With the year of the wedding we hadn’t booked a holiday. Thus we planned a trip in the Camper for the Autumn half term. A tour for 10 days of Somerset and North Devon. But this time we had an addition…a Tiny addition. Our little Springer Spaniel, (Tiny) who had joined our family after the Wedding to soothe Christine’s pining for Charlie. Charlie had departed with Jessie to her new house. However, having invested money and emotional pride in our electric bikes (plus heavy-duty bike rack and towbar to carry the bike rack) I was determined that we were still going to be able to bring them. Hence a further purchase of a bright yellow dog trailer for the bikes! There was a problem though that Tiny was petrified as soon as she saw it. Thus we spent weeks before hand coaxing her into it with food and treats, so in the end she was able to bear its presence, if still with caution. But Tiny is scared of most things, except Charlie, who although three times her size, she chases all over the house, teasing him by nipping at his legs and getting him to chase her back! Anyway, I have set the scene for our holiday with Tiny!
We left on a Thursday night for our first stop at Blaedon Hill, just outside Western Super Mare at the start of the Mendips. Tiny was quite reluctant to get into the van, particularly with the big yellow trailer for company, but she settled, trembling slightly and we set off. We arrived late and in the drizzle and I fastened Tiny’s 10 metre lead so she could be relatively free. and she leapt out of the van and scampered to the maximum distance of her lead and lay down with a look on her face saying I am NOT coming back anywhere near that van and its yellow spawn!
We did however manage to coax her back in (it helped that the evil yellow cage was put outside). We ventured off to the local pub. When we got to the pub, we enjoyed a hearty meal, a nice drink (although I was driving, so had to refrain, a real fire and a game of scrabble. I suppose I also ought to let you know that Christine won…. Ouch!
The next day we wanted to get out and enjoy the countryside and embarked on a long walk in the foothills of the Mendips, with lovely views of the Somerset Coast. However the heavens decided to open half way round and we did get quite wet and Tiny quite muddy, but she did enjoy it, and by the time we got to the end where the Pub was, the sun was out and we were able to finish off with a nice drink in the bar, although Tiny was a little unsettled by another dog in the pub, something we were going to have to get used to!
On the second night we decided to venture off to the local pub on our bikes. The Journey was quite perilous as my front lamp had broken, so I had fastened a headtorch to the front, which gave no light whatsoever, which meant I had to follow Christine, who has a tendency to cycle rather slowly ..and brake for the slightest of reasons. As it was a dark night on a steep downward, dark country road, I nearly joined her on her bike at least three times..My manbits did not appreciate the quality of my breaking!
We enjoyed another fine meal, and were both able to enjoy a drink, but I avoided scrabble ..so she beat me at cards! I am not sure what was more painful..that or the jolts from the numerous breaking manoeuvres I had been forced to make on the way down. As we departed back it was time for the batteries to do their bit. It would have been hard work without them, and I certainly know why it might have been called Bleaden Hill!
On day 3 we set off following the scenic route of my 25 best back roads book through the lovely Somerset countryside. Our first stop was Taunton, which had a nice town centre and a Victorian Park where we could walk Tiny and the Museum of the West Country, which proved to be an interesting experience. We were able to do some shopping and found a shop selling very reasonable second-hand DVDs which considerably enhanced our entertainment collection. towards the end of the route we stopped in Dunster a lovely little village, and determined that we would return to visit the castle. eventually arriving at Blue Anchor on the coast. Here Tiny got her first taste of the beach, which she seemed to instantly love, running freely and chasing the waves, the seagulls and anything else that she could see. That evening we enjoyed another meal in a pub on the campsite..but this time I determined not to play a game!
On day 4 it was time for Tiny to go on a steam train! We went for a day on the West Somerset Railway. Although Tiny was nervous at first, she soon settled on the train as we enjoyed the Journey to Minehead and back, stopping at some of the stations on the way to stroll around the little villages and to visit the railway museum. Tiny again enjoyed a run on the beach. We arrived back in Blue Anchor in time for me to catch the Man United Chelsea match at the local pub. But I was wishing I hadn’t as Drogba scored (which me thinking of a different spelling of “Blue Anchor”. However it was like the good old days when RVP stepped up to snatch a draw in stoppage time! I returned to the van quite pleased and we enjoyed and evening watching a DVD in the van.
The next day (Day 5) we went to Dunster Castle, which was a National Trust site and ;earned the history of one of the most wealthy patrons of North Devon and Somerset, and the all too familiar tale of the decline of these great houses, we enjoyed a cream tea in a tea house that could trace its routes back nearly 100 years, before setting off on our route to Lynton. We arrived late and again settled for a cosy night in the van. Day 6 was set aside to explore Lynmouth. I persuaded Christine that it would be a nice walk, which it was, if quite a steep downhill trek. Of course this would mean an uphill trek on the return…. We enjoyed the quaintness of Lynton and Lynmouth and the unseasonal warm weather. Tiny added funicular railways to her list of transport dislikes! Also as Lynton was more populated Tiny’s growing habit of barking at other dogs began to become quite a nuisance. As anticipated the walk back was rather testing, and Christine’s tolerance levels at times were rather tested!
After another cosy night in working our way through our various DVDs, we set off again to enjoy the sights, I backtracked to see the road into Lynton that we had missed on the way in as it had been dark . We also went to the Tiny Church at Oare were Lorna Doone was based. we also visited Exmoor and Selworthy Beacon, the highest point of Exmoor, again via a long walk, but again blessed by the weather, before returning to Lynton. We set off from Lynton the next day towards Woolacombe and visited the remains of Cleeve Abbey and another National Trust House at Arlington Court before eventually making our way to our final campsite at Mortenhoe, just outside Woolacombe where we were to base ourselves for the rest of the holiday.
After another DVD and a good nights sleep it was time to try out the bikes…and the yellow trailer! The old steam railway route from Woolacombe to Ilfracombe had been turned into a Cycle route. This was an 11km route with a gentle incline all the way. The first task was to get Tiny in the trailer..she wasn’t walking to it, no matter how many treats I offered her! Eventually I had to pick her up and push her through the flap in the top. She wasn’t impressed, but once in slunk down curled into a ball, and we were off! The journey was very pleasant along the old railway line, and quite scenic in places. I soon got the hang of moving between the posts at the junctions of cycle route and road, and barely noticed the trailer. As it was autumn the only real hazard was wet leaves, which as long as you avoided breaking too sharply, were ok.. so Christine was not all right and promptly ended up in a pile of bike, woman and wet leaves. Fortunately it was her pride that was most badly injured as she performed this veritable stunt in the midst of a family outing!
We arrived in Ilfracombe and enjoyed the seaside town feel, with Fish and Chips on the beach and a pint in a harbour pub. Tiny barked at every dog in sight! When it was time to go home we were aware that as it had been all downhill on the way, it was all uphill on the way back, and even with the battery-powered bikes, it was still quite an arduous ride at times. But nevertheless enjoyable. We were certainly ready for our beds that night, Tiny was not sure if were totally forgiven!
The bikes were put away the next day as we set off on a walk to Mortenhoe and the surrounding cliffs. As is my wont I was rather vague about the distance involved, and the scenery was stunning along the coastal paths. We again of course wound up in a little pub for lunch, before walking into Woolacombe Bay. It was 31st October and 71 degrees! I was keen to let Tiny run on Woolacombe beach, however by this point in the holiday she had become so nervous of the presence of other dogs that when we got to the beach she did not want come with us, not even to chase her ball. Eventually we made our way back up to our campsite, which once more was a tadge further than we would have liked, and again almost entirely uphill! But again we were ready for a cosy night in
The next day we had planned another Bike ride, this time on the Tarka Trail, another converted steam railway line from Braunton to Barnstaple. The route was through a coastal area designated as one of Outstanding Natural Beauty. So after a light lunch at Braunton it was time to get Tiny back into the trailer. Although by this time she had wizened up to being fed into the tp and had learned to spread her legs sufficiently to make this impossible, so she was forcibly reversed into the front flap! I never knew a dog could look so indignant! The route was lovely, about 10km and quite level. Barnstaple was also very pleasant, we decided to have a light meal, until we discovered that we had left our money back in the van! Notwithstanding we enjoyed a stroll around the pretty town before setting off back, Tiny rising even higher in indignance.
Our final day was to be spent at Bideford, which when we got there we found was not the prettiest town in Devon! however after a little research I found the little harbour village of Clovelly, with cobbled streets so steep no cars have access and provisions have been delivered for centuries on sledges or by donkeys. Once more we enjoyed a steep downward walk, and a meal in the Harbour pub, followed by a steep and tiring return walk.
Thus was our final day on our Devon Tour, a lovely break and quite an experience with Tiny in tow…literally!