An aptly named trip, as it was planned by Tim, took us camping and hostelling at Beer on the South Devon coast on the last weekend in June. Having camped there last year, we thought it a perfect trip for COPSE, having all the right ingredients. Camping for some with the use of hostel facilities, yet hostelling for non-campers; a stunning coast line for walking; trams, buses and trains, caves and gardens, ice-cream, pubs, fish ‘n’ chips – the list is endless.
A relaxed, relatively unplanned weekend ahead of us saw us split up that evening, so some of us self-catered and some ate at a local pub. A pleasant evening followed, including a wander down to the beach to enjoy the setting sun. Beer, like many Devon villages, grew up around a smugglers cove and caves, and nestles between two steep cliff faces. We just made it to bed before it rained and it didn’t stop until around 6 a.m., so Friday morning began cool and damp.
A decision was made based on the weather to visit Pecorama, a tourist attraction a short walk from the hostel. Having had this recommended to us from a hostel guest last year, and espe-cially for the ‘train buffs’ among us, Pecorama includes a display of many model railways, gardens and the Beer Heights Light Railway. The model train displays were excellent. Pecorama is not just an attraction, but in fact manufactures all the models for the intricate details of station life that goes with the trains. The ticket price includes a trip on the Beer Heights Light Railway, a miniature steam train that takes you round the 9 acre site, through several tunnels and the Millennium Garden, which has a celestial theme, the sun, moon and rainbow gardens all with individual planting schemes; rather lovely and lots of bees. Some of us paid for a 1st class ticket which allows you two trips on the railway – Southern Rail eat your heart out!
A suggestion to play a round of crazy golf was taken up with great enthusiasm, so after a bite to eat about ten of us ventured up to the golf course, whereupon a very entertaining and fun couple of hours were spent. Fierce competition between Tim and me ended when it took him at least twelve attempts at one hole, (I don’t wish to smirk,) but I was piped to the post by Brian W (BJ), who is currently over in the UK from Australia and in his travels around the UK, joined us for a couple of days over the weekend. As we were completing the course, William C joined us, only for us to discover that he had sustained an injury to his foot and was in a lot of pain from a possible sprained ankle. In heroic style, so as not to miss out, he proceeded to go around the course by himself – I wonder who won? Before leaving, a few of us enjoyed afternoon tea in the Orion Pullman Car, a beautifully preserved carriage which was part of the Golden Arrow train that used to run from Victoria Station, London to the Channel coast.
A few late COPSErs joined the merry throng at the hostel that evening and a leisurely evening was spent in the hostel lounge.
Saturday dawned bright and clear and the forecast was hot, hot, hot! A day for walking, only six and a half miles said Barry. We caught a bus to Sidmouth, where we had time for a wander and the inevitable tea/coffee/loo stop. We bumped into some Associate COPSE’rs (COPSE gets everywhere) and then we finally started the walk. This area is part of the Jurassic Coast Heritage Site and following a relatively gentle climb up the cliff, from there on the walk was undulating all along the coast. Walking the Devon coastline is not for the faint-hearted, but it is a most beautiful part of our country and not to be missed. William, who was still hobbling and couldn’t join us, spent some time in SIdmouth doing his own thing. Four miles and four hours later, we had descended some very steep steps to Weston Mouth Beach, a pebble/shingle beach, which is also a naturist beach, although the three amigos, Andrew, Paul D and Chris gamely went for a swim. Maybe they didn’t know this and kept their togs on; would they have been brave enough to shed them had they known? Paddling our hot feet in the sea was pure pleasure, although climbing back up the pebbles was pure pain. By the time we left the beach we were hallucinating over cold drinks and ice-cream, but had another mile to go before we reached Branscombe for a refreshment stop. The climb up from the beach was a hard slog, climbing up a seemingly never ending trail of wood-en steps, but once we were at the top the views as we approached Brans-combe were amazing. Finally, we were able to purchase cold drinks and ice-creams and relaxed for a while before the final stretch back to Beer.
William E was celebrating his birthday that day and had booked a table for us all, so it was a bit of a scramble to get back to the hostel to freshen up after a hot, sticky day and then get back into the village, but we had an area in the pub reserved just for us and everyone was more than ready to quench their thirst after a long days walking. An enjoyable evening spent in the company of good friends.
Sunday morning was spent relaxing a little, especially for us campers as the sun shining into the tents had got (most) of us up early. We ate a leisurely breakfast outside whilst maps were studied in great detail and the decision was made to walk into Seaton along the cliff path, but for only a short distance. Once we dropped down to the beach and walked to the promenade Nicky, Deanne and myself spotted a sign for locally made ice-cream and promptly disappeared into the café. Others ahead of us were either sitting and enjoying the views out to sea or watching a local bike race taking place. We had agreed to meet at lunchtime by the Seaton tramway. Several different heritage trams travel for three miles be-tween Seaton and Colyton along the beautiful River Axe Estuary through two nature reserves and for the price of a ticket you can travel as many times as you want. I think William C really and truly justified the price of his ticket, but he did have a good excuse with his dodgy ankle. By early evening, we all at differing times had made our way back to Beer, where the three amigos were spotted swimming in the sea again, and several others were all enjoying the late afternoon sunshine on the pub terrace overlooking the beach drinking what else but – beer!
Andrew had kindly driven into Seaton that morning to buy provisions for a barbecue. So another enjoyable day finished with good food, good wine and good company.
Sadly, as always, a trip comes to the end and it’s the great packing up process. Monday morning was overcast and a fine rain hampered the packing up of tents. Tim as usual was the last to pack the tent away, much to my chagrin, as he hoped it would stop drizzling – which it didn’t! Some of the group prior to travelling home by train had decided to take the bus to Lyme Regis and others decided to go to Beer Quarry Caves, where they used to excavate Beer Stone. I did the tour last year and it is excellent. Our car load decided to visit Stourhead House, a NT property and garden which was on the journey back, but we drove into heavy rain and therefore abandoned this idea, so continued home.
Thanks Tim, because this was your organised event (I just grumbled about getting the tent down). It was a lovely trip.