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Hole Station Campsite, Highampton, Beaworthy, Devon
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Hole Station Campsite, Highampton, Beaworthy, DevonMario loved life at Hole Station. Not only did he make lots of new friends every day; he'd left his previous life of heavy toil in Romania well behind. His English became superb, too, which was no minor feat for a horse.

Mario was the first four-legged fellow to earn his keep by taking Hole Station campers for pony-and-trap rides through the nearby lanes of Highampton Ridge, with its views of Dartmoor on one side and Exmoor (on the other). He learnt to trot, walk, stop, turn, and reverse by voice command, pricking his ears back to hear what owner Liz wanted him to do. When Mario first arrived, Liz had to learn the commands in Romanian before gradually exchanging them for English, so Mario became bilingual - as well as an excellent carthorse.

Since Mario retired, his neighbour, Sanne, has taken up the reigns, and along with Doris, two affable goats, and a couple of dogs and cats, forms part of the scenery at this very special campsite, situated on the land of a former railway station in a sparsely populated part of Devon. Opening its gates to campers as recently as 2009, Hole Station has already become a firm favourite among the camping fraternity, which is hardly surprising given its secluded woodland pitches, canipfire encouragement, and natural beauty.

Whether you bring your own tent or opt for a pre-erected Rent-A-Tent here, you're going to love your pitch. There are just 19 of them, each bearing a number and spread about the place in woodland clearings or in the neighbouring Culm meadow. Woodland pitches offer privacy within a magical tree-tilled setting, while the meadow pitches are a short stroll from the facilities and enjoy the heaven-scent smells from flowers growing all around them.

Hole Station Campsite, Highampton, Beaworthy, Devon

Greg and Liz eventually bought Hole Station after keeping their eyes on the property for years. They live in what was the old ticket office while their kids are residents of a renovated old railway carriage (think Annie and Clarabel-style from Tliomas The Tank Engine) next door. Together they are slowly bringing the wood back to its former forest glory by coppicing and pollarding, which they do in the winter after the last of the season's campers have packed up and gone home.

The cut-down wood is used to create wildlife habitats and fuel for campfires. So feel a little smug, as you sit mesmerised by the licking flames of your tire at night, that you're forming a symbiotic relationship with the trees all around you. In fact, the clearing you're pitched in is helping to shed more life-giving light on the young oaks nearby, enabling them to have a kick-start at growing into huge, majestic trees likely to outlive us for centuries to come.

Hole Station Campsite, Highampton, Beaworthy, Devon

It's not just the canipfire culture, perfect pitches, and woodland restoration that Liz, Greg, and family have got right at Hole Station, though.The loos are ot the compost variety and all rubbish (including food waste) is recycled or turned into compost wherever possible in order to give something back to this lovely corner of England. It's quiet time after l(lpm;you can help yourself to free-range eggs, leaving money in an honesty box; and there's a signed Woodland Walk on which you half expect to encounter a fairy or two before reaching (handily labelled) The End - a top spot for watching the sun go down, especially if you take a bottle along with you.

So Hole Station has earned itself a huge Cool Camping endorsement, and if that's not enough for you to book a pitch here, surely the testament of a happy couple of horses is.

Hole Station Campsite, Highampton, Beaworthy, Devon

COOL FACTOR Camping in magical woodland clearings or a meadow, with campfires and pony-and-trap rides. WHO'S IN? Tents - yes. Campervans, caravans, dogs, groups, radios, TVs, musical instruments - no.

ON SITE Campfires permitted! Sign up for yours and a kit (consisting of logs chopped by hand on site, kindling, and firelighters) will be ready daily for you to collect from the entrance before evening - if you've remembered to sign your name on the sheet. Hole Station has 19 pitches - 4 of which are pre-erected Rent-A-Tents for hire - most of which are situated within a clearing in the woodland, while the remainder reside in the Culm meadow near the facilities block. Park your vehicle in the car park and transport your gear to your pitch using one of the borrowable barrows. The wooden facilities block has just 2 compost loos - one for men and one for ladies - 2 basins, and 2 hot electric showers. Just outside are 2 washing-up sinks under shelter - hot water available - and a freezer with cool blocks to borrow. It's all kept clean, but can get very busy in the mornings and evenings. There's plenty to do on site: the Woodland Walk, pony courses, pony-and-trap rides. Quiet time from 10pm.

OFF SITE Dartmoor is just a 20-minute drive away, and the beaches of Bude and Widemouth are a 35-/40-minute drive in the opposite direction, so there are plenty of outdoor options. If anyone fancies honing his or her Robin Hood skills there's an archery centre just down the road: Arms of Old (01409 231171; www.armsofold.co.uk). Or Dragon Archery (08000 372466; www.dragonarcherycentre.co.uk), further afield, has exciting courses - come and have a go at the Agincourt course if you and your bow are up to it.

FOOD AND DRINK The Bickford Arms (01409 221318; www.bickfordarms.co.uk) 4 miles away in Brandis Corner uses fresh local ingredients to produce mouth-watering meals. Or you can opt to do all your cooking altento, having stocked up at Farmer Luxtons farm shop (01837 54308) in Stockley (near Okehampton). Its award-winning meat is just waiting to be slapped on the BBQ. The old railway line that once ran through these parts (stopping at the station, of course) is now a cycle track - follow it on foot or by bike towards Highampton and after 20 minutes or so you'll emerge just down the lane from local pub the Golden Inn (01409 231200). This is a cosy place with a wood-burning stove and copper kettles in the large old fireplace, and offers hearty dishes such as Boozey Pie on its menu.

Hole Station Campsite, Highampton, Beaworthy, Devon

GETTING THERE Take the A30 to Okehampton. In the town centre turn right (signposted Hatherleigh) when you reach the White Hart hotel. Continue along this road towards Hatherleigh then take the first exit (signposted Highampton and Holsworthy) when you reach the roundabout at Hatherleigh. Go through Highampton village, past the Golden Inn and post office, and after 1 mile turn left (signposted footpath and cycle track) opposite the turn off to Black Torrington. Follow the lane down and the white gateway to Hole Station is on the right.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT The nearest train station is Okehampton - take a taxi on to the site.

OPEN April-October.

THE DAMAGE A pitch (bring your own tent) plus 2 adults £ 12—£ 14 (depending on season) per night. Rent-A-Tent for 2 adults Ј21-Ј27.

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