July and August saw an influx of families and holidaymakers spending their 2 week annual summer holiday at Start Bay site. After having mostly couples stay during the early part of the season the change in site dynamics was very apparent. Add to that the hot summer temperatures and being by the sea in Devon, the site definitely had that holiday feeling. Caravans and campers arrived laden down with paddleboards, kyhaks and all manner of water sports equipment that was carried down to the sea every morning by eager enthusiasts and then wearily trudged back up to site just before sunset. Wet suits and swimming gear were hanging out to dry on every washing line ready for use again the following day, and ice creams were outselling the cream teas. The location of our site was a winner for coastal activities and even just for enjoying being by the sea and not necessarily in it – as is the case for me!
Steve was keen to embrace the water sport culture and so had a days paddleboard tuition on a course in Dartmouth. After a theory lesson on land they hit the water and paddled down the estuary heading for Dartmouth Castle at the mouth of the river, weaving in and out of the creeks, amongst the moored boats and getting enviable views of the millionaires houses clinging to the steep hillsides overlooking the River Dart. Thankfully the weather was still very hot so his (quite a) few dunkings into the water was actually welcomed and he had the last laugh over those that had mastered the art of standing upright and staying on the board better than him! A few days later he got the chance to have another go at North Sands Salcombe, whilst I watched from a dry spot on the beach.
At the beginning of August we made a trip back to Rookesbury Park site in Hampshire where we had worked the previous two seasons. We went in Vinny the van and really enjoyed being “the other side of the fence” for a few days staying on a pitch amongst other members and using all the site facilities for a change. You really do appreciate the standard of cleanliness knowing all the hard work that’s gone into it. Rookesbury had a little makeover during last years closedown and now boasts 10 fully serviced pitches which were proving to be very popular and the whole site was looking splendid, even with brown grass. We were able to catch up with familiar faces and friends we had made during our time there and it was good to see so many still returning for their weekends away and main summer holidays. In fact we enjoyed being back there so much it got us thinking about next years placement and without having to confer and with no debate we both confessed we wanted to return for next season. Selection 2023 process was announced and Rookesbury Park was our choice, we then had to wait another month until the beginning of September to find out our future.
A few days after returning from Rookesbury our world was rocked and our hearts broken. Belle our beautiful cat was found lying at the site entrance by a passing motorist and carried to a patch of grass just inside the gates. There wasn’t a mark to be seen on her and she was always very mindful of cars and traffic never venturing onto the road, so we will never know what really happened to her, she was just in the wrong place for a split second and her 9 lives were obviously all used up. For quite a while afterwards we spiralled into despair, overcome by sadness and loss and it became tough to then love and appreciate the site and the area that had taken Belle from us. We knew then for sure we could not stay another season working here in Devon, the memories were too painful to bear.
Without Belle to keep us on the site in our time off we planned another few days away in Vinny at Trewethett Farm CAMC on the north Cornish coast between Boscastle and Tintagel. We bagged a stunning pitch on the front row with uninterrupted views of the sea and the famous sunsets and enjoyed a couple of days as holidaymakers. We caught the bus which stops outside the site entrance and got off in pretty Boscastle a couple of miles away. We had visited there previously and so had a nice wander around the village and walked down the inlet past the harbour to where the river meets the sea. A hundred years ago Boscastle was a busy commercial port and the only place where a boat could pull into harbour along the 40 miles of the north coast of Cornwall. Perhaps it is more famous recently due to the flash floods in 2004 that washed many cars out to sea, flattened around 1000 trees, destroyed homes and businesses and deposited 20 years of silt and sediment on the village in a few hours. The Visitors Centre shows news footage of the scenes as it was unfolding and its incredible to see the force of water as it rages down the valley taking everything with it in its wake. Today the village stands proud and picturesque with little signs of the devastation in endured that day.
I had heard of a picturesque spot just a few miles along the coast called Newton Ferrers, so a day trip was duly planned to see it for ourselves. Well it certainly didn’t disappoint. Set on a creek of the River Yealm estuary it is a stunning location with breathtaking views at every step. Parking is a little limited but being able to visit on weekdays we managed to find a space in a side road and walked down the hill to the harbour. Pastel painted and thatched cottages with flower filled gardens line the waters edge and modern designer glass fronted properties stand higher up the hillside overlooking the perfect bays below. We spent a long while sitting on a bench by the jetty, soaking up the sun and watching all the activity out on the water. Yachts, ribs and tiny row boats all jostle for a spot to bob about in the picture postcard scene. It has a pub and shop but other than that its the views, peace and tranquillity that are the main attraction. A pure gem of a place.
6 weeks of mayhem and madness soon drew to a close. August Bank Holiday saw a mass desertion from the site and we could once again see sight of empty pitches and areas of grass. Albeit still brown grass from the long hot summer and endless comings and goings. By mid September the member clientele had reverted back to pre-school holiday mode and couples were venturing back out on their road trips. Devon lanes in July and August are not for the faint hearted, especially with caravans and larger motorhomes. After doing battle with oncoming vehicles in Vinny the van, and sometimes feeling like we were reversing backwards more times than we were going forwards, we decided the best idea was to get a small car to whizz around the country roads in instead. After much scouring of the Internet and garages we found a Hyundai dealer in Torquay who had just the job, an i10. Right mileage right colour right price so I drove it back the same day. We love it and so much less stressful to drive around Devon and get parked in the tourist hotspots.
September also brought us confirmation that we would be returning to Hampshire for the 2023 season, back to Rookesbury Park our second home. I say ‘second home’ as our other news is we bought a house again.
Keep a look out for our next blog as we prepare to leave Devon, move back into a house for the winter and take 4 months off Vanlife.