After the sale of the family home at the beginning of the year, and us initially thinking we would be fulltime van-dwellers for the foreseeable future, the ‘foreseeable’ only turned out to be a few months. It was a perculiar feeling not having somewhere to call ‘home’ and not one we had expected to feel at all. Far from feeling free and unshackled we felt lost and adrift, nomads with no roots. There may be many reading or listening to this who are living their dream of permanent vanlife and horrified that we have committed to bricks and bills again (but thankfully with no mortgage this time) there will be those that are in between lifestyles wondering whether to take the plunge and sell up and equally those who couldn’t contemplate life without a castle to call their own. Not one option is right for everyone and whatever you choose or believe to be the right decision at the time doesn’t have to be a forever decision. Its OK to change your mind and travel a different road, the main thing is to do what’s right for you. For us that’s having the best of both worlds, we love living in the caravan and the lifestyle our jobs as assistant site managers gives us, but after 8 months of that we are equally happy to have a proper roof over our heads for the winter and an oven I can fit the turkey in on Christmas Day!
So subsequently we started looking for a new abode, which wasn’t easy being 250 miles away from our search area. We’d settled on an area of Shropshire as it was equal distance between family and after Steve announcing he’d always wanted a cottage with 4 windows on the front and a door in the middle that’s what we were on the hunt for. It didn’t take long to find just that and on a day off we were whizzing up the motorway from Devon for a viewing. All the way up the M5 we were trying to convince each other there was no way we would be buying it, we were just looking. Yeah right, once we saw it there was no way we would be walking away! It was perfect, big enough for the two of us and small enough to lock up and leave when we were away during the caravan working season. We were looking forward to being home for winter already!
Meanwhile we still had 2 months of warden life to plough on with in Devon. After plenty of much needed rain newly seeded pitches were springing back into life with bright green blades of grass visible through the once bare earth. Trees were dropping their leaves early due to the hot weather and others were starting to turn towards shades of autumn. For so long the caravan door had been permanently flung open to cool down but now increasingly we shut out the cold, wind and rain and kept cosy warm in our small space. Days were still sunny but temperatures dropped once the sun went down.
We were still keen to get out and about realising our sightseeing opportunities around here were numbered as time was drawing nearer by the day to us leaving the area.
Burgh Island and Bigbury on Sea are a short hop along the coast and an iconic South Devon landmark. Featured in many TV and film locations the Island is only accessible at low tide by walking across the sands or by way of a sea tractor at higher tide. It boasts an art deco hotel built in 1929 that welcomed many rich and famous keen on its exclusive location. Agatha Christie was a regular visitor and used the setting for two of her novels which she wrote in the beach house. You can walk around the island and climb the hill above the hotel for stunning views both back to the mainland across the sands and in the other direction out to sea. Don’t forget to make a note of the tide times though otherwise you’ll get wet feet or have to queue for a tractor ride back!
Away from the coast we visited South Devon Railway. A steam heritage line first built in 1872 where you can ride the 14 miles from Buckfastleigh to Totnes and back through the stunning valley of the River Dart. There is refreshments, a gift and very extensive model shop, a museum, gardens and a picnic area at Buckfastleigh Station.
Cockington Court and village is a lovely place to stroll, visit art and craft studios and have a great lunch at the Drum Inn. It is by Torquay so we try to combine it with a trip across the River for other reasons. Cockington Country Park is an area of woodland, parkland, rural countryside and formal garden landscapes and amongst the 450 acre site there are ornamental lakes, a Manor House, chocolate box thatched cottages, art and craft studios, an 11th century church, picnic areas and a cosy pub serving delicious food. Inside the 16th century manor house there are over 20 craft studios, a contemporary art gallery, a tea room and a rose garden, and housed in the stables behind you can watch craft makers at work blowing glass, a blacksmith creating items at his forge, a chocolatier, leather maker, jeweller and sculptor to name a few. The Cockington Estate was owned by only three families from 1066 through to 1932 when it passed into public ownership and was created into a Park in 1991. There is a visitors centre in the heart of the village together with a tea room and a number of gift shops and a game of cricket can be watched enjoying a picnic on the sloping grass banks in front of the manor house. All very quintessentially English!
Middle of October was time to take down the awning and assess what had to go where ready for taking home or staying in the caravan for next season. Lists were made so as not to misplace anything and piles of our belongings began to appear on every available inch of floorspace. Who knew we had so much or even needed so much stuff in such a small space. The site numbers dwindled first week into November somedays with no comings or goings at all, so slowly the site began to prepare for closedown. Goodbyes and best wishes were given to the seasonal members who had become good friends during their time with us and then it was our time to go too. We pulled out of the gates at 7am to be sure to miss the bus and anything bigger coming the otherway. Vinny the van pulling Bill the Bailey are 40ft long and 8ft wide so meeting another vehicle on these Devon lanes was not going to be a pleasant experience. Luckily it all went to plan and we were soon on the wider roads heading North. We waved goodbye to Devon, its stunning coastline, glorious beaches and picture postcard villages and focused our sights on the next adventure – home.
Don’t forget to read next time as we begin work on the new house and get out and about in Shropshire.