"Come on Mel!" Mewla called to me.
It was the second day of our holiday. Cathy, Tab, Mewla, I and mine and Mewla's parents were on holiday on Exmoor, for the whole summer holiday, and were staying in the small village of Porlock, at a really posh five star hotel called the Anchor Hotel, which overlooked the large shingle beach.
Across from the beach was the large headland of Bossington Hill, and when the afternoon sun shone on the pinky-purple heather, it looked quite magical.
We had splendid views of this from our hotel suites. Tab and I were sharing a suite, and Cathy and Mewla were sharing one next door. The suites had adjoining doors, so we just wandered in and out of each other's suites whenever we wanted.
Since we had got there, the weather had been nothing but scorching. The sea sparkled a clear green colour, and the whole place had a feel of mystery about it - high, heather covered moors, lush green valleys and babbling streams, pretty sandy beaches, and tiny nestling villages.
On the first day there, once we had checked into the hotel and unpacked, we had gone to the small village of Dunster, and gone round the gardens. It was really spectatular; because of the subtropical climate, lots of tall palm trees and exotic bushes grew there. The four of us aren't usually fans of going round gardens, but there was so much to look at in this one - bridges leading off into lush green foliage, clear deep streams, huge tropical plants, and short green lawns. We had decided to go and look around the castle itself later on in the week.
At breakfast on the second day, Mum and Dad said that we could go off and do what we wanted, so we decided to collect a picnic from the hotel (they provided the most gorgeous picnics for anyone who wanted to go off for the day) and go for a hike along the Doone Valley, which, we had heard, was supposed to be a place of great beauty.
The river that ran through it was called the Barle River, and the valley was not the sort of place where hundreds of hiking tourists went. The place where the path for the Doone Valley started was a tiny village called Malmsmead, and this was where Mum and Dad dropped us off in the car, at about nine o'clock that morning.
They were going on to look round a large castle called Roborough Castle, and they said that they would be back to pick us up at about five o'clock that evening.
"Okay, coming!" I called. I tucked my wallet back into my bag and ran to catch up with the others. We had each bought an ice-cream from the tiny shop by the carpark, as we all felt that we wanted something to cool us down as we walked.
We were dressed in our bikinis, and we each had put a pair of shorts on over our bikini briefs, and we had our comfy suede sandals on our feet. But even with our skimpy clothes on, we were still boiling. We had plenty of bottles of water with us, as we felt sure we would be absolutely parched all day.
About a week before we had left for the holiday, Tab, Mewla, Cathy and I had each taken a lot of money into the nearest city, and had bought ourselves lots of new holiday clothes.
We had each bought bikinis, shorts, skirts, jeans, new shoes, nice evening wear for dinner at the hotel, and lots of accessories, including straw beach bags, big straw hats, and sunglasses. Other things like books to read and batteries for our personal stereos were also necessities.
We set off from the carpark, the sun baking down on us. We were glad of our straw hats and sunglasses. We had all put sun cream on before we left the hotel, but I could still feel my skin burning. According to the weather man, it was the hottest summer for twenty years.
The gravelly area led off to a pleasant woodland track. The mud was baked hard, and the sun shone along the middle part of the path, where the trees did not grow to. Pretty plants grew each side of the track, and butterflies and other insects flew about in front us.
"Hurry up and eat your ice-cream, Tab." I said. "It's melting fast, and every time you move your arm, it flicks onto me."
"Oh, sorry!" giggled Tab. She licked her ice-cream, and it dripped down her chin.
"Tab!" Cathy pretended to be disgusted. She was eating her ice-cream quickly, and had licked it into a neat round shape, with no drips whatsoever. Mewla, however, was getting hers all over her face, and we all giggled as we looked at her.
"What?" she had no idea what sort of a mess she was in.
Some hikers passed us along the path and smiled at us, looking particularly at Mewla, who just smiled back, oblivious. Cathy and I could barely hold back our giggles when they had gone past
"What is your problem?" Mewla asked, when they were out of hearing.
"Mewla, stop a minute." Cathy said. She reached into Mewla's bag and took out her compact mirror, then gave it to the puzzled Mewla. Mewla opened it and shrieked.
"You BEASTS! Why didn't you tell me I had ice-cream all over my face?"
"It's called a practical joke, dear." Cathy said smoothly, taking off her hat for a moment and running her fingers through her hair.
Cathy has this really amazing hair. It's bleached blonde, but it isn't a really bright bleached colour - it's more of a natural, very pale blonde - almost white. It doesn't look tarty on her at all - it looks really classy.
Cathy is lucky because she has something about her - something fresh and stunning, and her hair, which is cut a couple of inches longer than her chin, really suits her. She always dries it upside down with the diffuser on her hairdryer, so it's always thick and full of body and 'oomph', as Tab calls it. It doesn't just hang - it really frames her face.
Mewla usually wears her hair loose, and sometimes curls it, as it's cut into a thick, just-past-the-shoulder-length style, which really suits her.
Tab's hair is long, and a rich coppery brown colour, and when she wears it down, it looks like a copper sheet down her back. It's good because although she has hair that colour, she doesn't have the lily white skin that most redheads have - she has a healthy glow to her skin, and she tans really nicely, like the rest of us.
My hair is long, and a really dark brown colour, and like Mewla, sometimes I curl it and sometimes I leave it straight.
Mewla looked sulky as we walked on, giggling. It is always so much fun when we are together.
After a while, the path ended as it opened out into the valley. The sun was baking down, and as we stepped out from the dappled shade of the path, we felt the baking heat on our bare skin. We could see the Barle River flowing through the valley, about one third of the way across it. The river was only about 15 feet wide, and the sound of the running water sounded refreshing and cooling in the scorching heat.
On the one side of the river, where we were, was a huge area of long, bright green grass, buzzing with insects of all kinds, and on the other side, a large bank, thick with bushes, sloped upward into one side of the valley. The other side of the valley sloped upwards from the area of grass.
Shady trees hung over the water, and on each side of the river were flat, dry soily areas in the dappled shade of the trees, where people could sit and eat their picnics. If you sat there, you could dangle your feet in the cool water, as it lapped onto the soily parts.
The path to the valley ended in the large area of bright grass, and we strolled into it.
"Shall we look for a place to sit and relax?" Cathy asked.
"Yeah, okay." I said. "Looks as if there are plenty of places by the river. It'll be shady and cool under there."
"Cool?" Mewla said. "Even if someone dropped a bucket of ice over me, I don't think I could be cool!"
"No comment." Cathy smirked, then turned away to hide her giggles.
We made our way through the grass to the river, and we made our way down the grassy bank onto the soft, dry soily area, where you could sit.
"Ah, this is perfect." Tab said. She pulled our checkered picnic rug from her straw bag, and she and Mewla began to unfold it and spread it out by the river. It was deliciously cool in the dappled shade of the trees.
"Right then." Mewla sat down on the rug when she and Tab had spread it out on the warm dry soil. "Food time, I believe."
"God, it's only ten o'clock!" I laughed, we sat down. "But still, we may as well have something to eat, I suppose."
Cathy and Tab were in charge of the picnic, and they took the carefully wrapped greaseproof packets out of their straw bags. Tab passed me a packet of extremely delicious-looking sandwiches, and I carefully unwrapped it. The sandwiches were spread thickly with a tasty chicken pate, and I took one from the wrapping and bit into it.
"Mmmm - these are wonderful!" I said. The brown bread was soft and fresh, and the pate tasted just great.
Mewla looked at me, her mouth stuffed full of jammy dodgers.
"How can you lot eat?" Cathy took off her shoes and lay back, putting her feet in the cool water. "It's too hot to move!"
"'Cos we're hungry!" Mewla said. "Here - try a jammy dodger!"
"Ugh! Get it away from me!" Cathy pushed at the biscuit with her slender paw. "I just want to lie here in the shade, cooling my feet in the stream."
Two hours passed. We were quite happy sitting in our cool shady spot. Mewla had been eating most of the time, Tab and I were engraving patterns in the rocks with small sharp stones, and Cathy was just lying down, occasionally fanning herself with her hat.
At about half past twelve, we all sat up, brushed the dust off our shorts and made a unanimous decision to have lunch.