Holly Bush Farm Campsite had mixed reviews but having already identified the location near Taunton as a good off-the-beaten-track half-way point on the final leg of our journey home, we booked in and turned up mid-afternoon. Brusquely attended to on arrival, we’re directed to the lower field, with hard-standing pitches and no need of electric hook-up.
A handful of motorhomes and caravans were dotted around the newly-laid site and – wouldn’t you know it – we find ourselves in almost immediate conversation with a purple-haired character smoking something presumably exotic on the step of his neighbouring van, which we could see was packed to overflowing with what could best be described as ‘a variety of stuff’. He was clearly desirous of an in-depth and subsequently rambling conversation about installing a replacement leisure battery he’d just acquired; the all-consuming benefits of YouTube as the source of all motorhoming know-how on the planet; was it the red or the black lead you took off and replaced first?; how his partner had passed away from cancer only last year; would the installation affect his breaker-switches; did we have any idea how much he might have paid for his bargain van and – by-the-by – did we have a spanner or two (preferably adjustable) he could borrow just so he could fit his new battery?
We swiftly decide that an exploration of the site and the servicing of our own unmentionables had become an urgent priority so managed to disappear towards respite not often enjoyed in the peaceful surroundings of a chemical toilet. On our ramble, we discover that the site is very rural with hilly terrain and a narrow, speedy main road which discouraged demounting the bikes (having diligently lugged them around Cornwall unused) to explore further afield. However, we had previously passed an isolated-looking pub on our way to the site, within walkable distance – so crept back to the van to make a telephone enquiry about their opening hours; likely provision of food and quite possibly drink.
What a find! The Holman Clavell Inn was (and presumably still is) set in the midst of the Blackdown Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and slap bang in the middle of Devon – where it might conceivably be the furthest you could be from the nearest sea. As such, our first choice from the menu surprised us with its availability – a pint of prawns – unlike our earlier experience in sea-washed St Ives where they unapologetically just didn’t have any.
Low ceilings; aged oak beams, whitewashed walls, local Otter Brewery beers on tap and a warm welcome from cheery bar staff and locals alike, we immediately settled in at a scrubbed pine table by the bar. Held in its thrall for the best part of a dark, damp evening, we enjoyed cheerfully noisy groups of dining customers as they mingled with tweedy locals ebbing and flowing around us. Eventually, fully-victualled on starters, mains and puds and with little rosy hamster cheeks, we wrapped ourselves up, strapped on the headtorches and wobbled our way to stealthily regain the sanctuary of the Knumptywagen under cover of darkness.
Despite our replete and semi-comatose states, neither of us could recall any worse maelstrom of a storm which arrived that night. It raged with Shakespearean tempestuosity (is that even a word? Spellcheck seems to think not) around us with a deafening, fuming and alarming ferocity. Thunderous rain lashed onto our roof for almost two hours, amplified by the very nature of the large box in which we were contained. Lightning, seemingly both sheet and forked, crackled down as we peered like frightened children through the bedside window. Around five a.m. it calmed enough to allow us to hear one-another and, come the calm of morning, we were amazed that the site seemed wholly intact – and that we’d only shipped an egg-cup’s worth of water which had somehow puddled its way through the main skylight.
Aah, blessed relief, as daylight brightened and we made ready to set off again, until a knock on our door heralded the continued enthusiastic curiosity of our neighbour. Still avidly keen to see if we were absolutely sure we didn’t have any adjustable spanners and it was Axminster General his partner had died in, couldn’t have been cared for better God bless the NHS and was it really the black lead (or maybe the red one) you took off first? “Sorry,” we bustled “but we’ve an urgent appointment with some trout – must dash” and, with wheels not quite spinning on the newly laid pea-gravel, we took off up the open road, headed still towards home.