Sunday, 30 July 2017


Sagging tent and super tent
Lola II and Mr M occupying my tent as theirs is Not Very Well
Camping with Lola II and Mr M for five nights certainly sorted out the sleep problem. In fact, one evening I was so tired that I went to lie down at about 8.30 p.m., and despite thinking about getting up again for a brief period I actually woke up at 8.15 next morning.

Our first encampment was near Dartmoor on a very remote campsite run by an elderly couple. The journey was extended by 'holiday traffic' and an accident that totally blocked the M5 motorway. Lola II and Mr M were making their way down separately, and phoned me near Bristol to find out how I was getting along. Using roadside landmarks we determined that we were less than a mile apart. Uncanny.

We arrived in the rain, and while it wasn't pouring when we put up the tents it was generally damp. My tent performed brilliantly at its first outing, unlike Lola II and Mr M's tent which had developed a serious sagging problem. The cause was definitely one of the bendy poles but we could find no solution at this time. It was still usable, but not the tent it should have been.

Camp food varied in quality. The lateness of our arrival and the difficulty with the tent meant that the emergency Pot Noodles were deployed on the first night. Despite the rain when we arrived and on and off throughout the first day, Mr M was very keen to have a fire because he and Lola II had brought supplies for a meal that required a fire: baked Camembert, sweet potatoes, and melted chocolate in baked bananas. I was sceptical about the practicality of drying wet logs using the very limited supply of dry logs, but Mr M was not deterred and successfully overcame the problem by throwing firelighters at it. Literally.

View down to remains of Bronze Age settlement
Grimspound, July 2017
Food off-site was generally very good, including one of the best soups I've ever tasted at a little tearoom in Moretonhampstead on Dartmoor. We also visited the Warren House Inn for Sunday lunch, after which we climbed up to Grimspound - a well-preserved late Bronze Age settlement - and the Tor overlooking it. Other non-food activities included 'House of Marbles' which is a tourist attraction containing glass blowing, a pottery museum, many retail opportunities, and displays about games and the manufacture of marbles including a number of marble runs. We watched these strangely addictive 'machines' for quite some time as the marbles (or in one case, snooker balls) follow their different tracks. We also stopped off at an interesting bridge constructed from large slabs of granite balanced on piers across the river.

Loal II and Mr M posing on bridge
Clapper Bridge, Postbridge, Devon, July 2017
Monday was a rain-free sunny day, and after packing up the tents we headed off to walk around a reservoir near Okehampton, followed by a brief visit to Okehampton itself - nice town but disappointing cakes from a bakery that looked promising but failed to deliver. Then we joined the Famfest, which was the main reason for the trip to this part of the world.

A branch of the family originating with one of our grandmother's sisters has been convening an annual family gathering for several years now, and last year was the first that we attended. That one was in Hertfordshire and included more than 40 people; this one was a little further afield but there were more than 50 people in attendance. Despite being over 90, our grandmother's niece and her husband had made the trip from Cincinnatti, and they were among the most enthusiastic about attending the various scheduled activities.

We camped here too, although most of those in attendance occupied normal accommodation in the main house. With the assistance of one of the guests, Mr M managed to fix the sagging tent, which pleased Lola II a great deal.

Gin school - one litre copper stills on a shelf above the workbench
Gin School
On Tuesday we all headed off to the seaside town of Salcombe, where one of the cousins (I use this term very generally to mean absolutely any of those in attendance) has recently established a very successful gin distilling business, including a Gin School where you can distill a bottle to your own recipe. We were treated to gin cocktails in the bar before a short tour of the distillery and school. It is a really classy operation and looks as though it will continue to be as successful as it deserves to be.

We met many, many cousins and I'm pretty sure by the end I knew about 80% of the names, even of the children. There were also some I never spoke to! The majority were there for five days, but Lola II and Mr M and I left after two nights, packing up the tents in between the drizzle and showers. Back home I checked the weather forecast and dragged the tent outside to dry off, thinking I might also prune the forsythia, and deciding to do it after finishing the cup of tea I'd just made. Before the tea was finished the heavens opened and soaked the tent. I hadn't put it up with the poles, just laid it flat on the lawn, so it became much wetter than it was before and I had to put in the poles and erect it properly to dry out.

View of sheep, hills and sky from my tent
Famfest campsite, July 2017

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