Wimbleball Lake is approximately 1½ hours drive from Clevedon and it is nestled in the hills of Exmoor National Park. The Lake is a fresh water supply reservoir and has a Lakeside Walk of 14.5km/9 miles. It has been awarded the Green Tourism Gold Award and Exmoor National Park is also a designated Dark Skies reserve.
Wimbleball was a new venue for this family camping weekend in June. It started with the arrival of 19 adults, 17 children and one dog, pitching tents, discovering missing tent poles, choosing level pitches for camper vans and pitches next to friends, children exploring the play areas and preparing for their first paddle on the Lake. Luke Hoather – Centre Manager Wimbleball Lake – welcomed us to the Exmoor National Park and Gary Neath followed up with a safety briefing and advice.
Our first experience of unloading the van and reacquainting everyone with their chosen boat and fitted safety equipment began, before a short warm up session. On this Saturday morning paddle, we met some challenging conditions with gusting winds creating choppy water. There was lots of enthusiasm and we saw some very good paddling as we set out from the Pontoon, crossing at the shortest route and heading for Lyddons Ground, anticipating shelter from the wind. As some of the group tired, plans were changed (too windy for our intended ball games) tow ropes were deployed for some and we returned to shore.
The youngest paddlers were keen to explore and visit the play area, whilst others wanted to get back on the Lake to paddle further afield. Some club members changed to sea and touring kayaks and we headed east towards the Dam, crossing to an inlet heading North towards Upton. We spotted a kingfisher and enjoyed the scenery dotted with twisted, petrified tree stumps and wild mint growing all along the shore. One experienced paddler gave us a great display of their excellent rolling skills and tricks in his play boat – no pictures – I was so busy watching I forgot to get the camera out! On the return route we landed near the Dam to take a closer look. It was constructed in the 1970s and is a concrete buttress construction standing 161 feet/49 metres high.
On Saturday evening we lit a giant, charcoal barbeque (courtesy of Wimbleball) for everyone to cook their own food, and fired up Gary’s mesmerising log firepit. Younger club members huddled around the firepit toasting marshmallows and educating us in the art of making S’mores (soft toasted marshmallows sandwiched in between two biscuits – a recipe for the more formally designated “some mores” appeared in Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts in 1927). Note: When the digestive biscuits run out then jaffa cakes will do! Adults and children circulated between the gazebo, the barbeque and the firepit all enjoying the flames, the warmth and each others’ company. So much so that children were still playing by torchlight in the park at midnight.
It was an early start on Sunday morning for the majority, tempted by the promise of a cooked breakfast at The Duck Cafe. A group of the younger children chose to stay on site to join in a Scavenger Hunt and bash a Pinyata (which proved too strong for the foam bats but surrendered up its sweets when some of the youngsters sat on it!).
Quite a few paddlers were keen to try out a sea kayak for the first time on Sunday morning. The skies were brighter but there was still a persistent wind, so we set off hugging the shore line from the pontoon and heading west towards Bessom Bridge, where Gary spotted a photo opportunity. Despite windy and choppy conditions crossing by the Hurscombe Nature Reserve towards the Bird Hide and the far shore, we saw some excellent paddling skills from all ages. We crossed again to return on the same shoreline, to avoid the worst of the wind. On landing for a short rest and a snack, some of the teenagers couldn’t resist playing in the water and the shoreline weed and they were straight back in the water again, jumping off the pontoon at the end of the trip.
With everyone’s help, boats and equipment were loaded into the van for the last time. A few people wanted one last opportunity to paddle down to the Dam, before finally packing up. Phil kindly retired to the cafe to wait with the van for their return. So as the sun finally came out and the wind dropped, a small group of women paddled down to the Dam to admire this impressive structure from the lake. A fitting end to the weekend.
Thanks to everyone who came along and made this such an enjoyable weekend.