see a problem -- 'half a bottle of Chablis'.


Cal


exhaustipated

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Posted: 12/28/14 02:47pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for sharing with us another great trip report with splendid photos. It sure looks like you and Sally had a great time camping during Christmas.


2009 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 4WD LT1 Ext Cab Z71 Long Bed Vortec 6.0L V8 SFI gas.
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Steeljag

Florida

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Posted: 12/28/14 03:38pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Very nice!


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Going where the weather suits my clothes !

old idaho guy

Idaho

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Posted: 12/28/14 04:19pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great pictures. Looks like a great trip!

pa traveler

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Posted: 12/28/14 04:27pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Very nice .

turtletalk

NC

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Posted: 12/28/14 05:41pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

as usual...enjoyable..thanks for sharing

JNKS2010

Worcester MA

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Posted: 12/28/14 06:23pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Looks beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

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