When I was sixteen, in the summer after my friends and I had completed our GCSEs, 4 of my girlfriends and I went on a camping trip along the Devon coast. It was an adventure and in some ways a test of my character. Some of my peers had been on the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, though I hadn’t. Partway through the Bronze award year, having managed the ‘skill,’ ‘service,’ and ‘sport’ parts of the programme, I had wimped out on the camping expedition, putting an end to my D of E experience.
This camping trip was a way to reconcile missing out on the Duke’s course, and we’d be navigating along coastal paths from Exmouth to Lyme Regis with only paper maps. This was the time before mobile phones so if I wanted to phone home I had to do it using a phone box, with whatever shrapnel I had in my purse. The five of us caught the train from our home station to Exmouth, and we were all excited about having several days freedom. Apparently one of the girls had enough underwear to last the whole group, according to her mother. It was probably said to reassure some of the other parents, as I now realise being a mum to a daughter, that it must have been a leap into the unknown for our folks.
We got to Exmouth safely and started out on our adventure. I remember the weather at the start of the trip being pretty glorious, and our first milestone was Budleigh Salterton. My memory of how the days walking was allocated is pretty sketchy, and I didn’t write a diary. Looking at a map now though, I see that the overall distance covered was in the region of 25 miles. I can’t remember the campsites we stayed at overnight, though now I look around the Budleigh area, I can see a site called Pooh’s Cottage. Maybe we stayed there…
Anyhow, regardless of where we stayed, our rambling took us through Sidmouth, and Salcombe Regis. I’m pretty sure we visited the Donkey Sanctuary to see Eeyore and his chums. Other places of note were Branscombe, Beer, and Seaton. I was quite innocent in those days; it was before I’d lost my virginity, but I now see that we would have been within reach of a Naturist Beach just outside of Seaton. There was one day when the heavens opened up and all our gear got soaked while we carried on walking through the rain.
Amongst the group, we decided to stay in a B&B that night to let our clothes and camping equipment dry out. I remember we all scraped what money we could together to get a couple of rooms. The kindly proprietors of the B&B tumble dried our wet clobber. They fed us a simple supper of chicken chargrills, but feeling suitably famished after a cold wet day’s walking, we felt like we were eating gourmet food from M&S!
Us girls fancied the chap who ran the B&B with his wife. I can’t remember her name, though I recall his was Nick; how I remember this is because we sang our own rendition of Ghetto Supastar by Pras featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Mya. We substituted the “run away with me” lyrics for “run away with Nick!” I chuckle to myself when I think back to those days. I didn’t have a clue about men, but our last stop at Lyme Regis was to catch up with another friend of some of us campers. The girl in question had an older boyfriend.
All in all, it was a good trip. Looking back, it was a real taste of freedom for me, and I loved it. I’m no longer in touch with the other girls, though I do occasionally check on social media to see if I can find them. I’m contemplating doing a re-run of that trip with Mr Bunny and little bunny. I reckon they’d like to visit the donkeys, and who knows…maybe I could saunter along the beach at Seaton, 😉
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