Exmoor National Park in Autumn

Well, we’ve finally done it and left Cornwall! When we decided to settle down in Cornwall for a bit and get some work done, neither of us anticipated we’d be there for six months! Until recently, we hadn’t any idea what we were going to do over winter. We didn’t particularly fancy travelling during winter, but nor did we want to stay in Cornwall for another four months! Luckily, we managed to score a house-sit in a cottage in the Welsh countryside over winter. So, we’re headed to Wales via Exmoor National Park in Devon.

Perhaps the thing that best illustrates our style of travel is our attitude to double-dipping. Despite our mammoth travel to do list for Europe:

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…we quite happily revisit places if we feel we didn’t do them justice the first time around.

Places we’ve double-dipped, to date:

Places we intend to double-dip in the future:

Our last visit to Exmoor left us wondering what the difference is between UK national parks and everywhere else in the UK. Having spent the day plodding through farm-land, we were pretty sure there must be more to Exmoor and resolved to return again one day, having done a bit more research.

Having visited a second time, we still haven’t a clue what distinguishes a UK national park from anywhere else in the UK, but our preparation paid off.

Unfortunately, we ended up arriving in Exmoor after dark — unfortunate because we missed some truly beautiful scenery and because it was absolutely bucketing down and the roads were tiny, windy and unnervingly close to a river that looked like it was thinking about engulfing the road at any minute. Driving a motorhome at night in the rain on unfamiliar tiny, windy roads is… interesting. Despite having smashed our left tail-light earlier in the day due to some reversing in adverse conditions, Mike valiantly delivered us safely to the caravan park.

The next day, as we began our walk we both noted bemusedly that not only were we taking a day off in the middle of a product launch, but we were doing so to stroll through the countryside and woods of Devon using the very iPhone app we were launching to navigate — brilliant.

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These woods put me in mind of The Forbidden Forrest in Harry Potter (I love how frequently the English countryside conjures images in my mind of fictional fantasy lands).

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This is one of the first scenes of many to come in the following weeks that remind me of the landscape paintings of one of my heaviest art-crushes Natasha Newton, who draws her inspiration from the autumnal and winter English landscape.

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We noticed the hills that were covered in shrubs on the unattractive brown side of autumn, were in fact the same we’ve seen blanketing hills in Ireland and Cornwall. I can’t remember the name of the shrub, so here’s a picture from Cornwall:

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When in flower it makes for quite spectacular scenery, so of course now I’d love to do this walk in summer! Given most of our site-seeing involves national parks, we find this happens quite a lot. There’s something special about every season and it always feels like a real treat to see the same place at different times of the year.

After walking on top of some fairly bald hills overlooking run-of-the-mill pastural landscape for a while we began to descend into the woods we’d come to see, hoping for autumn colours. On the way down, we were both thrilled to see a stag — he didn’t stick around long enough for a photo, however.

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We rewarded ourselves after our moderately long but not particularly strenuous walk with a pub meal. I got my carnivore on (something I only get to do when we eat out) and devoured half a gravy-less chicken with chips and limp, overcooked veggies while Mike had the fish and chips. I still enjoyed my roast chook, despite the madness of it being served sans gravy. Aaah, English cuisine… We both went native (or close enough) with our beverage of choice, cider for me and Guinness for Mike — both were excellent.

There have been a hand-full of places that have made me say, “This is one of my favourite places we’ve been to so far”, with this being the latest. Sometimes, I wonder how I’m ever going to be content to settle down anywhere in Australia — I say this of course, as someone who hasn’t actually seen much of Australia! It’s not just the English landscape that I anticipate missing in Australia, though. It’s the stone cottages, the quaint villages, the seasons that bring wild-flowers in spring, autumnal colours in autumn and snow in winter. The romantic in me, wants to live in a stone cottage in the woods and look forward to seasons that mean more than a slight shift in temperature. One of the reasons I yearned to travel was because I felt like I was in Melbourne by default rather than choosing to live there. I guess we’re just going to have travel Australia when we get back and find our home! I really do hope we can find somewhere that captures my imagination like some of the places I’ve discovered over here.

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