What a very pleasant surprise is in store for weary walkers reaching Moretonhampstead's Sparrowhawk Backpackers at the end of a day's trekking or cycling. A perfect place to take off your rucksack and restore your equilibrium.
The courtyard at the rear of the house has a distinct French outdoor life feel to it as a chicken busies herself amongst the tomato plants and Alison Longley the owner makes a fuss of a black cat. I've been itching to take a look into this hostel and when Alison rang to ask if I could make a slight adjustment to her mention on my website,
I suggested I come over, there and then; so within 15 minutes of her ringing I was walking in at a side entry through wooden gates into this wonderfully sunny yard with pots plants all around, a washing line with pegs above and outdoor seating with yellow umbrella just waiting for walkers to start chatting maps over mugs of reviving tea.
Alison takes me through to the communal kitchen and the French feel continues. A cool low ceiling room with big slate flagstones, ample table space for everyone, a collection of maps, tea bags and coffee making on a share shelf,
a no nonsense sink and drainer, fridge, cooker and galvanised dustbin (above). This is a green policy home where Alison encourages recycling. Note the lighting bulbs above. She has an allotment over the road, and solar panels
can be seen on the roof, helping her to heat water for up to 14 guests in the dormitory, and a further 3 or 4 in a family in house bedroom with a double and single bed at the front of her house. See below.
There are 2 basic washing areas, both with shower and toilet and again a solid sink in this one below.
Guests are welcome to carry out washing here and as mentioned there are washing lines and pegs at hand.
Prices for an overnight stay in the bunkhouse are £16 for adults and £8 for children under the age of 14, kids under 5 are not charged. The family room rate is £36 for two adutls plus £8 child up to 14 + £16 for additional sharing adults.
The local Co-op is about 200 yards away in the heart of town, for basic provisions such as milk, eggs and such. Moreton has 3 or 4 tearooms, a fish and chip shop, 3 pubs, the closest of which is the Union Inn, which serves home cooking with man sized portions, and the smarter White Hart Hotel.
The town has an outdoor swimming pool in Summer. And all of this on a bus route to Exeter and Plymouth. This is a very relaxed sort of place. Alison herself has a teenager son, she knows all about youngsters away from home and I know that I would be happy for any young members of my family to stay here. Likewise, for families looking for a budget holiday on Dartmoor where they can meet new faces, possible penpals, this is a great place.
Alison was keen for me to see one of the flags that she has hanging at the front of the house that she made for an arty weekend earlier in the year. She even got a ladder out to unfurl the flag that had wrapped itself around it's pole. It shows her phoenix looking emblem and snores coming from the bunk beds beneath stars and a crescent moon.
I know that cyclists covering the Lands End to John O Groats route often stay here on night 2 of their journey north. I can just imagine them all tucked up in the bunkbeds in the dorm after a day's hard pedalling, "Good Night John Boy !", "Goodnight Jason", Goodnight Dan", "GO TO SLEEP, we've got to get up early tomorrow and it's your turn to wash the dishes!" before lights out.
My criteria for recommending any accommodation to you is - would I stay here myself ? and I must be honest with you, now that I own a bus pass and I'm used to my own en-suite bath room, it wouldn't be my choice for a week's holiday, but if I were part of a walking group on an organised trip, then yes I would most likely love it. Clean bedding are supplied in the price, and Alison offers a chance for those on a budget to enjoy Dartmoor. Bless her for that!
Take a look at the Sparrowhawk Backpackers website