This time we were packing up with a difference. It was not straight to another house sit it was to my brother and sister-in-law, Jon and Julie’s, beautiful cottage in Devon. About 4 years ago they went on holiday in their motorhome for a year around Europe and when they got back they sold up in Kent and moved to Devon to enjoy the beach and adventurous outdoor lifestyle they love. Our visit coincided with Remembrance Sunday so it was to be a visit of taking time to respect those events long ago, recalling family trips Devon from a relatively more recent time and trying to remember answers for the village quiz night. I hope the little brain cells can cope with all this remembering at one go!
The final leg of our journey to Jon and Julie involved catching the small two coach train along the Tarka Line – the 39 mile stretch track through beautiful scenery between Exeter and Barnstaple. Sometimes it feels like a painfully slow way to travel but is a real step back in time and we love it. We have the luxury of very rarely being in a hurry so it suits our pace perfectly.
Eighteen months had passed since our last visit and in that time the house had received it’s three finishing coats and the garden had been transformed. It even has a she-shed, perfect to head get comfy on the sofa with a book and watch the sun set. The birds have been encouraged to visit the garden and there are plenty of them. Perhaps the most surprising are two striking pheasants. The older one who has been almost resident for 2 years is Pedro and he now has a protege/sidekick called Pierre. They are tame enough to be hand fed and most mornings they can be seen with their entourage of hens prancing around the adjacent fields.
A Day Trip Down Memory Lane
Having spent many weekends down in this part of the world with our family, mostly for our Dad to take part in motorbike trials events but also a few family holidays, it is a familiar part of the world to us. So after a breakfast treat of cloud eggs, Jon and Julie suggested a drive to the Valley of the Rocks which is near Lynton.
It is a rocky valley that runs down to the sea and feels a bit “other worldly” and is known for it’s feral goats roaming around. As a child it felt like we were in Nepal, the peaks definitely felt like they towered above us so much higher.
It gets very busy in the summer, especially the little tea shop which does a good trade in Devon Cream Teas but today we virtually had it to ourselves and had a walk along the cliff edge before heading to Lynton to seek a cafe. Once again there are memories a plenty, the Castle Hotel which when we stayed was a bit like Fawlty Towers, although not funny! That hotel is now apartments. We also walked down to the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway. For those of you who don’t know, Lynton sits at the top of the cliff and Lynmouth 700 feet below at the bottom (at the mouth of the river Lyn). Opening in 1890, the cliff railway is a water powered funicular railway originally used to transport goods arriving by sea to be lifted to Lynton and conversely down to Lynmouth if arriving by land. It is now just for tourists. As children, we used to race down the path that criss-crosses the track over a series of bridges. Not sure we ever managed to win but at least we survived the hair-brain idea.
Time for refreshment, our eye was caught by an entrance porch which had hundreds of luggage labels attached to it. All of the labels had people’s wishes on them. It was a lovely idea and very decorative and it certainly encouraged us in to the quirky Charlie Friday’s Coffee Shop. The cake, coffee and hot chocolate was great and I dived into the colouring books, board games and knitting. What a great place but shame they had run out of labels to leave a wish. Next time!
We took a scenic drive home along the coast toll road past Lee Abbey (now a Christian retreat), Lee Bay, Coombe Martin and Watermouth Bay. Brother Jon also gave us a run down of the chimneys of Devon. He is a part time Chimney Sweep (JDavis Chimney Sweeping) and passionate about his work. We try and hold back from the stereotypical jokes but don’t always succeed.
A Super 8 Film Evening
The “memory lane” theme continued the next day. After taking part in an event at Ilfracombe in the morning (A Peace of History) and a visit to the Puttesborough Cafe followed by a blustery but lovely walk along the sands, Jon and Julie dug out the family cine films, projector and screen.
Our parents were early advocates of cine film and all through the 50s, 60s and 70s took film on family holidays. There is something so evocative about setting up the projector and screen and wait in anticipation as the black and white blobs turn into actual pictures. There is also something really great about there being no sound. It allows the chitter chatter of memories being discussed alongside the film. Lots of laughs and sentimental moments later, we came across a film of our family camping a Ruda Camp Site – this is just down the road from Jon and Julie’s cottage. Jon is 9 years younger than me so he was still a twinkle in the eye but how strange that we were so near. It looked very basic compared to the holiday park that is now but it was the mid 1960s. We spent a good two or three hours watching these and relabeling faded writing. Thanks must go to Julie and my Jonno for sharing our family archive so patiently.
Pages of the Sea – Saunton Sands
The Sunday of our visit was a very special Remembrance Sunday – marking 100 years since the Armistice of WWI. Various events were taking place across Europe. Proudly our son and daughter-in-law, Shaun and Katie, had made the trek across to Ypres, Belgium to pay their respects at the Menin Gate, a memorial to the missing of of WWI who have no graves. Jonno’s grandfather, Richard, was in the cavalry and survived the battles at both the Somme and Passendale. Richard’s brother, Frederick, Jonno’s great Uncle was also in the battle of the Somme in a different regiment and did not survive. He is buried in one of the many Commonwealth Cemeteries.
For us in Devon, we decided to head to Saunton Sands which was chosen as one of the 31 nationwide beach locations to host a portrait in the sand of a WWI casualty. Pages of The Sea was inspired by the film maker Danny Boyle. The idea being that a team of volunteers marked out and raked the sand into a picture of Captain Ralph George Griffiths Cumine-Robson who died in December 1914 aged 23. As the tide came in later that day, the face would be washed away. Some of Jon and Julie’s friends and Julie’s parents, Brenda and David, joined us but was only possible to get a good overall view from higher up the cliff so we hiked up the footpath to the front of the Saunton Sands Hotel. It was worth the walk and Captain Ralph became much clearer.
It was a very symbolic art work and gave the public the opportunity to take part and write their messages on large numbers 1 0 0. Rakes and stencils were also available to complete individual 6 ft soldiers in the sand.
A Georgeham Pub Crawl
Lots of jokes had been made about heading home to revise for the pub quiz in he evening at The Rock. We love a quiz and it has been ages since we have taken part in one so were well up for it. To help the brain power a slap up roast at the King’s Arms was devoured first before heading all of 100 metres to The Rock.
Our team name was No F in Chance and Jon and Julie, Jonno and Jo, Andy and Claire, Heather and Jason all paid our £1 entry. Maximum team numbers were 8 but we had another two on the sidelines, Verity and Wayne, but allegedly they had a chicken in the oven. It was a strange quiz in that the quizmaster reeled off about 30 questions without stopping. No categories or rounds so concentration was needed and just for those odd moments (of which there were none) there was a marathon of about 25 questions. Half way through each team was served a platter of roast potatoes, roast pork, vegetable wellington and gravy. Considering we had double roasted, we felt we had done quite well but came 4th overall. I think one more question and we would have made 3rd. Book us in for next year – we will do some revision and be back!
From Dorset to Somerset
After four great days it was time to move on but only across a couple of counties to Somerset. We had been made so welcome by Jon, Julie and their friends and seem to have done so much in such a short time yet still had time to relax and chat. A much needed lift to the station from Julie, and Jonno had 15 minutes to shop in Sports Direct and look at our favourite brand Karrimor. We have a plan to downsize to two backpacks and a small case. It will make travel much easier and if we can do it now in the winter the summer will be a breeze.
So £50 later we now have a much larger backpack for Jonno, I will inherit his old one (Karrimor of course) and say goodbye to my excuse for a backpack which I bought in Australia 3 years ago. I hate getting rid of things before they fall apart especially as it has travelled so many miles on my back so I may just stash it in the storage shoe box until I can get some therapy about my attachment disorder………
8/11 – 12/11/2018