I’m writing from under a tarpaulin shelter at the amazing Hole station campsite. You’d have to describe it as alternative and eco conscious. Campsites reflect the character of their owner, that is obvious. This is a woodland site, not a field in sight, and a working farm with a variety of animals some of them wandering around. I arrived here the day before yesterday and have three nights here. On arrival the owner gives you a map showing a circular stones path through the wood where there are about a dozen or so cleared spaces each with a tarpaulin shelter and an old car wheel where you can light a fire. You take the circular path and come back and tell him which vacant spot you want. Nearly all seem empty though we are fuller now. The buildings are clearly home made out of reclaimed timber, the toilets are composting and there are two small wooden cupboards where you can charge up your device.
They even serve breakfast and nice very hot coffee, though this morning I brewed my own espresso and ate it with a sticky bun. I am waging war with a squirrel and a mouse who have a sweet tooth and found a way to get at my food how ever I secured it. So I have brought a pannier down here and keep everything locked inside. I also have a collection of stones to throw at the very audacious squirrel. My bike is parked up by the farm and you bring your stuff down here in a wheel barrow. It sounds a little inconvenient but is absolutely fine and the site would have a different character if you could drive a car up to each tent.
The site is down a stoney drive offering a few minor wobbles and which is definitely first gear at least to my level of riding skill. The roads round here are lovely, sometimes with traffic but often not. Yesterday I took one of the Bikers Britain routes across Dartmoor which was amazing, with grazing animals of all kinds by the road, a mixture of gentle and tight bends and again sometimes a queue of traffic usually not. On the way back I dropped in at my favourite Waitrose and even searched out a camera shop that sold me a micro SD card for my helmet camera. There is something slightly euphoric about having enjoyed a beautiful ride and know you are heading back to cook something nice and have a good book to read. I am rereading The Emigrants by Sebald and looking out for how he writes. I can see some of the advice he has given to aspiring writers in his work, the inclusion of meteorological detail for example. And the first two stories are about people who have killed themselves, reminding me of the stories I am writing and how one reviewer thought they were too downbeat.
This morning at 8 am while I was still in my sleeping bag it started to rain. Not very hard but enough to make me jump up to tighten up the guy ropes and move things away from the edges inside. So sitting here under the tarp, digesting my breakfast, each gust of wind brings down more water from the trees and there is a kind of shifting equipoise in the sky as to whether is is overcast or brightening. The forecast on my phone shows showers for the next three days and it flashed across my mind that I could leave early – a foolish thought. It is meant to rain in the middle of the day which presents a dilemma for riding. I was planning to ride north taking in another part of one of the routes up toward the north Devon coast but I am uncertain how to time it. Nice as it is I don’t want to sit here all day, and riding the bike is how I charge everything up that needs charging.
Today I had some great riding particularly on the north Devon coast road to Porlock, including some slightly scary first gear hairpins and I noticed some people two up with luggage on big adventure bikes heading my way and heading to go up those same bends that I had just come down. Exmoor really does meet the sea along this amazing road. Apart from that there was probably around 100 miles of twisty roads with rain on and off, tiring but getting into a rhythm. When the road was first wet I was nervous but eventually got into a more confident stride on fourth and fifth gear bends, stopping again at my favourite Waitrose to buy some sea bass for supper which I’ve just had.
This campsite is filling up with people, much younger than the middle aged folk that populate the more conventional sites, like, I imagine the one I will be staying at from tomorrow, Rosebud Farm, with the very polarised reviews on the net. I really like this place and feel as at home as I probably can get (I do remember as a standout campsite San Francisco in the north of Spain which I might say is a favourite) in a campsite but I do not enjoy the constant battle with squirrels and mice for my food. Today I packed everything I thought edible in my metal panniers but cam back to find my small bottle of olive oil spilt everywhere with its plastic lid bitten through. Annoying. Tomorrow I will call early for breakfast here then pack up which I have the feeling will take a while.
This is also a holiday where I have been in constant touch with the house, getting update photos of the amazing carpentry work in my study at home as well as seeing the temperature on our Nest. It was just a minute ago 29 degrees while here I think it is around 20 or less. Yesterday was 33 in London. This is a real heatwave summer, like 76 which I remember vividly along with the troubling girlfriend that I had then.