Dinosaur hunting in October

The weather forecast wasn’t looking great, in fact it looked dreadful – 40 mph winds and heavy rain. The perfect weather for an autumn camping trip then.

Typically the sun was shining as we made our way down to the historic Jurassic Coast in Dorset. We were headed for Hook Farm a campsite in Uplyme on the Devon/Dorset border. We arrived to find we had almost the entire campsite to ourselves. Clearly the last week in October was not a popular time to go camping.

Hook Farm Uplyme

Hook Farm Uplyme

Gravel and grass pitches

Gravel and grass pitches

Hook Farm is a medium size site with good facilities – and a lot of rules – no open fires, extra charge for pup tents, charge for showers… Which is not unusual, but you get the idea. The site is beautifully maintained, the facilities clean and the shop well stocked – if you needed milk and er, crisps. To be fair, we did go right at the end of the season, so I expect stock was deliberately low. Low hedges mark out some of the pitches and there are plenty of electic hook ups. There’s a children’s play area which the kids loved and the views across the valley are pretty stunning too, the autumn colours only added depth to an already picturesque scene.

Autumnal views across the valley

Autumnal views across the valley

One of the great things about having a camper van is that your trips are not just restricted to the summer months, another good thing about having a camper is that you’re set up within minutes of arrival. Pop-top up, awning out and you’re good to go. The first thing we did was set off on a scenic river walk to the seaside town of Lyme Regis on the hunt for supplies. That’s the thing about camping, we seem to lurch from one meal to the next, never really knowing were the next lot of food is coming from. Maybe we need to get more organised.

Lyme Regis is a typical Dorset town, lots of fudge and tasteful gift shops. There is an abundance of fish and chips restaurants, delis and cafés in the town. Baguettes from The Good Food café on the high street are well worth a try. Perhaps even more enjoyable when eaten whilst sat on the beach, watching the ocean. conveniently the beach is just a stones throw away from the High Street.

The walk from the campsite to Lyme Regis is 1 1\2 miles long (40 minutes) through wet fields and muddy footpaths along the river. I only wish we’d worn wellies, why did I think light blue Converse were a good idea?!

Beach huts at Lyme Regis

Beach huts at Lyme Regis

Once food and wine (we really should have bought that second bottle) were bought for the evening meal (pasta and sauce, about as adventurous as it gets) we headed back to the van – in the dark. The area is in a designated dark valley and it’s dark – very dark. Did I mention the dark? So, not only were we in totally inappropriate footwear, we could not see – anything. Thank goodness for the torches on our phones. Next time I’d take the head torch, which was sitting along side the wellies back at the van.

Once back at base, bellies were full, the kids had a DVD on and we had a bottle of wine open. It was the calm before the storm. The storm that raged all night and threatened to rip the pop top from the roof – well that may be an exaggeration, but we were working on a contingency plan at 4am. As two of the kids were sleeping in the pop-top, the plan if it got too windy – like 40 mph wasn’t windy enough, was for them to squeeze in with us, while we lowered the roof to protect the pop-top and us from full exposure to the elements. Needless to say we had very little sleep that night, or the night after as the rain lashed down around us once more. The kids however slept like babies, how did they not hear the rain?!

What a view to wake up to

What a view to wake up to

To be honest there was a point, somewhere between 1 and 4 am where we nearly packed up and came home. Inside the van though, we were dry and warm and miraculously the rain began to stop. The children were keen to stay and besides, we hadn’t visited Charmouth yet.

Charmouth beach. The Jurassic Coast

Charmouth beach. The Jurassic Coast

Charmouth beach is great for fossil hunting. The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre is worth a visit if you want to go fossil hunting. The Centre has lots of displays that can help you discover how to find your very own fossils to take home. There are also Guided Fossil Walks throughout the year.

Charmouth beach

Charmouth beach

We also found a fantastic restaurant/cafe in Charmouth, The Bank House, which had an excellent lunch time menu. Delicious homemade food at reasonable prices. I’m so glad we stumbled upon it and would definitely go back.

I’m not sure we’ll get another trip in before spring, although there’ll be lots of opportunities for day trips instead. Besides, I have a mountain of muddy clothes, shoes and a ground sheet to get clean first. I guess the mud will wash away, the memories however, well, they’re here to stay!

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