Wild Camp: Not so wild at Peppercombe Bothy

Peppercombe Beach from the cliffs

I hesitated as to whether to include this trip in the blog, since it doesn’t fit really with the theme of wild camping, being a bookable National Trust bothy. Nor does it quite reach the definition of hillwalking, since I didn’t climb any hills. It was however a nice little weekend adventure so I thought I would include it anyway.

I booked the bothy for one night just after New Year. This is a National Trust property and if you are interested you can book it here. At the time I was able to book just one night, but it now appears that you need to book a minimum of 3 nights. You can’t park right by the bothy, but you can get fairly close. This means you can take some luxuries with you that would not be possible on a wild camping trip. I chose to take a proper pillow and a double-burner camp stove. This was definitely more luxurious than the standard wild camp!

In case you don’t know what a bothy is, traditionally they are located in remote, mountainous areas and they are left unlocked for people to use for emergency shelter if needed. You can find out more information at the Mountain Bothies Association website. Peppercombe is a similar, simple shelter. However this is bookable, meaning you know it’s going to be just you staying there, and it has running water and a flushing toilet, which is definitely not a feature you see often in other bothies!

I arrived after a long drive, parked and transferred my gear and food to the bothy. Then I set off down the track to Peppercombe beach. It’s a beautiful beach, quite hard to walk to walk on as it has quite large stones. I thought it looked a bit like the surface of the moon. It was very windy, but I enjoyed a walk along the beach and found the waterfall that cascades over the rocks.

After my walk I headed back up to the bothy and set up my bed for the night. I used an Alpkit Hunka XL bivi bag mainly to keep my winter sleeping bag dry. I lit a tilly lamp and a few candles for light, and set about making myself some dinner. I boiled up some potatoes and then fried them with onions, garlic, peppers and duck rillettes. Once it was golden I added a dash of tabasco and tucked in. It was cold (you cannot light a fire in this bothy) so the hot food was very welcome!

As it was so cold I settled into my sleeping bag, and watched a film on my phone as it got dark. Soon my eyelids were getting heavy and I fell fast asleep, sleeping well in my winter sleeping bag as the rain and wind battered the windows outside.

I woke as it got light, and set about making coffee and toast and then packing everything back into the car. It was very muddy around the bothy after all the rain and quite slippery but eventually I got everything into the car. My plan was to drive into Exmoor National Park and explore Heddon valley. I wasn’t planning a big walk, just a nice pleasant hour or two rambling before settling in the pub.

After a longer than expected drive, I arrived at the National Trust car park. I headed off down the valley alongside the river, with the weather threatening to turn.

Once through the woods, the valley really opens up and is quite spectacular. I crossed a bridge over the stream to continue down towards the beach rather than up onto the cliffs on the South West Coast path. The clouds were starting to gather and looked quite foreboding, and I had a feeling I was going to get wet.

It’s only a couple of kilometers down to the beach at Heddon’s mouth. Soon I was there and was struck by how small the beach is. The river was running out to sea over the beach and I enjoyed a few minutes there having a drink and relaxing, despite the stiff wind and gathering clouds.

Soon it began to rain. I decided that I would like to gain some height and see the views from the cliffs, so I backtracked to the bridge and then took the South West Coast Path up onto the cliffs above Highveer point. The path is quite narrow and it was quite windy, so I was grateful for my walking poles to brace myself. It was worth it though, as the views from the cliffs were spectacular in both directions.

By now the rain was coming down harder, and I decided to make my way to The Hunter’s Inn for my lunch. I enjoyed a fantastic meal of fish and chips, washed down with lemonade, before starting the drive home. I didn’t wild camp, I didn’t climb any mountains, I didn’t even walk very far. However this was a nice little adventure that made a dreary weekend in January something to remember. I definitely intend to walk more in this area.

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