Camping & Mountain Biking in Devon #2 @ Hennock/Haldon Forest

Updated: Jan 30


My YouTube of this trip can be found here, and my ride at Haldon Forest here

Leaving Truro around 9am, I got totally lost on the way to Exeter, travelling on A and B roads for around twenty miles instead of the dual carriageway I had intended to use, eventually finding it! I still wasn’t sure whether to stay away for yet another night and was considering going home, so dwelled upon the matter whilst having some lunch in a lay-by on the dual-carriageway.

Don’t ask me how I manage to get so lost, even with Satnav. In my defence my Garmin is pretty shit, sending me in loops sometimes, but mainly it’s because I have no sense of direction and also I struggle to follow the instructions! It doesn't say turn left in 20 metres, it just says turn left, so if there's a turning before the one it means, that's where I go wrong!

I eventually decided to camp one more night, and made my way to the Hennock Hideaways campsite, a twenty minute drive on single track, pot-holed roads, that needed to be taken very slowly or risk a head-on. There are a few passing places, but sometimes it involves reversing quite a way to let cars by, one time during which I scraped my rear bumper quite bad on a dry-stone wall, damn it!

It was hard to find, my Garmin sent me in a loop, after the third time I realised, stopped and asked the way from a local. The site was a very large meadow, with only one other tent in it. It’s quite a casual campsite, as in it’s not overly-facilitised....I just invented that word I think! It's more a 'campers' site than a luxury site, which is just what I want. I met the owner, stopping at the cottage to pay her, she was a friendly welcoming lady, and it felt nice. And at just £7 a night what more could I ask.

There’s a ‘tea shed’ at the top of the field where you do dish-washing, the toilets and showers are at the bottom of the field near the cottage. There’s plenty of drinking-water taps scattered around the field. I set-up my camp at the top of the field, with beautiful views of the rolling Devon hills and woodlands.

I immediately got adopted by a Jack Russell on my arrival, he was really sweet and loved fetching a squashed ball.

I was very tired, having not slept too well the night before, so had a nap, something to eat, then headed out late afternoon to Haldon Forest. It’s a good set-up, with visitor centre, café, Go-Ape and bike hire shop. The parking costs vary, peak rate and off-peak, a pound cheaper per time slot off-peak. When I was there the credit card facility wasn’t working on the Pay and Display machine, cash only, luckily the Forest Rangers office was still open, so I bought a ticket there, as I had no cash.

I had a play around on the skills area they have there, then rode the top two sections of the Red Ridge Trail. This time I was riding Bay. There’s some pedalling to do on the trail but not an awful lot. The views from the forest are stunning, the trail is loose and fun. With the sun shining, it was two hours well spent.

I only rode the two top sections, the lower trail looked like a very steep ride back up to loop back to the trail centre. When I hit the tarmac road crossing I didn’t continue down the trail, opting to ride the five minutes back to the trail centre, by turning right onto the road. I only did two runs of the two sections, but again wish I’d gone all the way down, as when talking to a guy parked next to me whilst packing up, he told me the ride up right from the bottom isn’t too steep after the initial section.

Although I puff and pant at the slightest incline, I’m finding pedalling so much easier on Bay than I do on Stumpy. Stumpy is a medium sized frame, whereas I opted for a large frame for Bay, it’s so much more comfortable to pedal, I’m not all crunched up. Going by Specialized size guide I should be on a medium sized bike, but I think they forget people have different length legs and bodies. My legs, for a 5’8” gal are quite long, and I have quite a short body, I think that’s why the large suits me. So happy discovering this!

Another chilled, beautiful evening was spent at camp, there’s no road noise at all at this site, in fact little noise at all, except for me practising guitar, as no one else was around!

I had a nice relaxed morning pack-up too, setting off from Hennock at around midday, arriving back in Banbury only three and a half hours later. When going to the West, I always go up to Birmingham, which is miles out of the way, but for me the easiest as it’s motorway all the way, M5, M42 and M40. And it served me well this time, with no hold-ups at all.

I’d been away seven nights, wishing I could have stayed longer, but felt I should get back to look for job opportunities. I had received an email on the first day of my trip, from one of the companies where I’d applied for a job, asking me to call them. I missed one of their calls later that day, I called them eleven times during my trip, but was unable to get hold of the lady, which was quite frustrating. As yet, two days home, and I still haven’t managed to get through. Perhaps they’ve changed their minds, my reputation does go before me after all!!

The journey home was clear of any traffic jams, taking less than three and a half hours. I will definitely return to do this trip again sometime.

And that was a fabulous camping trip over….I’m itching to get out again!

Info

Hennock Hideaways Campsite link - £7 per night for a small tent and one person

Haldon Forest Park link


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