After two hours of driving and another crawling dutifully past Stonehenge, we pulled the campervan onto a verge strewn with red campions and peeling foxgloves. The night had already cast its shadow and the stars smouldered above us, skies unpolluted by the glow of cities and headlights. We had escaped to Dartmoor. Behind us lay the downs of Hampshire and that background turbulence that exists when you live too close to London. Now we stood alone in the dark, cloaked in the sweet aroma of gorse.
At dawn we awoke to a herd of Friesians peering through the mist; we attempted to befriend them but alas, they were apathetic. Verdant meadows were sprinkled with bluebells clinging onto spring, and as we sipped coffee the fog lifted to reveal acres of moorland quivering with life. A short walk led us to a cluster of stonechats and yellowhammers in the thicket, and two buzzards swept silently across the beech canopies below. The woods of northern Dartmoor are filled with crumbled footpaths and tootling streams, and we soon became delightfully lost.
By the evening we found ourselves drawn to the coast, and drove to Hope Cove near Salcombe. Beneath the scream of swifts we nestled into the sand with a glass of sparkles and watched the sun sink into the ocean, globules of seaweed around our toes and a pied wagtail lingering around hoping for one of our crisps. The next morning we awoke before the parking restrictions were enforced and jumped into the salty sea. It was really cold.
On Sunday we meandered back to the moors and spent the afternoon eating rocket lollies and reading novels on the banks of Burrator Reservoir. After stumbling upon a gang of chocolate Dartmoor ponies, the camper was chugged to the hilltop for our final night’s snooze. We brewed another coffee and wrapped ourselves in duvet to gaze at the landscape below. Around us lay dark swathes of heathland beneath a violet sky, and as the stars returned we listened to the kewick of a lone tawny owl, searching for her mate across the desolate moor.