Despite being only a short break, my recent family trip to Devon and Cornwall was certainly adventure packed. Although we were only away for 6 days, we managed to fit in: crabbing in Looe, watching stormy seas in Polperro, a visit to Plymouth Hoe, exploring rock pools on Seaton beach, walks, swimming and a wild camp on Dartmoor, body boarding in Salcombe and a visit to the largest waterfall in England. Here is a quick write up of some of the things we got up to.
The original plan for the trip was to camp in our new family tent, a Kampa Carbis 5 bought from Camping World, and we were also quite keen on having a camp fire. There were only a few sites in South Devon / East Cornwall which allow camp fires and are dog friendly, including Kinrowan Park – a lovely small site just off the A38 near Liskard.
Crabbing and Stormy Seas
On the first day we braved the showers to head to Looe, Cornwall. After a wander around the town, we decided, as it seemed to be the done thing in Looe, to have a go at crabbing. Most of the shops sell crabbing kits – a bucket, a line with weight, a small net bag and some fish heads for bait. You put a fish head in the net bag, attached it to the line, and then drop it into the sea. It took us a while to perfect the best place to put the bait (as near the wall as possible) and our catching method (the crabs drop off the bait as soon as it is lifted out of the water, so we scooped the bucket underneath to catch them) but we soon collected 14 crabs – including a few quite big ones.
After a tweet from @onnison, we decided to head to nearby Polperro – a picturesque fishing village. The weather took a turn for the worse with strong winds coming in from the sea. We climbed up to Peak Rock, which juts out in front of Polperro Harbour, and watched the waves batter the rocks below us.
Unfortunately as we were returning to Kinrowan Park, we were rung by the owners to tell us that our tent had been damaged by the storm. Several of the poles had snapped and sheared in the strong gusts, although it seems the fabric was undamaged. The owners were brilliant in our absence in saving the tent from further damage and offered us the holiday cottage on site for the night. As the tent was unusable, we decided to upgrade to the cottage for the remainder of the holiday (as it was fortunately available). Kampa has also since offered to replace the poles free of charge – I would expect most manufacturers would argue that family tents are not designed for strong winds, or that we had pitched it incorrectly, so full kudos to theml.
My late grandparents owned a block of flats on Plymouth Hoe, and every Summer we used to have a family holiday to Plymouth. I remember sitting on the balcony with a pair of binoculars watching the Royal Navy ships and submarines coming in and out of harbour. Plymouth Hoe is famously where Sir Francis Drake was playing bowls when he was informed of the approach of the Spanish Armada – he is said to have remarked that there was plenty of time to finish the game and still beat the Spaniards. Plymouth Hoe is also the site of several war memorials including one for all the sailors based in Plymouth who have died at sea in conflict – if the names upon names of sailors is not moving enough, as you walk around the memorial you realise the memorial extends much further on the level below with even more names.
Rock Pools between Seaton and Downderry Beaches
At high tide, the sea closes off Seaton and Downderry beaches from each other, but as the tide withdraws it leaves behind a whole network of rock pools, mini salt lakes and beaches to explore. Although we failed to find any crabs or fish left by the sea, we did come across a huge colony of winkles (common periwinkle) which we harvested. Winkles are small edible sea snails – we boiled them, picked them out of their shells and ate them covered in oil and vinegar! After exploring the pools, we popped into the Inn on the Shore (after a tip from @dansantillo), which sits on the cliff overlooking the rock pools, for a pint of Dartmoor brewed ‘Jail Ale’.
Dartmoor: Ponies, Wild Swimming & Camping
After parking at the foot of Cox Tor, we went on a short walk (about 3 miles) to visit the Dartmoor ponies. We headed to Pew Tor via Feather Tor and returned via Heckwood Tor to get a look at the forbidden Vixen Tor. The weather was not too bad, just a few showers, and there were plenty of friendly ponies to be found.
We then headed to the car park at the foot of Ger Tor and, after some lunch, followed the stream down to a deep pool on the Tavy Cleeve – the water was freezing, but it was once again a fantastic experience to swim outdoors.
Back at the car park I was left by my family to make my own way up to Lynch Tor for a wild camp. The views across Devon and into Cornwall were amazing, although I could see the low hill fog coming in. In the morning however I awoke to a bright sky and sunshine. After breakfast I headed from Lynch Tor to White Tor, then back around to Roos Tor, Staple Tor and finally Cox Tor where the dog and I basked in the sunshine waiting for my lift to arrive – I did not see another human being for nearly 14 hours.
Body Boarding in Salcombe
After an enjoyable drive through South Dartmoor we headed to the seaside town of Salcombe, Devon. After a wander on North Sands, the dog friendly beach, we decided to put the seemingly quite large waves to the test and bought a body board. The sea was at least slightly warmer than the river on Dartmoor although the waves were not ideal for body boarding! After warming up we paid a brief visit to Bigbury-On-Sea to walk across the sand to Burgh Island, before discovering the excellent Dolphin Inn, a lovely fish restaurant in Newton Ferrers.
Canonteign Falls and Quantock Hills
Rather than head straight home on our final day, we headed to Canonteign Falls, the largest waterfall in England. Whilst the falls are quite spectacular, I have to admit to being a little disappointed to discover that they were engineered by the Victorians! Our final stop (other than a tea stop at Stow on Wold) was to the Quantock Hills – again in search of ponies. The Quantock Hills is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with some fantastic views across Somerset.