National Trust opens new riverside campsite in the heart of Exmoor

(Image credit: National Trust)

As walkers and campers prepare to return to the country’s National Parks after an enforced period of absence caused by the Covid19 pamde,oc, the National Trust in North Devon has this week opened the gates of its newest acquisition: a riverside campsite in the heart of Exmoor National Park called Cloud Farm.

Purchased by the Trust just before the UK went into lockdown, and extensively rejuvenated in the intervening months, Cloud Farm is picturesque spot perched on the banks of babbling Badgworthy Water, a river that flows through legendary Lorna Doone Valley, the setting for RD Blackmore’s famous 19th century novel Lorna Doone: A Romance Of Exmoor.

With overseas holidays largely put on ice for the rest of the year, Britain’s outdoor spaces are set to see more domestic travellers than ever, but Cloud Farm is tucked away in a quiet and little-explored corner of Exmoor, which is certain to retain a true sense of wilderness.

The site, which sits right on the Somerset/Devon border, is surrounded by walking trails and bridleways, leading to the Exmoor Coast and the South West Coast Path in one direction, and up onto the rugged tor-topped moor in the other. The riverside paths and ancient woodlands of Watersmeet are within walking distance, as is Foreland Point. Reaching the summit of Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on the moor, promises to be another popular adventure from the site.

Cloud Farm as viewed from County Gate.

Cloud Farm as viewed from County Gate. (Image credit: National Trust)

“The massive importance of outdoor areas has been really highlighted by the extraordinary situation we have experienced over the last few months,” says Rob Joules, National Trust General Manager for North Devon. “We are very much looking forward to welcoming walkers, mountain bikers and families to come and camp in this very special place, and to enjoy the serenity, trails, wildlife and wide-open spaces that surround it.” 

There are plenty of basic camping spots, plus 10 electric hook-ups and space for campervans and caravans available at the site, which has a full suite of newly renovated facilities, including showers, a laundry and an on-site cafe and tearoom. Money raised through the site’s facilities will fund ongoing conservation work around the historic site, including maintaining trails.

A medieval village, thought to be the inspiration for the Doone clan’s hideaway in RD Blackmore’s popular story, is nearby. And it’s a short trip to the Holnicote estate in Somerset, where the National Trust recently oversaw a programme of reintroducing beavers to local waterways.

Exmoor was declared Europe’s first ever International Dark Sky Reserve in 2011, thanks to the lack of light pollution, and the quality of the star-gazing from the Cloud Farm site is sensational. During the day visitors can spot other residents of the moor, including Exmoor ponies, peregrine falcons, buzzards and red deer.

Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and Instagram here.