After all the cities big and small that our European travels have taken us so far, Dan and I were ready to escape to the English countryside in Somerset for a weekend of fresh air, lush green hills, a roaring campfire and a canopy of stars.
We rented a brand-new kitted out Volkswagen Middlesex Maxim camper van for the weekend, bought a little charcoal BBQ, and packed up all of our glamping essentials; duvet comforter, checkered cotton tablecloth, steak knives, and a cocktail shaker. After combing the listings at pitchup.com and coolcamping.co.uk, we picked a campsite just outside of Bruton in the heart of Somerset, Batcombe Vale, a two hour drive west of London.
On Friday I met Dan up near his office in the afternoon and we left the workweek and London in the rearview mirror as we headed west on the M3. Our route took us just outside of Salisbury, past Stonehenge, the most well known pre-historic monument in Europe whose purpose and origins befuddles archeologists. The English Heritage and city planners cleverly oblige you to buying admission tickets though as there is no shoulder to pull off the highway and snap some free pictures!
Just before turning off on the narrow one car width road that would lead us to our little slice of the countryside for the weekend, we stopped at Gilcombe Farms for some farm fresh staples to add to our cooler; a half dozen organic eggs, homemade strawberry preserves, a wedge of creamy Stilton, and a sleeve of digestive biscuits to bookend our campfire s’mores that night. As we began the descent down the vale toward the campground, we were met with an incredible view of deep, verdant green hills and our neighbors for the weekend – a few dozen free ranging cows, happily munching away on the lush hillside vegetation. I suppose California cows aren’t the only happy cows!
After setting up camp and putting out the chairs around the BBQ if was time for a cocktail while we grilled up some sausages and peppers for dinner. Amazing how good a meal cooked over an open fire under a dusky sky and a canopy of stars can taste! After a few rousing games of Uno, it was time to bed down in the camper van under our piles of soft, warm blankets and fall asleep to the calm silence of a country night in our warm cocoon.
Dan and I both slept well over nine hours in our cozy, tranquil metal shell protected from the early spring cold and we awoke more well rested than we had been in months! After a leisurely morning spent reading out under the late morning sun we laced up our hiking boots and walked the three miles into the nearby town of Bruton for lunch and some sightseeing.
On the hill above the town in Abbey Park, stands the National Trust’s Dovecote; a mysterious building whose early origins are believed to have began as part of the town’s Augustinian Abbey before Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and then afterward was used as a prospect tower for the Berkeley Family who had converted the abbey into a mansion. In the 18th century, pigeonholes were put in place for pigeons and doves to nest.
After our long walk back to the campground we were famished so Dan fired up the grill while I readied the fresh English asparagus we had picked up in Bruton along with the caramelized onions and creamy Stilton to top our steak with. A first class dinner with a first class English countryside view. And the cherry on top for dessert? A delicious, sticky oozing marshmallow mess of a s’more slow cooked to light brown perfection over the BBQ.
After dinner, we walked up to the top of the hill that overlooks the campground to catch the sunset. After duck and rolling our way under an electric fence to reach the best view, we joined the grazing cows in the field in bidding good night to the sun slowly dipping below the horizon.
The next morning, we packed up the camper van, said our farewells to the cows, and before returning home to London we headed to nearby Bath for the day!