Monday, 31 March 2014

March 2014 Slimbridge, Mortehoe, Bude, Padstow and Okehampton

Day 1 Tudor Park, Slimbridge

We spent a lovely weekend in Portsmouth, saw Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash, Strawbs and Curved Air , met friends and generally had a great time. We had left the van at a storage place near Premier Motorhomes so we didn’t have to worry about it over the weekend as we were staying in our friend’s house. After picking the van up, we stocked up on shopping in Swindon en route for Slimbridge. We pulled into the site- revamped a lot since we were last there and were allocated a pitch. We had wifi for £1 a day and a good tv signal. It’s a very quiet site but not many spare pitches considering the time of year. I cooked some trout  after a canal walk and a pint in the adjacent pub. ( good beer)

Day 2 Tudor Park, Slimbridge

The wind got up in the night and howled around the van. Rain showers meant we delayed going to the RSPB wetlands till the afternoon when it was brighter. The sun came out and we saw zillions of birds- everywhere you looked there were birds. There were ducks of every sort and geese following us like dogs at heel. We were absolutely entranced by the captive North American otters – a mother and two daughters who were playing and we were mesmerised watching them. They are here in an enclosure for visitors to see because native otters are nocturnal and 
rarely seen, though they have been seen on the river here. It was hard to tear ourselves away from these fascinating creatures but we did. We went to see the cranes, a species that used to be all over the country but were almost wiped out. Last time we were here, there were a few rather tatty looking ones but the staff here have worked really hard and these beautiful tall birds are now being released onto the Somerset levels. We returned to the otters to watch them feeding and to listen to a talk. The bird hides closed at four o clock so we headed back up the lane around five, legs aching but having had a really good afternoon.

Day 3 Damage Barton, Woolacombe

We set off via Junction 17 M5 for diesel. It was a slow journey across North Devon but worth it- the site is lovely. We had a nice welcome and advice on pitching. We chose a sheltered corner as I’d read that it was a windy site…well it is on the Atlantic coast. We set up and walked down into Mortehoe over the fields and checked out the three pubs. The mobile phone signal is very patchy here. 

We walked back up the hill via the road which is not to be recommended in the summer or at busy times as it is a narrow lane. I cooked a meal then we walked back down to the Ship to watch football. The staff there really looked after us, putting the match on we wanted to watch. We walked back in the dark with head torches and a flashing torch to make sure the three cars that passed us could see us coming!

Day 4  Damage Barton

It was a bit grey and windy. Pete’s brother Robin, wife Jill and grandson Sam came over to see us for lunch. They drove us down into Woolacombe where it started raining really heavily so that was a pity that Sam didn’t get to use his bucket and spade. We scrambled back into the car quickly and went back to the nice warm van. Andy arrived not long after they’d left and parked up next to us. We listened to music and chatted till late. There’s no wifi here and an intermittent phone signal.

Day 5  Damage Barton

We had a bright sunny start to the day. The views from this site are stunning. There’s a well-stocked shop and lots of information available including a bus timetable and walks leaflets. The showers are good and nicely hot. Andy came round for coffee then we walked into Mortehoe . We had a drink at the Chichester Arms, sitting outside in the sunshine. We were on a quest for pasties and they didn’t have any so we moved to the Ship where we had great pasties ( well not me- I had a bacon sandwich!), a chat to the bar man and some  more good background music. We walked on to Mortehoe Point and around, sat on a bench watching a couple of guys kite surfing in Woolacombe Bay and soaked up the sunshine though it was very windy! Keeping  the Friday ‘in a pub at five o’ clock’ tradition going , we went back to the Ship ….do we count as regulars? We walked back via the fields and got in just before it started raining. We were all tired after our windy walk.

Day 6 Atlantic Camping, Bude.

There was very heavy rain again in the night. Damage Barton is a really good site, run by the same family for many years. We had a serviced pitch. It is sheltered around the edges but every pitch seems to have a sea view.
We called in at Barnstaple for fuel and shopping ( clotted cream and scones) Andy and Pete went on a pasty hunt but the pasties must have been hiding.  We stopped further down the road at Atlantic village shopping centre where I successfully hunted pasties. We drove down the Atlantic highway till the smell of warm pasties became overpowering so we used the walky talkies and told Andy we needed a pasty stop.  We got to Atlantic camping and dithered about which way to go when we were in. A man came out and talked to Andy while we waited in the lane and a lady told us where to go.  ( They need a clear sign for Reception). We pulled onto a gravel track on a sloping field and puzzled over where the hard standings were. We were told to park one in front of the other on the sloping gravel track where it was impossible to get level so we moved onto another bit of gravel across the slope. It’s certainly a different sort of site. The lane is full of daffodils and there are lots of plants and flowers about. The toilets and showers are wooden huts and the washing up sinks are outside on a plinth in the field. The grass is long and the hook up was temperamental. There are camping pods to rent here, cottages to rent and even a tree house….. but no loo roll in the loos.  There are views from the very top of the field and alpacas in adjacent fields. We even heard a peacock. We walked into Bude through an industrial estate which took about half an hour and had a blustery walk in search of a pub to watch the football. We found gold in the Brendon Arms where we had a nice pint or two of Director’s beer. We got Trev’s Taxi back ( £4.70) so it saved us the walk back up the hill in the dark. We went to Andy’s for a meal but the oven cut out so we moved back to our van and ate there. We had a late night.

Day 7 Atlantic camping

We walked into Bude again though it was really windy. We went past a sea lock where the canal meets the sea and along the beach to ‘Life’s a Beach’ café for pollock and chips. It was very busy but the food was good. We walked along the headland then back to the shopping street to get out of the wind. We sat on a sunny bench and watched people. We walked back up the hill and it wasn’t an arduous walk and then we met Peter, the son of the campsite owner who told us about the site and their grand plans. We ate in the van, watched tv and used the internet.

Day 8 Padstow touring park.

I didn’t feel brave enough to use the showers though Pete said they were good but unheated wooden huts aren’t really my idea of a good start to the day. We set off for Wadebridge in heavy rain.  We stopped for a pasty hunt and ate them in the shop car park.  We got to the site at Padstow and the reception guy explained lots about the site and the Camel trail bike route. We sat in the van in the rain and for our amusement, a couple in a VW camper tried to put an awning tent up in the wind without rock pegs. They gave up, shoved the tent in the van then went to the camp shop. They came back clutching pegs then got the tent up successfully.
muddy walk

Successful pasty hunt


Day 9 Padstow

It was a beautiful day. We walked into Padstow via muddy fields then downhill to the Camel trail and along the estuary into Padstow. We sat on the quayside – some of us eating pasties- in the sunshine watching the little brown Turnstones trying to catch crumbs and being very wary of the huge beady eyed herring gulls who looked very menacing. We walked up to the monument for sea views then had a lovely ice cream. We had a pint sitting in the sun outside ‘The Shipwrights’ then walked back through town to the camp site. We had a lazy couple of hours then Pete organised a taxi to take us to Rick Stein’s chip shop, but it was closed. The taxi driver was really nice and we talked in the international language of football fans. We went to the ‘London Inn’ for a drink then into ‘The Golden Lion’ where we watched in amazement as a man playing darts showed his brother where the 3 is on the board and his brother threw a dart which went into his arm!  We went to ‘The Custom House’ for fish and chips (very good and very good service too) and to watch a mediocre game of football. The same taxi man took us back up to the site.
Camel Estuary , Padstow

Day 10 Padstow

The rain kept me awake in the night then I had a bad dream- not a good start to the day. Then the sun came out and we took a picnic and after a bit of bike maintenance, we set off down the hill to the Camel trail to Wadebridge. We stopped about half way and had a lovely picnic overlooking the estuary where we could see oystercatchers and curlews.  We talked to an older guy who asked me about electric bikes. I offered him a try on mine and he loved it. I should really be a salesperson! Everyone who has ever tried riding my bike comes back smiling. We carried onto to Wadebridge, stopping under a bridge to watch a little bat flying about. It’s unusual and entrancing to see one in the daytime and it was hard to leave it and carry on cycling. There were a lot of people about. We left the bikes parked and walked through Wadebridge and had coffee/ beers. We used a bit of electric power on the way back as is was getting cold. The hill up from the trail was tough!  We went to Andy’s for slow cooked chicken casserole after I had a disappointing shower. The shower rooms are good with a loo and hand basin but the water wasn’t very hot, there was black mould around the shower tray and this is meant to be a five star site.

Day 11 Padstow

We got up early to say goodbye to Andy.
 Site report- five star site. Our ‘serviced’ pitch had water and electric but you had to walk across very muddy clay and grass to get to them . The push button in the shower meant water ran for eight seconds…not good!
We left and went via Bodmin arriving at Appledore Park just outside Okehampton which is a new site and near where Robin and Jill live. I called in at the house where Rebecca, the owner, was very welcoming. We could choose our pitch on the landscaped field sloping down to a small lake at the bottom. There’s forty pitches, some hard standing with electricity and water and a very nice utility building. The showers are operated on sensors with underfloor heating. We parked on a level pitch overlooking the lake. Robin came to collect us and take us the 2 ¾ miles to his house. The fast road outside the site isn’t really suitable for walking or cycling and it’s a mile to Belstone Corner so handy for the moor. We spent time with little Sam and our Tom who had come down on the train. Hannah and Elsie ( niece and her daughter) came over to see us and when they left , we went to the pub The New Inn, for a good meal. Robin took us back to the very quiet site. It’s strange being the only ones on site but rather nice.

Day 12 Appledore Park Okehampton

There was, once again,  heavy rain in the night. Robin and Tom picked Pete up to visit his mother in Modbury  while I did some van housekeeping. They came back for an evening meal in the van. Rebecca called at the van and asked for feedback on the lovely site. I was very honest , telling her that I’d almost given up on a hot shower as it took a long time for the hot water to get through but the shower I had was very good eventually. When the hedges and other plantings grow, it will look even better and it’s a very convenient site for us. We will definitely return.

Day 13- returned home

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