Social Media Editor Matt Westcott and his family enjoy a caravanning holiday in the Devon Countryside with the Caravan and Motorhome Club

The Northern Echo:

ON a hill overlooking the pretty harbour town of Brixham sits Hillhead.

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A large, but carefully laid out campsite, operated by the Caravan and Motorhome Club, its entrance is a welcome sight.

Having set off from Teesside almost before the sun decided to show its face above the horizon, our arrival coincided with that Devon favourite, afternoon tea.

With Bristol having been reached in good order, it took almost the same length of time to do the remainder of the journey to the south coast.

It would have long enough for just me and my other half, but throw in three children and you can understand why something stronger than a cup of tea and a cream scone was in order.

The smile from the reception staff seemed to suggest they felt my pain.

Check-in was cordial and casual, our hosts exuding an air of friendliness. Their fondness for the site and desire for us to enjoy ourselves, obvious.

Unlike the majority of people, we didn’t bring a caravan with us. Instead our mobile home-from-home was permanently sited at the facility.

The five-minute drive to the pitch – at the obligatory speed limit, we were warned children could appear without warning around any corner – gave us the opportunity to indulge in a spot of caravan and motorhome envy.

Every conceivable type was present, from tiny two-berths to ones capable of accommodating extended families. Those that were not deemed large enough had awnings attached.

It was clear these people were not casual campers.

While Hillhead was busy and most of the spots were occupied, the site did not appear cramped. Far from it, there was plenty of space between neighbours and in some cases carefully manicured hedges to provide privacy.

Our pitch was located in the far corner of the site, affording the children plenty of space to run around.

A quick run through of the caravan’s facilities and we were left to our own devices.

The beauty of bringing your home with you is that you can pack pretty much anything and everything you want. We, on the other hand, had the extent of our Land Rover’s boot and that was it. Not that it was unsubstantial but it didn’t enable us to bring the kind of paraphernalia clearly important to those we were sharing the site with.

Chairs, picnic tables, shoe tidies, clothes driers and proper barbecues – not the disposable cardboard ones we had to make do with – were removed, Russian Doll-like from within and erected.

Everything went up first time, too. No one was missing parts or scrambling around for instruction booklets. ‘Faffing around’ is not a phrase in these people’s vocabulary.

Within a day or so I was giving a passing impression of competence. Waste water was dumped and replenished – the latter becoming a daily chore for Boy No3 – rubbish was routinely recycled and even emptying the toilet was completed with relative decorum.

At this point I should perhaps mention that, prior to achieving the required level of knowledge needed to do the latter operation, there had been an unsavoury incident during which the unit exploded all over the site handyman who had been called in to help remove the portable waste unit from its housing when it refused to budge. But I like to gloss over that.

The weather while we were there was mixed, but in the main the worst of what it had to offer took place overnight, including one almighty thunderstorm, the effects of which were no doubt exacerbated by the fact that caravans are not the most soundproofed of structures.

What this meant though was that we were not confined to barracks very often – a good thing given that our three boys do not exactly get on well when in very close proximity for extended periods of time.

While we liked to get out and about, and there are a great many beautiful places within a short drive of Hillhead, including Brixham, Dartmouth and Paignton, you could – and there were some who did – remain on site for the duration.

There’s an open air swimming pool, suitable for both children and adults, a handy shop and a bar and restaurant with entertainment of an evening.

In addition, there’s an adventure playground, a large field for football and so forth, and a fenced off area for dog owners.

Everywhere is spick and span, and while it’s largely self-policing, with the vast majority of holidaymakers a proud bunch, staff can be regularly seen going around emptying bins and cutting grass, for example.

All too soon it was time for us to hand back our key and hit the road for the long journey back north, but the memory of Hillhead, its location and its lovely staff, will live long in the memory.