Summer Holidays: campfires, fossils and forests

There’s been no posts here for a while, mainly because the boys and I made the most of a long hot summer getting out and about. A few solo backpacking trips were squeezed in here and there, not too mention some excessively sunny miles on the bike and the odd fell race as well, but more of that later.

We had a summer of simple pleasures set against the backdrop of endless sunny days. A week was spent idling in Devon living in a small yurt on a farm in the middle of the Blackdown Hills. It was a basic set up and all the better for it, during the days we hit the coast and searched for fossils and when evening came we cooked simple things on an open fire and played hide and seek around the hay bales. Large green cooking apples cored and filled with nutella before being wrapped in foil and placed on the embers for an hour became a regular fixture of the evenings.



On one of the rare days when the sun didn’t shine through and the sky was thick with gloomy grey cloud we took a trip over to Dartmoor. On our unique diet of kitkat chunkys and apples we walked up a quiet valley to find Wistman’s Wood, a Tolkeinesque oak woodland carpeted with thick moss and lichens nestled away by the west dart river. It was a perfect place to explore, we set about climbing trees and jumping from rock to rock. The stunted trees seemed to grow at all angles but vertical and were ideal to clamber along. We stayed for hours, even a heavy downpour didn’t deter us from playing.






Our humble little break was a reminder of the simpler things in life, how children can be entertained for hours on end just by rock pooling, throwing stones into the sea, and running in and out as the waves crashed on the stony shore. We didn’t miss the tv, we didn’t miss games consoles, and we forgot about tablets, phones and laptops………because we had campfire marshmallows and dens to build (where clothing was apparently optional, this was a theme of our entire summer, the four year old would strip off at any opportunity and run around laughing and screaming).

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Despite hours of searching our hunt for fossils on the jurassic coast was fruitless, there were also a few disappointed looking grown men wandering round with small hammers and fossil guide books, maybe they’ve all been dug up down there. Fortunately a work colleague did his degree in geology and gave us a tip off to a very quiet beach on the north devon coast where we found ammonites a plenty.

IMG_20140802_112959-2Back home in the Midlands we made the best of the sunny weather and headed outdoors as much as possible. Packing our bags with food and a map and leaving the house for the day became the routine with short and sweet afternoons in the local countryside and some longer days out which included a fine adventure out on the fringes of the peak district in Staffordshire.SONY DSCSONY DSC

After a picnic on the ridge we made for the Back Forest down in the valley and easily found Lud’s Church, a hidden narrow mossy gorge that cuts deep into woodlands near the manifold valley. Even on the brightest summer days it feels cool, dark and damp to the touch. SONY DSC


We rounded off a long hot day of walking by heading to the Panniers Pool at Three Shires Head for an icy dip in the waters. It was late afternoon and the air was muggy and still, a perfect time to plunge into a pool and stick your head under the waterfalls. The illusion of paradise swiftly erased by the clouds of midges that descended as we dried off and made a meal out of us. Toby found the swarm of midges mildly traumatising and several days later when we were heading out for another walk he told me he hoped there weren’t going to be any ‘midgets’ there as he hates them.


So that was our summer, maybe the best one so far. It all seems a distant memory now we’re back in the routine of school runs and after school swimming lessons. The memories seem all the more distant as the cooler darker autumn evenings begin to set in and warmer clothes are brought out again. On the other hand we still have autumn fruit picking, frosty walks and open fires to look forward to.


8 thoughts on “Summer Holidays: campfires, fossils and forests

    1. thanks chrissie, the boys truly loved it though (and forgive me if I’ve told you this one before) I asked Rufus what his favourite memory of summer was, reminding him of everything we’d got up to, after an appropriate pause he looked back at me and said “when we bought tic tacs”

  1. Toby wouldn’t like Scotland in the summer then; place is absolutely heaving with midgets. Some lovely, lovely photos there Rich; I particularly like the final pic, it’s a cracker.

    I like the mossy theme of the post too; Wistmans Wood is a real arboreal phantasmagoria, innit.

    1. Thanks so much Pete, funnily enough that last photo is the only one which I took on my phone, weird huh?

      A trip up to scotland with Toby isn’t out of the question, he’s just had his first wild camp and loved it.

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