I can recall an Easter break where we stayed in a caravan above Woolacombe Bay, which lies between headlands that jut into the Bristol Channel, a wide expanse of water between Devon to the south and South Wales, which is just too far to be visible in the sea haze. In the early evening I set off to stroll the mile or so to one of the headlands. As the sun sunk towards the South West I was conscious of walking through a land on the edge, for this stretch is moorland, sheep country, tended by a determined shepherd. With the bulk of the tourists having retreated to the holiday camp, leaving the beach empty, I was struck by the great background silence of nature, only punctuated by the occasional squawks of seabirds and the booming gusts of wind from the North West. I find it strange that I can remember a short walk so long ago, but perhaps I was conscious of being in a liminal space, the border between two worlds. It was a time for quiet reflection.
I think it worth adding that the beach has some wonderful rock pools, one large enough for a canoe to be paddled.That made the place memorable.
On another occasion we stayed in a lovely thatched house with a beautiful garden with chickens running free within its bounds. One incident that has stuck in my eldest son's memory is when we were sitting down at our meal when a tiny shrew raced in through the backdoor and out I know not how. This was the only time that I have seen a shrew. I can still remember the lady who owned the property, a real gem of a person, someone who has left a good impression on our memories.
But Devon has wild places. Dartmoor is one. This granite massif with its tors reaches about two thousand feet at its highest and is lonely and dangerous. In the Bronze Age it was an inhabited highland until climate change caused massive peat growth. The result has been the growth of bogs, one of which near the centre is Cranmere Pool, into which the long distance walker John Hillaby once stumbled when disorientated in a mist. He kept his head and managed to extricate himself, wiser and wetter than he was when he went in. A basic rule for Dartmoor is "Stick to the paths!" There are ancient mine shafts whose mouths are partly concealed that are dangerous for the unwary. Dartmoor is a wonderful place great for peaceful walking and enjoying the wild ponies and the small patches of ancient upland oak wood, such as Wistman's wood, but take it seriously.
Exmoor, is not as boggy as Dartmoor and it makes for good peaceful walking, but it is a place where mists can roll in from the sea, so enjoy with care. Exmoor is well-known for wild life, including wild ponies and red deer, along with a rich variety of bird life.