Present: Sarah D (organiser), Bruce, Dan, Beckie, Sarah M, David M, Andy L, Belinda, Dave H, Maggie, Maika, Malcolm, Louise, Mark, Marion, Debbie, Richard N

Location: Exmoor Basecamp, near Lynton/Lynmouth

The first trip of the year was to the National Trust “Exmoor Basecamp” perched above Lynmouth on the northern edge of Exmoor. 17 members were due to arrive and over the course of Friday night they appeared in the Sandpiper Inn, which is rather conveniently located 50 yards from the bunkhouse. The bunkhouse carpark was full so the late arrivals had to use the pub car park – that distance became the cause of some concern to certain members who felt 50 yards downhill in the dark was just too much.

Saturday was overcast and threatening rain. The forecast was not good, but with everyone well equipped with the best coats technology can provide, staying in was not an option. Beckie and I had bought our bikes so opted for a 22km circuit along the coast and then inland. Malcolm and Louise went off across Exmoor and Andy L went to a different part of Exmoor, his intention to get some navigation practice in sadly thwarted when he managed to forget both map and waterproof trousers (an early contender for the Girl Guide award?). The rest of the group followed Sarah D in a large loop along the coast path in an easterly direction and then along the valley and over the hills behind the bunkhouse.

It rained, but our spirits were not dampened (well, maybe a little). The bike route was boggy, muddy, wet and very hilly. Short sharp 1:4 gradients over loose rock and rutted track – where the reciprocal downhills were is anyone’s guess. Is it possible to climb for most of the day and not descend? Beckie got a puncture and we were forced to repair it when the valve on the spare tube snapped off. A few more very muddy fields and we were almost back, catching the main group after they’d stopped in the Staghunter Inn (where Sarah M had the “best hot chocolate in Devon” – fact) and as they made the climb from the Lyn valley to the bunkhouse.

After a shower and spruce up, some of us went to the pub and had a Guinness or three. Maika and Sarah M cooked a superb diner of Chilli with guacamole followed by a rather nice chocolate yoghurt desert. The wine flowed, and we all played Jenga, Scrabble or a rather infuriating Maze game which had been left to test one’s dexterity. Did anyone get to 101 (other than Malcolm, who turned it upside down)?

Sunday was a much brighter day. The main walking group headed for Lynton, and a circular walk taking in the Valley of Rocks. Sarah D and Bruce went walking on Exmoor. Beckie and I rose last and found everyone gone (thanks for tidying up – we were trying to find something to clean but the job had been done too well). We went off on our bikes again, along the A39 and then down into Doone Valley. This was followed by another bog trot across the top of Exmoor, before returning to the bunkhouse and home.

Dan Unwin (with a few additions from Sarah Davies)

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