By: Blonde Two
The Peppercombe valley is a little gem of a secret, a sharp turn off the A39, a locked gate and then suddenly you are transported to another world, driving down a narrow wooded lane (walking if you prefer) and feeling grateful that you know how to engage four-wheel drive. In truth the lane would have been fine with a lesser vehicle, but the truck and I felt up for an off-road adventure so we pretended that we were on one.
As you head down the valley everything gets even more other-worldly. I could tell by its steepness and wooded sides that I was in North Devon. I counted three other dwellings, all National Trust picture perfect and then, almost without warning, there was no more room to drive and I had to don my rucksack and walk down to the bothy (this felt more fitting than driving).
Peppercombe Bothy appears as you round a corner in a leaf-strewn (on my visit muddy) track. It sits tiny, white and sparkling in a wild garden of its own, but your eyes are drawn to the view beyond because the sea has suddenly made an appearance. On this occasion Storm Doris was just starting to make her presence felt and there were white horses and no view of Lundy, but I am assured that Lundy is usually part of the vista.
Dumping my bag at the front door, I felt compelled first to explore the outside loo. Not because I had need of it but because its reputation precedes it as a ‘loo with a view’. I wasn’t disappointed.
Once I was inside the bothy (entry took me approximately two hours but I will tell you about that another day) I felt immediately at home. Peppercombe Bothy was, in a former life, home to pigs (probably three little ones). Although all bothies are essentially camping with a more solid roof, if I was doing tent comparisons, Peppercombe would be one of those trailer tents with flowered curtains and a table. And indeed, it did have flowered curtains, something of a psychological advantage when you are a lone Blonde in a bothy and definitely too posh for pigs.
Bothies are supposed to be basic but Peppercombe somehow, without including lots of extras, has managed to do what National Trust properties do so well and be just that little bit posher. It had:
two sleeping platforms (each wide enough for two friendly people)
a work surface and a sink
running water (and I don’t mean down the walls)
two folding chairs
a rack, hooks and hangars to dry wet kit
candles in the fireplace (which is really just a candleplace as there is no capacity for an inside fire)
A short list I am sure you will agree, but all a traveller needs for a comfortable and dry night. There were a few bothy type things missing but I was quite pleased about that, they included: damp walls, scary graffiti messages, bags of strange food, ghosts and mice (these last two may be the same thing).
I had quite a long wait before my friend arrived, but I soon settled in, my gas light hanging from a nail in the main beam gave a lovely glow, my sleeping bag looked comfy and boiling water up for a brew had given the illusion of warmth, so I did the only sensible thing a Blonde waiting for a friend could do, I got underneath Big Orange (sleeping bag) sipped my tea and read my book… then, with the stable door still open, dozed very pleasantly off to sleep.
Peppercombe Bothy is one of a few National Trust bothies set in stunning and lonely locations. Bothying is a great tradition, you can read more about the sterling work of the Mountain Bothy Association here. These National Trust bothies are in the same spirit but a bit different because you book your night and have the place to yourself. I can thoroughly recommend Peppercombe, especially for a winter night and am looking forward to trying out some of the others.