21 June 2006

Camping in Devon

Weekends are just too short! This was an exciting weekend, but I found myself too stressed to enjoy it as much as would have liked. Until Sunday afternoon of course.

By the way this is a very long and very photo-rich post to the blog. I have decided to put all the photos in one post, so let me know if it works or not. If you are not on broadband you might want to go away and make a cup of tea to let the photos download before scrolling down!

Anyway, I drove down to Devon on Friday afternoon after a site visit to Wednesbury. From there it was theoretically straight down the M5 to Exeter and then along a bit further down the A38. Despite various traffic problems (after all, who would have thought that lots of people would be going on holiday in the south-west on a sunny summers' weekend?), I made it to the River Dart campsite in south Devon, near Ashburton. Where I was met by Kate and her family - Harry, Steph, Megan, Danny and of course the ever-enthusiastic Moss.

The campsite

This was very much a 'luxury' campsite compared to a lot of the places (fields!) I seem to remember from my childhood. Showers, toilets and so-on, and lots of fun activities...

Life is all about balance...

...Katie speeding down the zip wire...

...and me in mid-spin having caught myself on the launching platform!

The camp site itself consisted of the grounds of a former 'country house' - in reality a fairly modest early Edwardian house probably built by a local industrialist. However the grounds were huge and laid out in typical Edwardian fashion with streams, pools and Rhododendrons. Because it was alongside the River Dart, use had also been made of water-power to generate electricity for the house.

The weir next to the hydo-electric turbine (a prettier picture than the rusty old water wheel).

The place was pretty crowded when we arrived on Friday evening (lots of Dutch people) and on Saturday, but by Sunday evening had thinned out a bit. Here are some other campsite views...

Sunday evening view as the sun was going down

Doing some campsite chores!

Down by the river...

All in all a very pretty place, and a good place from which to explore south Devon.


I had never been to Dartmouth, so on Saturday morning we set off! The sky was blue and the fields were green and we were soon happily trundling down the Devonshire lanes in the trusty Hippo. En route we passed through Totnes, which was full of people on their way to the beaches of Torbay... so we decided to stop there on the way back.

We went straight to Dartmouth Castle for a cup of tea. The castle itself was fantastic, perched on the edge of the cliff at the narrowest point of the inlet into Dartmouth harbour. Lots of boats heading out to sea for what would have been a fantastic days' sailing.

View of the castle and the inlet

The main keep and a distant view of Dartmouth.

Kate and cannons!

Me looking over the battlements towards Dartmouth town.

We then got the ferry from the Castle to the town, a very pleasant 15-minute journey through the harbour...

On the ferry.

The photo above was taken as we were approaching the town. The inner bastion can be seen straight ahead. The Naval College is on the far hill on the far right. The town itself was busy and quite pretty with a number of interesting buildings. Here are just a few highlights...

The slate-clad Museum building

The old market square (stalls are inside the single storey quad- rangle).

Smith Street (!)

The church, which had a lovely door with medieval wrought iron work, and 14th century screen and pulpit still painted pre-reformation style.

After a bit of shopping and browsing, we went back to the ferry for the return trip to the castle car park.

No time for another cup of tea before setting off to explore some other parts of Devon...


After Dartmouth we went to Totnes, which is a bit further up the Dart valley and comprises a medieval walled town surrounding a castle (which we were five minutes too late to see). We had a couple of hours here, during which we explored some of the main street and surrounding lanes. There were a number of bookshops, some good, some not so good. Totnes seemed to be very much a hippy town. Lots of new age shops selling new age things and people wandering about in a daze...

Typical slate-clad buildings overhanging the main street. Lurking under here was a quite good bookshop and an impenetrable antiques shop.

View down the main street towards the town gate.

Back to the campsite for an evening meal and plenty of wine, meeting some relatives, and then a pint in the bar. Also, Kate and I taught Meg and Danny how to play sh*thead, which is an elaborate and interesting card game. The next day dawned bright and early, but we weren't quite so bright or early!

It was however father's day, Steph cooked a fine breakfast of bacon and egg and Harry took advantage of being waited on hand and foot.

Sunday breakfast. Meg and Danny still playing cards!

After breakfast and some leisurely pottering about, we were all eager to see what Kate gets up to during her working week, so we set off to the moors...

On the moors...

It all started perfectly reasonably. A short drive from Ashburton and we were able to park at the bottom of a very pretty Devonshire lane, with stone walls, foxgloves and the sound of early summer birds singing merrily.

Setting off...

After a bit of a climb we emerged above the gorse and could look back at the view.

The moor itself seemed quite bleak, only a distant pony and some sheep for company.

After about an hour's walk (during which we did encounter a few fellow walkers, including a gay naturist!) we arrived at Kate's site which she has been surveying for the past few weeks. Kate makes this journey every day with surveying equipment on her back. The site is an old 19th century tin mine. Few of the buildings survived above ground, but the remains of shafts, leats and openworks were very visible, as were some associated enclosures.

A couple of the shafts in the foreground. On the hill behind are fields associated with the Warrener's house (he looked after the rabbits).

Kate explaining the main shaft. The line of the lode can be seen running up the slope behind.

Steph approaching the wheelpit. This was fed by a leat off the stream, and powered pumping and winding equipment.

Despite an initial suggestion to retrace our steps after seeing the mine, the decision was made to continue round the corner and do a loop to return to the car. This proved to be quite interesting, but probably added a couple of hours to the journey!

Clearly visible along this route were several prehistoric (Bronze Age) enclosures, which we went off to explore...

The green circle on the hill behind is an enclosure.

A happy Kate in the landscape.

Entrance stones to a hut circle in one of the Bronze Age enclosures.

The party became a little more spread out by this stage. Further along we came across a bog, which Kate wisely advised us to go round. Needless to say I went straight through and ended up with boots full of water, and spent the next hour walking barefoot across the moor.

Despite these adversities we all survived and returned to the campsite relatively unscathed. After another meal and a pint, Kate and I had a short walk around the grounds and then headed back to Exeter, where I spent the night before driving up to Ironbridge (via Birmingham, Wednesbury and Wolverhampton) the following morning. A tiring weekend, but extremely enjoyable. Many thanks to everyone for a lovely weekend.

Kate and Moss beside the River Dart on Sunday evening.

1 comment:

Yann Toussaint said...

Hi Paul,
Greetings from Albany WA! Lovely to see your photos and to 'meet' your very handsome border terrier who reminds me of Skipper c1986.
Best wishes,


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