I drive down to Dartmoor and drift down memory lane…
My hangover from the last night’s session stayed with me for the majority of the journey down to Dartmoor.
Much like my drive down to Devon, I elected to avoid the motorway and settled for the quieter A roads that wind through the bucolic landscape. For not the first time in my retirement I reflected on what my life would have been like if I had grown up in the countryside – would my love of the outdoors have kept me there? Would I have still gone to university? Would I have entered the same career? With no job or pressing engagements I had plenty of time to explore these thoughts in my head whilst my destination crept ever closer to me.
I passed through humble hamlets and picturesque villages, as I did the landscape began to change from soft, agricultural pastures to harder, more rugged climes. The high thicket hedges soon gave way to more sporadic hedgerows, until they disappeared altogether and were replaced with arresting heather-flecked vistas. As I entered Dartmoor proper, I found myself drifting further back in my memories, to the last time that I’d enjoyed landscapes such as these.
I was 17-years old when my thirst for adventure took me away for the first time. I’d heard about other boys my age hitching lifts over to Germany and from there drifting down to Africa, picking up work along the way. I had no idea how they did it, or what they did for money, all I knew was that I wanted to the same thing. Although I succeeded in leaving my little village, I didn’t manage to escape the country altogether. I hitchhiked aimlessly for a couple of days, staying with rather confused elderly people and the occasional family until I found myself drifting into the north of Wales. I made a decision to stop at the first place that I liked the look of: Gorse Hill Caravan and Lodge Park, to this day it’s still one of my favourite things to do in North Wales.
Although I’m aware that the current incarnation of Gorse Hill is an impressive modern complex (that now has static caravans for sale) back then it was a much more quaint affair. I was dropped off there by a well-meaning local who perhaps saw me as a young man in need of a direction. I was introduced to the manager there of the time and soon found myself (somewhat surprisingly) in gainful employment. My mornings were spent showing new guests to their caravans, whilst the well-trodden paths of the stunning surrounding landscape were at my disposal for the afternoons – I’d not seen such sights until I arrived in Dartmoor.
By the time I arrived in Princetown I found that my hangover had lifted. Being the middle of the week the place was quiet (I had been told that it was a veritable hive of activity during the weekend), I parked up and reflected on my journey south. Although it had taken nearly two hours, it felt like it had gone by in a flash, just like the years that had preceded it.