For me, North Devon means idleness. On the edge of Exmoor lies the farmhouse rented by my friends Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler, and his girlfriend Victoria. We decided to visit them during a camping tour of the area. Bearing in mind the maxim that house guests, like fish, go off after three days, Cath and I decide to camp near a few miles south of the Idler farmhouse at Cloud Farm, a campsite in the “Doone Valley”, off the coastal road between Lynton and Minehead.
Of all the places we camped that rainy August, Cloud Farm was my favourite, and I will return. Like all good sites, you are encouraged to park away from the tents, only driving down to pitch or pack up. There was a good shop stocked with real ale and a cafe that the locals spoke warmly about. We wandered down to a pair of small fields and pitched beside a river, which was fenced off from our inquiring toddlers. Snug between the flanks of the valley, I set a fire. The last time I saw Tom, he demonstrated his device for checking the moisture level in logs; the Cloud Farm shop sold some wickedly dry wood, and soon I was roasting marshmellows over its uninhibited dancing flames.
I spent most of my twenties working and writing for The Idler. As Deputy Editor, I was part of a trio consisting of Tom, myself and art director and co-founder, Gavin Pretor-Pinney.
Situated in Clerkenwell in the 1990s and the fun bit of the new millennium, we took full advantage of the city. Since those happy carefree days, each of us has sought out an individual vision of the English pastoral: while I beaver away on a book about camping, Tom’s bestseller How To Be Free posits a way of life that draws on medievalism and rural self-sufficiency; Gavin has enjoyed such international success with his Cloudspotting books that I can no longer gaze up at the clouds without thinking of him. My daughter even calls clouds “Gavs”.
At sunset, Cloud Farm staged a spectacular display of Gavs: a low mauve cloudscape gathered underneath a spectrum of purples enlivened with a streak of red. Purple is the colour of inbetween, the veil between reality and imagination, day and night. For a moment, I was transported out of my immediate responsibilities, that carousel of Dad Tasks, and experienced a sense of well-being that lasted until the sun went down; the silent knowing wisdom of idleness about which we had spent our hectic twenties extolling, but rarely experiencing.
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Oare, Lynton, EX35 6NU
01598 741 234