If you’re seeking countryside, the quiet, the expanse, it’s a good start when your destination’s arrival instructions tell you “the road is marked unpassable for cars, but it’s fine if you go slowly” (and it was). This was the beginning of our week staying in a barn in ‘the last valley in Devon’.
Perhaps it was revisiting my favourite novel, Lord of the Rings, while staying there that made the notion of ‘the last valley’ so evocative. In the book, the elvish dwelling Rivendell is both the last and the first homely house – it’s all a question of direction. Travelling towards or returning from adventure. For us, this wonderfully welcoming barn was both the perfect launch place for outdoor explorations, and the ideal retreat from the rain. It enabled us to answer the sea’s siren call as often as we could. Our closest beach, described as ‘pristine’, we found to be wonderfully wild. Nearby Hartland Quay, Tintagel and Boscastle were particular highlights too.
Before going to Devon we’d both separately been thinking about whether holidays really should be ‘escapes’ from daily life. This was, perhaps, good preparation for the fact that life encroached more on this holiday than any other. We both had some responsibilities that needed some time while there, and neither of us anticipated the hours we spent glued to the news following the announcement that 52% of voters opted for the UK to leave the European Union.
All this got me thinking though the dichotomy we create between work and play, between ‘real’ life and holiday escape. I heard a radio interview with Juliana Buhring a while ago about her decision to cycle around the world after the death of her partner and how being on a bike ditches the ‘white noise’ of life. I’ve been pondering what constitutes ‘white noise’ for us. And if things really are ‘white noise’, then why are we letting them be part of our lives, demanding our time and perhaps our money? There are certainly circumstances that are outside our control, but sometimes I think we attribute this status to tasks, situations, issues that are within our influence. If we recognise we have a degree of autonomy over them, we can make decisions as to whether they remain part of the fabric of our lives, or whether we will cut them loose.
We haven’t figured out the implications of all this pondering. We may yet find ourselves looking longingly at our next holiday, and lamenting that this one wasn’t entirely dedicated to adventure and rest together. What I do know though is, you can’t leave the world behind you, even in the last valley in Devon. And perhaps you shouldn’t try to.
Today’s soundtrack: Spotify playlist // The Far-North Folk