Out of the Valley – a small cabin on the edge of Dartmoor, near Clifford Bridge and within walking distance of Drewsteignton. We stayed for three nights in early September leaving Cornwall on the busiest day of the year, yet avoiding the A30 queues by taking the Atlantic Highway and then crossing Bodmin Moor.
I’d love to track the growing levels of joy I’ve experienced in the hours we’ve been at the cabin.
We arrived in the middle of nowhere and were welcomed by Lilly who sent us ambling across the meadow, grasses high on either side of the path. The rain was steady but gentle, and seemed to add to the calm of the scene, muting the rustle of wind in the trees and the chirping of the hundreds of birds that darted from branch to branch.
I’d urge any visitor to the cabin to go in, make tea and absorb the space for awhile before lugging in your belongings. Seeing it at its best will, I believe, help you strive for the tidiness that’ll help the cabin work its calm on you.
It was chilly and so I lit the fire for some quick warmth that the cabin would then retain through the evening and into the night, I put the kettle on the gas, and within 15 minutes of arriving I felt the first waves of delight.
With everything packed tidily, and the temperature perfect, we had our first luxurious snooze, wrapped in the white linen on the soft mattress, as Polly lay guarding us outside on the deck.
The beautifully made cabin is a project of Rupert McKelvie, a place where you can stay while dreaming of your own similar space that Rupert will build for you. The oak framed building is roofed with black corrugated tin and inside finished in a mix of stained and bare ash and oak with wonderful attention to detail. The scorched oak outside means that it blends in perfectly, and from across the river you’d only spot it if you knew exactly where to look.
Time slipped by and soon we needed to head off for our table that we’d fortunately booked last week at The Horse in Moretonhamptead. Our planned walk back didn’t happen. The little lanes are straightforward but the 4 miles felt long, and so Minty had to forgo the appropriately named Legend Dartmoor Ale.
Occasionally you come across a pub that truly gets it right. The Horse is certainly one of those gems. Great beer, happy young staff who are on the case, and the most important bit – stunning food. Everything we had was exceptional. Chargrilled octopus, focaccia, a venison ragu with homemade pasta and the best pizza we’ve had in a very long time.
The drive home added to the atmosphere. Tiny lanes across a short stretch of moorland, but otherwise through dense foggy woods, with the cabin eventually emerging through the mist. We sat enjoying whiskey on the deck as the last colour, then the last light drained from the sky. An Ansel Adams scene with the trees dark against the white summer grasses of the meadow.
Sunday morning. My (nominated) birthday. I wander outside early, still naked, into the light drizzle for a pee in the hedge, and feel a calm that I don’t remember experiencing for a long time. I open a couple of appropriate presents in bed, the beautiful new Cornish produced magazine Elementum (think Kinfolk, but less twee, with even more beautiful photographs and in English English), and a fabulous American book called Cabin Porn. And then as I sat drinking coffee and typing these first few words on the deck Minty cooked our first delicious breakfast – bacon and fried egg in a toasted bagel. To complete the scene – Lucinda Williams on the Bluetooth speaker.
I can’t pretend I’m not worried by being cut off from both phone and internet, and I’ll soon have to drive somewhere for signal, but right now words fail to describe the bliss.
Without being noticed, time has slipped by, it is now early afternoon. I have sat still and done nothing specific. I’ve drank coffee, ate a lovely breakfast, read from magazine and book, but mainly I have gazed across the meadow, taking in the young berried rowans, and the more mature oaks, the stand of birch, and, on the other side of the river, the woods that blend, slightly out of focus, into tonal shades, with their own accompaniment of tree and river music.
I can’t remember the last time I did so little over a whole morning. And I can’t remember being happier.
Not long after I mentioned that we had hardly spoken in hours, I read in a story from Elementum of the inner silence that descended on a walker following the Camino de Santiago. I’m not ready for that yet, but the quiet here definitely has a positive effect, the mental clutter that stops me thinking straight seems to be falling away.
Eventually we roused ourselves and walked the south bank of the River Teign as far as Fingle Bridge, several kilometres without passing a single soul. Polly, our poodle/collie cross swam at every opportunity, looking from us to the inviting pools as if to ask permission, then throwing herself from the bank in joy.
There’s a good lake for human swimming beyond the bridge, but we didn’t venture there this time. Instead we switched sides and followed the Hunter’s Path up to Castle Drogo’s grounds, and then around to Drewsteignton for a much enjoyed pint of Otter in the Drewe Arms.
After a superb birthday supper we sat in the falling light for another hour or so on the deck drinking wine by the light of the storm lantern and considering the lessons the cabin was teaching us about what we have, and the much smaller amount that we need. It has been on our minds a lot of late, and already Archavon, our home, is being pared of its clutter, and it feels better for it too.
It’s the second morning now and I’m back out on the inviting deck, drinking more coffee and enjoying the aeronautic feats of a flock of 60 or so swifts taking their breakfast on the wing. We spend a long while enjoying the view across meadows and trees from bed, and now we’re absorbing the detail of the same scene from outdoors.
Our three night stay has been an ideal first Out of the Valley experience, and I hope it’ll lead to many more, ideally taking a short retreat here to experience the scene through each of the seasons.
I reckon the cabin is a similar size to Archavon Studio, around 25 square meters, and that has me working out whether it could work as a full time living space. With a mezzanine bed deck it’d have room for the comfortable seating that it lacks, it might need a lean to style addition at the back to create a walk in store/wardrobe, and we’d need a separate bike and tool store, but with those few additions I believe we could live a comfortable, efficient life, and still have room to receive and accommodate (good) friends. As with so many off grid projects there’s an irony in the distance you’re forced to drive to get any supplies, but that brings with it the beauty of seclusion and the luxury of dark skies at night.
Out of the Valley isn’t for everyone, but if you know your life could benefit from having the brakes applied, and you know you’ll enjoy a simple off grid existence, even if only for a few days, then this is a great place to try, and better still, it’s en route to The Cornish Way.
Out of the Valley – 07919 048 254 outofthevalley.co.uk
Elementum – elementumjournal.com
Cabin Porn – cabinporn.com