24-27 April 2024 – Mini-break in Truffy the Motorhome

Author: Mrs A

Location: Woolacombe, Mortehoe, Ilfracombe and Lee, North Devon, UK

After a couple of years mostly settling into our new life in Somerset, it was time to get out on the road again, so we decided to dip our toes in the water with a little three night trip to North Devon. We packed up our little Hymer 444 and Mr A hit the road, with me tagging along in our little 4WD Suzuki Jimny, giving us flexibility to explore beyond our campsite.

The Doctor (Jimny) and Truffy (Motorhome) and SUNSHINE!

Mr A had spent most of his childhood holidays with his parents in Woolacombe, and was keen to see whether the town of his 1960s memories was anything like it is today….though beyond ‘the beach had sand on it’, there wasn’t too much to work with.

We arrived to a spectacular blue sky and generally stunning afternoon. It’s only a 90 minute drive from home, so theoretically could be a day trip, but it was great to know we had some solid time to explore this piece of the coast. So after getting Truffy set up, we jumped in the Jimny and drove to nearby village, Mortehoe for a walk.

It was so good to see the sun! And when we were sheltered it was even nice enough to take off the jackets and soak up the rays. Some of the really keen folk (who hadn’t spent the last 2.5 decades living in Australia) were in shorts, but not us. We did a walk around the coast, before stopping at one of the two village pubs for a refreshing beverage.

Out of the wind it was rather pleasant!

We drove down into Woolacombe, Mr A recognising the Woolacombe Bay Hotel (link worth clicking on even if only for the impressive website, showing off Woolacombe!), a very posh (and very expensive) hotel with a commanding view out to sea.

One thing we have noticed in Somerset and Devon is that there are many towns with the term ‘combe’ (pronounced coom) in their name. We have learned since moving here that a combe is a valley. Woolacombe was first recorded in the Domesday book in 1086 as Wolnecoma, literally meaning ‘Wolves Valley’. At the time the valley was thickly wooded and presumably wolves could be found.

The following morning was slightly less blue, but dry nevertheless, and Ilfracombe was our destination.

The 1,014km South-west Coast Path runs through this part of the coast, and we decided to check it out. Spectacular coastal views and steep paths were visible, but with my dodgy breathing and Mr A’s recently rolled ankle, we were not game to do more than admire the views and return to town.

Bluebell lined footpaths lead us through the woodland to the coast
Looking south towards Woolacombe
Looking north towards Ilfracombe

Friends in our village had recommended we book lunch at S&P Fish Shop on the edge of the harbour, famous for their fresh seafood platters. We had an explore around the picturesque harbour before tucking in to a feast. Lobster, king prawns, school prawns, mussels, pipis, salmon and more….we haven’t had a platter like this since our wedding anniversary last year!

Ifracombe has a working fishing industry – everything we ate was fresh and local
What a feast!

We continued our exploration, with the cloud burning off as the day progressed, treating us to another sunny afternoon.

At the entrance to Ilfracombe’s harbour is this rather confronting sculpture – a pregnant woman, stood on a pile of books, half her skin stripped back to reveal her muscles and sinews, the foetus in her womb, thrusting forth a sword into the sky, and holding the scales of justice behind her back. This statue, Verity, was created by Damian Hirst, and is on loan to the town for 20 years. It’s currently the second tallest statue in the UK. More details here.

Our final day dawned and we decided to take a walk from the campsite. I plotted a route on Komoot, and we packed up a lunch to take with us. A steep downhill footpath took us to part of the Southwest Coast Path, and a chill wind right off the sea.

Our cliff top path weaving ahead of us
A calf bravely eyes us off from a safe distance, before skittering away to hide behind the brightly flowering gorse
Beanies donned against the fresh breeze

We turned right and wove our way along the cliff top to the next little village, Lee, which sat nestled in a sheltered valley. Lee Bay is a rock-pooler’s paradise, calm and quiet, with plenty of exploring to be done. It was inaccessible on our visit, with a large section of land just behind it being developed for apartments and houses.

The rocky Lee Bay
Our lunch companion – one of a pair of somewhat disappointed Robins, miffed to learn we had made ourselves prawn salads rather than sandwiches, but making do with a few spare seeds we had as dressing.

We followed our path up the valley, spotting that the pub was open. It would be rude to pass through and not offer them our patronage, so we called in for a cup of tea and a vegan cookie. So civilised. Despite being a mid-week, somewhat gloomy Thursday afternoon, it was quite busy with people stopping for coffee and tea, and as we set off, a large group of 10 arriving for lunch. Mr A asked the bar-lady how the wet weather had impacted business.

Ah”, she replied, “It has been up and down, and is definitely seasonal. You’ve just got to learn to dance with it.”

What a fabulous attitude, and one we are definitely learning to adopt in our new life.

The Grampus Inn – a very cosy pub, with parts of the building dating back to the 14th Century when it was part of a working farm
Rhododendron and sweet chestnut flowers brightening up our climb back out of the valley

We finished our visit with a superb dinner at the Beach House Restaurant in Woolacombe (after a couple of extremely expensive cocktails at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel!), seafood prepared by an ex-London chef with very high standards. Superb.

Yum! Oysters from Porlock for my entree

11-13 September: Sun glorious sun…

Author: Mrs A

Location: Porthleven and Fraddon Cornwall, UK

Porthleven on the south coast, and Fraddon on the west

Leaving Falmouth we drove a short way around the coast to a near empty field just outside the village of Porthleven. It was Friday afternoon when we arrived, the sky grey and uninspiring, and the past few days of hiking and travelling had worn us down. We needed an afternoon off – we enjoyed a chance to stop and read and just relax.

So when we awoke on Saturday morning with sunshine and clear skies, we were excited to pull on our boots and get exploring (Strava link).

It was a brief walk down into town from our camp, which was fairly bustling on this hot weekend. It did not take long to escape the crowds though, as once again we made our way towards the South-west Coast Path.

The village is built up around the harbour as a centrepoint
Plenty of boats heading out fishing, and children (in wetsuits) jumping off the wall into the water
The boats are small here
Mr A checking out the canon

Porthleven is the most southerly port in the UK, originally developed as a safe haven for shipwrecked sailors when such events were common on this rocky coastline. It appears to be popular with tourists with a lot of holiday homes overlooking the coast, but most of the visitors seemed to be milling around the pubs and cafes surrounding the harbour.

We think we might be developing a combination of phonophobia (fear of loud noises, such as cars) and enochlophobia (fear of crowds) as we can literally feel our anxiety levels rise when surrounded by people and vehicles. It is such a relief to take a few steps and head back to nature, where the sounds of the waves, chirping birds and crying seagulls are the only interruptions to the peace.

The walk out of town …and breathe…
Some impressive houses sit on top of the cliffs, magnificent views out to sea…you’d just want to hope no more collapses happen if you owned one of these…
A ship wrecked just off this beach in the 1685 apparently was carrying treasure of pearls and diamonds…it is still lying on the ocean bed. with treasures found by divers as recently as 2018
Loe Bar Beach – squeaky fine sand reminiscent of Australian beaches…other than the water temperatures (17°C)
In the distance at the end of the beach you can see Bar Lodge, a fancy holiday house owned by the National Trust. The lagoon on the right of the beach used to open up to the sea, but now has drains for when it floods.
No pearls to be found as we walk along the water’s edge today….

Returning to town we had a look around the cafes and restaurants, with one fish and chip shop advertising local oysters. If you’ve followed our posts for a while, you’ll know we love a good oyster….but not at £3.50 each ($7!)…we moved on. Any thoughts of eating out were soon quashed, with most restaurants charging in the region of £25 ($50) for a main. We continued back to camp.

The views are free at least

Back in our field, we settled down to admire the view with a gin and tonic. Moments later the owners of a nearby Hymer motorhome popped over to invite us to join them for drinks with their friends which we gladly accepted. A lovely hour was spent exchanging stories over a few wines….experiences like that are priceless and part of what we most enjoy about travelling – the chance to meet new and interesting people, share experiences and learn new tips. Sadly in these Covid times, this type of mingling (we were suitably distanced and there were only six of us in total) has been quite infrequent, people more inclined to keep themselves in their own bubbles. We greatly appreciated the chance to socialise with people other than each other!

Sunday morning was also bright and sunny and we had planned to make our first foray on to the west coast of Cornwall, with an overnight stay just north of St Ives. Unfortunately the combination of blue skies and a 26°C day meant that every single person with a surf or boogie board within a three hour radius had the same idea. It was literally heaving. We felt so uncomfortable. We knew it wasn’t for us, and felt that anywhere by the coast would be the same. We pointed Truffy’s nose inland.

We ended up finding a friendly pub in the quiet village of Fraddon to let us stay the night. Fraddon overlooks the coastal town of Newquay, up in the hills.

Truffy had the whole area to himself

We had a relaxed afternoon catching up on some more reading (we are both now absorbed by The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, which covers a couple’s experiences hiking the whole of the South West Coast Path – all 630 miles of it (1,114km)). An evening in the pub enjoying a Sunday roast topped off our weekend.

Mr A took advantage of the proximity to pints of beer on tap to complete the experience
A fine sunset viewing spot