Just a few hours ago I've arrived home (in Aber) from the Hikers' weekend away in Exmoor. We went off on Friday night and it took ages to get there because after crawling through Aber's rush hour, which was intensified by the rain, we drove for a couple of hours in the minibus until the battery just...died. So we had to wait about an hour before a mechanic arrived to rewire the thing. Until we got confirmation that a mechanic was on his way and despite the heaps of food being carried along the passengers joked about being abandoned where we were (a quiet road in the village of Talgerth) and picking the first victim of cannabalism.
So we arrived at our place of stay, Mullacott Farm, sometime after midnight. Mullacott Farm is a real farm but it also offers 3 'methods' of stay: the camping field, the camping barn and a bed & breakfast. That's right, we were in the barn. The showers and toilets were in a separate building, but the barn itself had several sleeping areas and a dining area as well as a kitchen. The kitchen was well equipped with heaps of cutlery and crockery. The dining room had 2 tables of 8 chairs plus the games Monopoly, Jenga, Scrabble and a pack of cards...I think (I couldn't tell if he was joking when he said the cards were his-I'm referring to our Health & Safety officer btw). As for the sleeping areas: all of them had these thin, basic mattresses designed for durability. There were 6 bunks (I slept on the top), 6 'compartments' where animals used to be kept behind walls but there are now 2 beds, but the very first sleeping area we saw was a set up of about 7 mattresses all in a row. It was named 'the orgy room' and Jamie (the previous Treasurer) had it all to himself. Just as well really, since he snores. Now notice we had to provide out own 'bedlinen'. Translation: we slept in sleeping bags. I already had one supplied from home (thanks Mum!) and this was the first time in more than a decade I have slept in a sleeping bag.
There was something very clever in the barn: the guests are forced to pay for heat and electricity (or just electricity since that powered the heaters) by themselves by inserting pound coins into a slot meter. They were used up a lot more quickly at night since all the lights were switched on. Whenever the meter ran out everything would shut off-shrouding the barn in pitch black. So Caroline-this year's Treasurer-had to be given a torch so she could find her way to the club stash of pound coins and put in some more. Food wise, an absolute feast was provided. At the end of the weekend there were apples, half packet of rice, coffee, hot chocolate, tea bags, ham, cheese, cereal, squash and butter (and chocolate) left over. What they should have done, however, was only provide white bread instead of bringing half each-or only 1 loaf of brown bread, 'cos I used up the last 2 slices of white bread this morning for toast so everyone else either only had cereal or braved brown toast. Saturday night's dinner was chili and rice, with caked rolls as pudding. It was fantastic. Lucy and Pete cooked chili and rice in separate big pots and once dinner was announced ready people started queing up with plates like beggars at a soup kitchen. There was more rice left over than the chili.
Saturday night I ended up playing a lot of drinking games (they weren't played properly because not everyone was drinking out of cups so we sipped instead of downed). I played Cheat and one of the stipulations (not everyone complied) was drinking Dan's alcoholic drink: I can't remember the name but he called it "the nasty stuff". (That's right, I drank it; it smelled like varnish and tasted worse than medicine.) Then we played other various games like 21 and G'Day Bruce. What I realised while playing is that even though drinking games are not at all wise or logical, they're a good way to bond a group. How mystifying.
What I haven't said yet is that the group numbered no more than 13, which was good 'cos it meant I learned people's names.
Hikewise, on Saturday we hiked through the various meadows, fighting against the very annoying force of nature known as wind. We witnessed a hunting party, although it wasn't very spectacular 'cos all we saw was a parade of racing dogs, followed by a galloping horserider, followed by another galloping horserider, chased far behind by another group of galloping horseriders. About an hour or so after lunch we reached a road and Ben (the Health & Safety guy, not my friend from Luxemburg) decided that since the scenery wasn't going to change (it honestly was quite boring: fields of brown and yellow and something in between) we should go to Lynmouth. There the majority of the party split up into continuing hikers (just me and 2 guys), people getting cream teas and girls going to the fudge shop. Dan described the whole group in general as "a bunch of wusses".
So he, I and Alan (who ended up with the map) walked along the sea coast up to Castle Rock. The view here was stunning: I've always loved looking down cliffs into the sea. There was less wind in Lynmouth, so it was a bit warmer than in Exmoor. It was good 'cos us 3 went pretty quickly and traded stories as we walked along. When we got to Castle Rock (where there was non-stop strong wind!)...well, it's a pile of giant, stable rocks. We clambered about on them while Alan took pictures of the scenery and us. We also got down in time to buy Cream Teas of our own^^. This morning we did an easy coastal hike somewhere in Ilfracombe and had lunch in the nearest pub. Most of us took the roast dinner^^.
You'll find that all of this was in North Devon, where funnily enough, my Aunt Uda lives. Because of this, my family used to go to Devon every summer to visit, but several years ago we stopped doing that. So since I'd been to Lynmouth before, I had many resurfacing memories of my childhood: playing on the mini golf course, eating fish and chips, the sun in general (all with my family of course), playing in the playground with my brother...