Cream Teas, Wild Ponies and Nostalgia
I’ve been contemplating whether I should write a post on our mini camping trip since we got home. On one hand, we had the loveliest time in one of my favourite places. On the other hand, one of my favourite things about it is how relatively unspoiled it is. Did I really want to encourage more people to go? Obviously, I decided to go with the latter. You are welcome.
Both Abby and I spent many summers camping when we were younger, so it seemed almost criminal that we’d gone this long without doing so together. So – after checking the weather – we booked some time off of work, borrowed a tent from my parents and bought some essentials before heading off to a well-loved spot from my childhood.
Porlock is a lovely village in beautiful Exmoor that I’ve been visiting since I was small. Staying at the Spark Hayes campsite is actually the first memory I have of camping and it’s remained a firm favourite. If you’re looking for a fancy campsite with a restaurant, spa or clubhouse, then this is not the spot for you. Spark Hayes consists of two fields, a shower and toilet block, washing up facilities and bin/recycling spots. The site is so wonderfully relaxed. There’s no fixed pitch up or leaving time, you pay the owner per night with cash every morning. You don’t even need to book – unless you want an electric hook up. I love it.
Other lovely things about the campsite are the gorgeous views of the sea and Exmoor hills, the sound of the stream that runs adjacent to it and the fact it’s a mere five minute walk into the village.
Camping: It’s In-Tents
There are a few things I believe all couples should do before deciding to settle down together. Assembling flat pack furniture is one, completing a jigsaw is another and putting up a tent is the third. If you can get through those without arguing or passive-aggressively huffing, then you’re good. Abby and I have put together many IKEA items without drama and completed a hugely complicated World Map puzzle without a strop, but somehow had become engaged without putting up a tent. We managed completely fine, by the way. I’m sure you were on tenterhooks (pun absolutely intended).
Wild Swimming > Pool Swimming
What with the weather being so beautiful, one thing we were both desperate to do was a spot of wild swimming. Tarr Steps is a medieval clapper bridge that crosses the River Barle – it was also one of my favourite places to visit when I was small. The part of the stream by the bridge is lovely to paddle in, but we walked about twenty minutes through the woods to a spot where a natural dam creates a deeper pool: perfect for swimming. We had the space to ourselves for an hour or so. We swam and took some photos for my Mermaid in England post, before settling down to dry off and read in the sunshine.
Ancient Trees & Cream Teas
Another lovely memory of mine was was walking through Horner Wood before getting a cream tea in the tea gardens. They are beautiful, ancient oak woods – one of the largest in Britain – and are home to a wide variety of wildlife and rare plants.
Both the woodland and tea garden were as wonderful as I’d remembered. The set-up of the garden is so lovely and their cream teas are something else. (Cream before jam, always). The birds that flit around are so tame, it’s normal to find a crumb-seeking robin hopping around your table!
A Minor Setback
The only downside to our trip was some car trouble. Our car is eighteen years old and Porlock Hill, plus the very hot weather, almost finished her off. Although, if you are going to be stuck somewhere whilst you wait for your car to cool down, I would highly recommend being up on Exmoor. Something that should’ve been stressful was actually quite nice: we sat on some rocks, ate a picnic lunch and watched wild ponies and sheep going about their business.
I was worried that our trip would tarnish my childhood memories, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It was just as wonderful as I remembered and the familiarity made it relatively stress-free (I’m looking at you, car). I came home covered in midge bites, a little sunburned (despite wearing factor 50) but relaxed and feeling pleasantly nostalgic.
Your friendly, neighbourhood wild pony stalker,