We loaded up, packed and headed off into the Sunset. Destination? Devon to stay in a yurt. Some months ago, well before Xmas, November 2008, Bean Counter read an article in a newspaper about a farm that had yurts on it. They were letting them out and I contacted them to make a booking. Partly because I wanted to take a close look at them and see if it was possible to live in one and partly because I wanted a holiday. The journey was 270 miles and BC had never ridden that far before and I had never ridden that far with a pillion and a bike that was loaded up to the gunnels.
The journey to Devon was atrocious. Constant heavy showers and gusts of wind up to 50 MPH. At some stages I felt as though we were going to be blown across all three lanes of the motorway. The showers meant we were constantly stopping at service stations to put on waterproofs and then stopping again to take them off when the sun came out before we become “Boil in a bag items”. To say my nerves were a little bit frayed is an understatement. The last big task of the day was to find the farm we were staying at. Devon is not the most sign posted place in the world and the only sign to the farm is halfway down a track off a B road. The track itself was very slippery due to all the rain and there was a ridge in the middle of it, it is also a fairly steep slope. The choice was, ride in the tyre ruts for about 500 yards and pray I did not slide into the undergrowth or ride on top of the ridge and hope the gravel did not give way underneath me. I elected to ride in the ruts. I almost filled my trousers a couple of times before we landed at the farm and level concrete.
We finally arrived 9 hours after setting off, cold tired and thoroughly exhausted but the welcome of the Sheaves family was amazing and pretty soon we had a log fire roaring and our wet clothes were toasting nicely. The yurt was fantastic and had a large double bed in it, a sofa, some chests to put things in and a bookcase with books and games in along with cast iron log fire. The size was about 18 feet across and the crown was clear which meant you could see the stars when you were in bed. The kitchen consisted of a wooden shelter with a camping gas fire with 2 rings and a toaster, plenty of cups crockery and cooking utensils and the most important thing, a kettle! The toilet was a well thought out composting toilet and the shower block although across the field was excellent. There was also a washing machine and a fridge in the shower block.
We did not get up to much the first night apart from drink tea and dry out. The second day was a day of discovery and we went into the nearest town to pick a few things up calling in at Otter St Mary and Honiton along the way. The plan was to go to the Eden project on the third day but the dark clouds looked ominous and I did not fancy doing another 200 miles in rain so we went to Exmouth and Sidmouth to look at the beaches and have sandwiches and ice cream. Sidmouth is a really nice Regent town and I could have spent more than a day there. It was so peaceful sitting on the promenade and the ice cream there is excellent.
On the fourth day we said we would go to the Eden Project regardless of the weather as we did not know when we would be so far south again. And so it was that with a clear sky we set off. The Eden project is quite nice but the biomes seem far more impressive from the outside. I guess as the project is only seven years old the exhibits will become far more spectacular as time goes on. I also reckon that certain times of the year are better to go and see the exhibits than others. There is some amazing stuff in the visitor centre and I would recommend that if you get the opportunity you should go and see the place at some time or other. The project is very close to the coastal town of St Austell and we decided that when we left we would find a chip shop and have fish and chips by the beach. This was a big mistake as St Austell does not have a beach or a port or a harbour or if they do they have hidden it really well. After riding around for 30 minutes we gave up on trying to find the mythical beach. We finally found a chip shop some miles away and the cod I was served up, admittedly a large portion was the size of a basking shark. Honestly I have never seen such a big piece of fish with batter on it in my life. I struggled to finish it!
Now as anyone who knows me will tell you, my sense of direction is so bad it is legendary. I knew that if we did not arrive back at the farm before the sun went down we would never find it. This meant being back by 10pm. It was 7-30 before we left the chip shop and after 8 before we got under way again and coupled with a slight mishap on the M5 which meant I had to double back after missing my turn off junction and it was after 10pm when we finally came off the motorway into a myriad of unmarked and signpost less B roads. All of them looked the same. Tall hedges and tarmac without a single distinguishing feature between them. My satnav threw a wobbly and attempted on several occasions to take me down roads that did not exist. We attempted to find a taxi rank in order that we could ask the taxi to drive slowly to the farm and we could follow him. There were no taxi ranks! We tried to find a police station, there were no police stations. We tried to find a bed and breakfast place but there were none. It is about the most remote place I have ever been to in my life. At midnight and 60 miles and 2 hours since we left the motorway and with little fuel in the tank (most petrol stations there close at 7pm) we rode into the car park of the Bowd Inn.
I decided there and then I was not going to ride a single mile further. BC and me slept on a bench in the car park until 4-30 am when it was light enough to see roughly where we were going. We rode to Otter St Mary were we managed to find the only sign that pointed to the West Hills district we so badly wanted to get to. We arrived back at the yurt at 5-am, lit a fire and went to bed. We had to be out of the yurt by 10am and we had not packed so I rang Roger Moor, with instructions to ring me at 8am to get me out of bed. With only 2 hours sleep and almost as damp as when we arrived we headed out to the M5 and our way back home. After over 100 miles we pulled into a motorway service station and I noticed a Premier Inn sign and as I could not continue much further safely we booked a room for the night. After a good night’s sleep (I slept for 14 hours) I began to see the funny side of things. The previous night had me cursing and swearing never to leave the safety of the Higherdew ever again, never to go anywhere that was not sign posted and to throw my satnav into a ditch in another fit of “technic cleansing”, see the entry for July 2008.
The holiday was a fantastic experience, the yurt farm was amazing and the people who run it are brilliant. The details for anyone wanting to go are http://www.luxurydevonyurts.co.uk/ When you get there ask to see Maisie, one of the cutest little black lambs it has ever been my pleasure to meet and hopefully she will not have ended up on a plate with mint sauce. Important to note if you are going on a road bike, the track to the farm will rip off any belly pens you have and road tyres will not hack the mud on the track. Roger Moor who had looked after my cat Genghis while I was away came across and we shared a bottle of jack Daniels with hilarious consequences, see photos.
I also mentioned last year that if I ever went anywhere I would log the costs. The accommodation in the yurt was £240 for 4 nights; the stay in the premier inn was £65 with 2 large breakfasts. I covered over 950 miles with 8 fill ups at an average of 13 pounds a fill. Some places the petrol was expensive and others not so but the average was £13 and the total bill was around £104 and I spent around £200 on food and entertainment. I think this was excellent value for a lifetime of memories oh and yes you could live in one of those yurts, even in the UK with some modifications.