A life less complicated

Having reached a crossroads in my life I am choosing to step off the treadmill that is my busy life and take time out to travel.  On October 5th 2017 I set off with my Springer Poppy in our motorhome (subsequently swapped for a caravan) ‘freedombird’ initially to explore the remote beauty of the UK and then – well let’s see……

As the thaw began, we moved on to Exebridge…

A very chilly start to today, but not much more snow during the night, so as the sun peered over the hillside, the snow began to thaw. Some spectacular icicles formed on the caravan overnight!

However, after checking the weather, traffic report and with Exebridge Lakeside CAMC site, we decided to move on. This was my first attempt at hitching up single handed, so I was pleased that there was no one else about, especially after spending about 10 minutes trying to get the motormover to move the caravan and was just about to concede and ask for help when I realised I’d left the handbrake on!!!!!

Without further ado, I’m pleased to say, we were soon on our way – arriving mid afternoon at Exebridge, having had an easy journey in the sunshine.

So another first achieved! Almost feeling like an accomplished caravanner now!

The site at Exebridge is lovely, sat in a valley alongside the river Exe, with views all around – after setting up we took the time to sit outside, with a well earned cup of tea, to watch the sun go down.

Two thoughts of the day:

Now I know that I can hitch and unhitch single handedly, I’m quite happy for anyone to help in future – just putting that out there!

In all the excitement of today, I have totally forgotten to eat! Am sure going to make up for that now!

Another Arctic dream…..

Another whiteout welcomed us this morning, it really is quite magical (even if you have something to do) don’t you think?

Poppydog enjoyed a lovely frolick in the fresh snow this morning, scampering around in some mission or another!

We were due to move on today, however as the temperature seemed to plummet mid morning and the snow started again in earnest, after a call to Exebridge Lakeside Club Site, where they were also experiencing a considerable snowfall, we decided to stay put!

A lazy day, reading for me and snow gazing for Poppydog, in the warmth, followed.

Later we braved the heavy snow for Poppydog’s afternoon walk and enjoyed making fresh footsteps in the snow, whilst trying not to look too much like a snowman!

Two thoughts of the day:

Next door are travelling with a monstrous, fluffy, Siamese cat! What’s to say?

Snow plays havoc with the TV reception here and I was looking forward to the return of the Durrells and Good Karma Hotel – perfect snowy Sunday evening viewing!

Poppydog’s favourite walk – Braunton Burrows…

It certainly has gone cold again – not quite freezing, but that chilly easterly wind more than makes up for that and there is even a little flurry of snow in the air! I thought Poppydog could do with a good bit of ‘off roading’ today, so we headed for Braunton Burrows, which is the one place where I know she can be free.

As the area was military free, instead of sticking to the main route through to the beach, we meandered about through the dunes and it was lovely to just watch Poppydog racing about, never going too far and bobbing up every now and then to check on me!

We did eventually make our way onto the deserted beach, but that came with a stiff breeze, so after a check on the sea state, we soon headed back to the shelter of the dunes.

On the way back, we didn’t exactly get lost, but it took us considerably longer than I planned as we found ourselves in the middle of the Burrows, which is clearly used for driving exercises, with tracks going off in all directions, up and down some very steep dunes! Poppydog was in her element and will definitely sleep well tonight! As indeed will I!

Two thoughts of the day:

I wonder if we will get the snowfall forecast for tonight? Could make moving on tomorrow a bit awkward!

Found some new wellies- let’s see how long they last!

From Woody Bay to Lee Bay….

It rained again! all through yesterday evening and most of the night, however the good news is that it had stopped again by the morning – this kind of pattern I can cope with! We headed out today to visit the last bit of coastline in this section of our journey and parked up in the NT car park above Woody Bay.

We met the end of the old carriageway built by the Victorian’s leading to the Hunters Inn, that we walked along previously and as the ground is very wet and muddy, opted to follow the road (barely a road, single track all the way, if you are thinking!) along the side of the hill, down to Lee Bay,

In amongst the trees, with the sea gently crashing below, birdsong in the air, made for a very pleasant walk- the only slight niggle was the fact that it was mostly downhill all the way – which only means one thing!

With glimpses through the trees, we saw the Duty Point Tower, a folly perched high up above Lee Bay.

And the rather majestic looking Lee Abbey, home now to a Christian Community, offering all sorts of ‘showing you the error of your ways’ and ‘finding Jesus’ type holidays and retreats (doing rather well out of it by the looks of the upkeep of the place!).

Before we finally descended down into Lee Bay, a very quiet and tranquil beach, more pebbly than sandy (grey) – if I am to be honest, though it was very nice to have the beach to ourselves today, I’m not sure I would be quite so keen when surrounded by holidaying ‘Christian’s’ and ‘Retreaters’!

Anyhow, there were enough stones on the beach to keep Poppydog amused, whilst I relaxed for a while, trying not to think about the climb back up! At the top of the beach, in what looked like an old wall attached to an old lime kiln (of which we have seen many dotted along the coast), were a new set of wooden doors, with a ‘Beach Chapel’ plaque alongside, being curious, I tried the doors and guess what?

Although clearly very old, it looked very well kept and certainly in current use – not sure whether that would have been its original use?

As predicted the walk back was long and quite hard going, but punctuated with plenty of opportunities to admire the view, catching the odd glimpse of Wales, a little chunk of rainbow and to marvel over the constantly changing hues of the sea and sky, we made it!

Two thoughts of the day:

Is it just me that feels vaguely threatened when faced with a whole area and lifestyle dedicated to believing? Why can’t we just get on with it quietly?

Am feeling rather chuffed that we have an almost continuous bright yellow (highlighter) line along this whole section of the North Devon coastline!

Tea and cake at Arlington Court……

I think it pretty much rained throughout the night, but by 7 this morning, at last it had stopped! Though not promising to be a fab day, it at least stayed dry for us to enjoy a day out courtesy of our National Trust membership at Arlington Court.

Though not the most architecturally beautiful of buildings, the grounds were pretty impressive and extensive (some 2700 acres with 20 miles of footpath) and incredibly peaceful, most of the time just the twittering of the birds and occasionally the gurgle of running water for company – just how we like it. We happily wandered around the wooded footpaths, which surprisingly weren’t that muddy, barely seeing another soul.

I loved the monkey puzzle tree avenue, leading down to the old lake.

From there we followed the trail through Deer Park Wood, but alas didn’t see any deer – probably heard us coming! Though we happened upon this random obelisk on our travels.

As the circular route came to an end, we ventured in to the old stable block, which now houses the Carriage Museum, with some 40 carriages on display.

My personal favourite was the little carriage, designed to be pulled by a Newfoundland dog – Poppydog was not keen on the dog and gave it a seriously wide berth!

We continued past the estate church of St James and round the formal Victorian gardens, though it is too early in the year to fully appreciate these.

Back to the Old Kitchen Tearoom for a lovely slice of Victoria sponge and a pot of tea – perfect!

A very enjoyable day. In another few weeks time, the grounds will be covered in bluebells and many of the rhododendrons in full bloom – so well worth a visit then.

Two thoughts of the day:

National Trust membership is well worth the spend – I think I have already covered the annual subscription in car parking alone!

You could spend a small fortune in the NT shops very easily, I saw a beautiful cushion which would go perfectly in the van, though I would need a matching pair of course – but at £35 a pop – I gave it a miss!

Should we start building an ark?……

What a complete wash out of a day, it literally has rained all day, not torrential rain that is dramatic to watch and experience, or mizzly rain that is just a bit irritating when you realise that you are actually wet, but that doesn’t really stop you doing anything, just persistent, wet rain that even a duck or highly excitable Springer would rather watch from the inside!

So we took the opportunity to embark on some serious planning for our Welsh adventure, which starts from Tredegar House on 29th April.

What we have been trying to work out, is where we can hide during the school holidays?

  • Ideally somewhere that has plenty of dog walks from the site
  • possibly too much to ask for but a dog friendly beach within walking distance?
  • somewhere that doesn’t really cater for families, as Poppydog tends to get a bit hysterical at the sound of children playing
  • somewhere that has loos and showers
  • oh yes and somewhere in mid Wales as that is roughly where we will be!

That is our simple and short shopping list – now I must get on!

Two thoughts of the day:

We must well be in credit for a decent summer?

For some reason the rain plays havoc with the TV reception?

What a lovely day out at Lynton and Lynmouth….

A lovely, mostly sunny day dawned, so we set off for Lynton, on a day out we had really been looking forward to!

With some rather spectacular buildings and twisty, windy little streets, there was much to gaze at and wander around in Lynton. The Town Hall and this cute little cinema to point out a few.

We wandered up through the trees to the top of Hollerday Hill, which sits up above Lynton and were spoilt by a beautiful peace and tranquility, on this calm sunny day and some stunning views.

With a glimpse of Wales, just apparent beneath a layer of cloud.

We then meandered down through Lynton, taking in the little shopping streets, with some very nice gift shops (sheepskin, wool and leather feature highly), in between little cafes and art galleries,

before wending our way down the steep hairpin bends to Lynmouth.

Past the entrance to the Glen Lyn Gorge (another day maybe), through the little arcade of shops, pick up a pasty and along the sea front to the beach.

It was lovely, sunny and surprisingly warm, so a good place to sit awhile and enjoy being, whilst keeping Poppydog amused by throwing stones! The beach is grey from the surrounding slate and really more pebbly than sandy.

As we walked back along the promenade, the first glimpse of the famous Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway which was opened in 1890 and is the tallest and steepest totally water powered railway in the world!

Indeed this was our chosen form of transport back up the hill! Wow and what a journey! It was £2.90 single (£3.90 return) and £1 for Poppydog, but the kindly stationmaster let Poppydog travel for free (as she is so small!) and gave her a doggy biscuit too! We stood outside the carriage and….

That will take some beating!

Back up in Lynton, we hunted down the Convent of the silent order of the St Clares, as it featured in a Whodunnit weekend, I attended with friends 20 odd years ago and I was just curious!

What a lovely day!

Two thoughts of the day:

Oh look High Street banking!

Is this Spring?

Flowerpot men of Berrynarbor….

Bit of a damp and mizzly morning and then things started to get better – not full on sunshine you will appreciate, but dry and mild, so we paid a visit to Berrynarbor. A pretty little village, nestling in and up the Sterridge Valley.

It proudly boasts of being ‘Best kept village of the year’ quite a few times during the 80’s and 90’s (does this competition still run?) and still feels very neat and tidy with all properties freshly painted.

The parish church with its weathervane if a fox (of which I have a vague memory of seeing before it was put on the church!) looms high overlooking much of the village.

Though some of the higher houses look down the valley towards the sea, we had to leave the village behind to get these sea glimpses, towards Combe Martin and Little Hangman.

The village is served by a well stocked community shop and post office, with a small free car park and though well worth a visit, would not cope with any serious volume of traffic, as all the lanes in, out and around are single track and we witnessed the school run!

What made our visit was the presence of all these lovely flowerpot men, all depicting different trades – what a fab and unique idea?

Two thoughts of the day:

I wonder what other village eccentricities we will encounter on our journey?

I am always so chuffed with myself when I happen upon little gems like this – I feel a book or at least a separate page on this blog coming on!

At last a little bit of sunshine…..

We managed a dry walk first thing, but then the rain came and it rained and rained the morning away. However by about two o’ clock, it dried up and a weak sun made enough effort for us to be encouraged to seize the moment and dash off to Woolacombe to make the most of it!

We weren’t alone in grabbing the chance, but as we have found before, most people tend to gravitate around the car park end at Putsborough or to the village end at Woolacombe, so parking along Marine Drive and joining the beach towards the middle is a pretty good strategy!

Poppydog happily ran up and down the beach, chasing a ball (with another one in her mouth!), whilst I ambled along behind.

Two thoughts of the day:

What a funny nation we are, I popped into Tesco’s today (the third time this week!) and the shelves are still nearly all bare! How can the country closing down for three days due to the weather the week before last have such a long lasting impact?

Really fancied having roast chicken for dinner tomorrow, but no fresh poultry available, so roast beef ready meal it is!

Westcountry Caravan and Motorhome Show at Exeter……

Well it was forecast to rain all day, so why not? I was quite excited at the prospect of wandering around the show, mainly to look at all the gizmos and gadgets, oh yes and maybe a small awning, and definitely some new wellies!

Poppydog was soon settled in the boot of the car, strangely she seems to be able to work out when we are on a long haul and only barks when the car slows down!

Anyhow we arrived, paid our £7.50 entrance fee and even though it was raining, wandered around the outside exhibits, mostly caravans (got one), motorhomes (had one) and campervans (still too small – but very trendy!) to give Poppydog a walk before going inside.

What a disappointment! Just more caravans (got one), motor…..you get the picture! No ‘must have’ gadgets or ‘I want one’ gizmos – the only things not falling into the above categories were a stall selling BBQ bags and beach bags, someone selling micro fleece towels (got them and they are great by the way) and a couple of stalls selling ‘wonder socks and gloves’ to cure all manner of aches and pains! The only awnings on display, were the ‘drive off ‘ kind, designed for campervans. So in other words nothing of any interest to me or Poppydog, so we wandered around another three times to get our monies worth and drove home!

Two thoughts of the day:

I’ve obviously been to too many county and agricultural shows in the past and assumed that these events would be the same!

I really do think it is time that it stopped raining ☔️