CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Head for the lakes: Boats, barbies & a breath of fresh air...

PUBLISHED: 15:32 30 June 2014

A campervan camp at the lakeside

A campervan camp at the lakeside

Archant

Local writer, author and ‘campervan cook’ MARTIN DOREY heads off in search of summer fun (and a little solitude) by taking the kids on 
an active weekend at one of Devon’s best kept secrets

Photos by Martin

Andy does his best to make it look easyAndy does his best to make it look easy

Camping can often provide you with little gifts. These are the precious moments, the unforgettable times that would have been impossible any other way.

Waking up at Roadford Lake near Okehampton was one such gift I shall cherish from the summer of 2013. I slipped out of my sleeping bag, slid open the campervan door and strolled quietly away from our campsite through thick, dew filled grass.

In a few yards I was at the lakeside, overlooking 700 acres of the calmest water I have ever seen. The sun had just risen and the heat of the day had yet to pierce the dawn. A light mist hung above the water as midges swarmed in the early sun. Swallows in search of breakfast darted into them.

I knew it wouldn’t stay this way for long so I lingered to enjoy the silence. In a few hours the kids would be up and on the water, screaming with delight at their inability to keep a sailing boat upright. It would be a different place altogether. But for now, it was just mine to share with the early birds.

Daniel gets a lesson in marshmallowsDaniel gets a lesson in marshmallows

Roadford Lake is one of the South West Lakes Trust’s three locations in Devon where it is possible to stay overnight, whether under canvas or in a camper. As they are off the beaten track they are great places to get away from the crowds and the coast when it all gets a bit too, well, coast-like.

These are also the locations where the trust operates their ‘Outdoor and Active’ centres, so, for people with hyper kids they are perfect for weekend getaways. You can hire kayaks, sailing dinghies and windsurfers, take a taster course in sailing or paddling or even scare yourself silly on a high ropes course. Finally, if you stay overnight or get up early, you can enjoy some precious moments of tranquillity by the water.

In my experience of camping at Tamar Lakes and at Roadford the routine is the same: the days are sun splashed and water soaked and the nights are as peaceful as they are long. Once the activity centres pack up, the day visitors leave and the café serves its last cream tea, you get the place almost to yourself.

It was the same on the weekend last summer when I had woken at dawn. We had met up with friends, found a suitable pitch for all of us, set up camp and cooked a huge paella over our fire pit. As the evening wore on and the sun went down it became clear that, save for the odd hooting of an owl, we were the only ones making much of a sound.

"We laughed all the way across the lake and back before realising that we had forgotten how to get the boat to stop at the landing stage"

The night was still, the skies clear and the woods surrounding the campsite virtually silent. If my memory serves me right the stars may have also twinkled. And of course, the kids toasted marshmallows over the fire. What camping trip would be complete without that? When you go, don’t forget them!

The following morning we had organised a sailing ‘experience’ with one of the instructors from the Outdoor and Active centre. After a quick briefing and tour of the boats and their rigging, we set sail in a chaotic flotilla of four boats.

Thankfully, hot summer days are often still so we weren’t troubled by much of a breeze. Even so, we skipped across the lake with the safety boat in hot pursuit (ahem) until we reached the centre of the lake. There we learnt some sailing basics, including how to capsize. That was the most fun and brought shrieks of delight from even the smallest kids.

As soon as they realised that capsizing wasn’t an awful experience they did their best to make it happen as much as they could. No one minded because that was why we were there – to learn. The games raised our water confidence.

We enjoyed it so much that I took to the water again with my eldest later that afternoon to perfect our gybe and capsizing technique. We laughed all the way across the lake and back before realising that we had forgotten how to get the boat to stop at the landing stage. We made a very undignified dismount.

No matter, it was another of those precious moments. And we’ll definitely be back for more.

Why not take to the lakes this summer…?

Upper Tamar Lake, near Bradworthy, North Devon

It’s a delightful spot that’s hidden away in the hills of those 100 or so square miles of nothing between Bideford and Bude. The camping field has great views over the lake and they have recently installed camping pods for the ‘never say never’ campers who need more luxury. There are showers, toilets and recycling facilities.

Telephone: 01288 321712

Roadford Lake, near Okehampton, Devon

Get the right spot and you could be camping right next to the lake. It’s a great place to wake. Facilities include modern showers, wash-up area, washing machine and drier, waste disposal and recycling facilities and a new undercover barbecue area. There are ten electric hook-ups and nine hard standing pitches. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead.

Telephone: 01409 211507

Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor

Another quiet spot in the middle of nowhere. Well, Exmoor. Facilities include showers, wash up, disposal and recycling facilities, electric hook-ups and hard standing pitches. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead.

Telephone: 01398 371460

There’s more to it than that…

The South West Lakes Trust’s Outdoor and Active centres cater for all kinds of people and offer a lot more than just sailing. At some of the lakes, which are located throughout Devon and Cornwall, you can try wakeboarding, fishing, climbing and even WOW balls, which are like hamster wheels.

If you have a team that needs building, a Hen who needs dunking or a Stag who needs cooling off, the Outdoor and Active centres can organise bespoke events and days out for virtually any size of group. So if you fancy building a raft with Mike from accounts, go for it. Just not on the days when I’m capsizing, okay?

More details on all the lakes at swlakestrust.org.uk

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Away from the hustle of places like Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, North Devon is peppered with tiny coves, empty beaches and wooded walks leading to secluded bays that feel a million miles away from the tourist trail. BECKY DICKINSON reveals her pick of the best kept secrets on the North Devon coast

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

As part of her regular series where she visits Devon’s best places for 24 hours, Lydia Tewkesbury has this time been to Sidmouth

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ranging from rocky and windy walkways along the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches on the picturesque coastline, the district of North Devon is one of the prettiest coastal areas in the South West of England. In no particular order, here are 10 of the prettiest villages in the district of North Devon

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In Devon’s towns and cities there’s an awful lot you can do in just 24 hours. For her regular feature, Lydia Tewkesbury travels to see what you can do in a day in Kingsbridge

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dust off your walking shoes and head to South Devon – here are 6 reasons why the area is so good for a stroll writes Victoria Rogers

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

There is something quite life-enriching about being by the water and in Devon there are plenty of ways to enjoy it, writes Fran McElhone. Including surfing, wild swimming, water skiing and more, here are 10 great ways to enjoy Devon’s water

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Encompassing large swathes of Dartmoor and plenty of the county’s most distinctive sections of coastline, it’s no wonder that the South Hams district is home to some of Devon’s prettiest places. We pick out 10 of the best towns and villages the area has to offer

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Devon is as beautiful underwater as it is above. Chrissy Harris highlights the best places to discover our county’s hidden depths… Here are 6 great places for crabbing, rockpooling and diving

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search