Last September I did a 4 day trip on the bus and on foot (see here and here) as some of you may remember - I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do it again and to that end had been spending many happy hours recently planning another similar trip. Is it a mistake to try and recreate something which gave pleasure the first time I wondered? Could I possibly be as lucky with the weather a second time? Might I regret trying to do it all again somewhere else? These were the thoughts which went through my head as I set off last week on my BBB trip mark II. At least I knew what to pack this time!
I went to Exeter by train using my Senior Railcard as although I could have done it by bus it would have been a long and complicated journey and taken up most of one of my precious days. So I decided to commence using buses and walking from Exeter. I sat back on the train and enjoyed watching the beautiful scenery as we made our way west noticing the creamy flowers of the elder bushes and the delicate pale pink dog roses along the way. Everywhere is so green this year after the wet and chilly spring; the sunshine and warmth which followed, even though only for a while, ensured that the plants rapidly made up for lost time. The may blossom is now a little rusty looking as are the candles on the horse chestnut trees and the bluebells have disappeared but they have been replaced by dog roses and honeysuckle, by foxgloves and what I know as moon daisies and so many different shades of green I doubt we have the vocabulary with which to describe them all. Sadly the sunshine hasn't stayed with us and the day of my departure was cloudy though not cold and the forecast was for showery weather with occasional bursts of sunshine. I love the scenery along this route through the beautiful countryside of the Somerset/Devon borders and on into East Devon. Soon the River Axe became apparent as it wound its tortuous way through the greenery heading to the coast where I would meet up with it again later in the week.
I got off the train and made my way to the city centre through the Northernhay Gardens. These are apparently the oldest open public space in the UK and were originally laid out in 1612. The red stone building you can see in the first photo is Rougemont Castle otherwise known as Exeter Castle which was built into the northern corner of the original city walls remains of which can still be seen.
Having walked through the gardens and into the city centre - just a few minutes walk - I set off towards the Quays via the Cathedral Close - according to the signs a 10 minute walk. This is Molls Coffee House one of the most photographed buildings in Exeter and apparently it could not have been serving coffee at the time it was built as coffee didn't come into England till many years later. It also has over a 130 tiny glass panes in those windows - so now you know!
At the Quays, which we had visited a few weeks back on one of the few warm sunny Saturdays we've had when it was packed with people all sitting out in the sunshine and enjoying themselves but which on Tuesday was very quiet, I stopped for a reviving cup of tea before setting off to walk down the canal tow path. I hadn't done my research sufficiently well though when planning my trip as I had originally decided to walk to Topsham along the tow path and to cross the river using the ferry but then discovered that it apparently runs daily except on Tuesdays! So I had needed to alter my plans and cross a little higher upstream using the bridge!
My walk was very pleasant and peaceful the canal silent on my right in spite of the industrial buildings on the other side of it and the occasional train on its way into Exeter to be seen behind them. I walked along between verdant greenery, cow parsley and waving grasses
Peaceful eh? But where is the sunshine? It seems that there was a meeting of weather experts at the Met Office, which is now based in Exeter where it moved from Bracknell in 2003, last week to discuss the causes of our changing weather patterns in recent years - they may well find out the cause but can they do anything to alter it I wonder?! However it was pleasant walking along and maybe better that it wasn't too hot since I had my backpack to carry.
Eventually I reached the bridge which took me across the river and on to the main road where after a few minutes walk I waited for a bus which took me to....
...the little lane leading to A la Ronde which is a National Trust property a friend had told me she was sure I'd enjoy visiting. This property was featured on Friday evening's programme Britain's Secret Homes.
It is indeed a quirky and unusual place both in its design, its history and the thousands of things which decorate the inside. I enjoyed a sandwich lunch in the little tea room situated in the old kitchen sitting next to an old range which reminded me of my grandfather's house before wandering round and looking at it all. You really have to see it for yourself it is so unusual it's difficult to describe.
On a clear day the view from the house would be stunning and before the houses in between were built even better. That is the Exe estuary you can see in the distance. Having finished here I walked back down the lane to the main road where I got a bus to Exmouth and almost immediately the next bus to Budleigh Salterton where I was booked into a B&B for the night. The bus didn't actually go into the town centre but stopped at the end of the main street and I didn't realise till too late that I'd overshot my destination and was now headed towards Otterton! Since I had Otterton on my list of places to visit - although I had intended walking there - I wasn't too worried and got off there instead. It is a pretty little place with lots of whitewashed thatched cottages and loads of lovely roses everywhere. I went to Otterton Mill where I had a cup of tea and sat outside in the little courtyard enjoying the peace and quiet.
This is the little food shop on site which sells quality locally produced goods - pity I couldn't carry anything!
The mill which is used to grind flour which you can buy - again no good to me of course but nonetheless interesting to see and the smell of the freshly ground flour too was lovely. There is also a craft shop selling locally produced high quality things.
Here is the bridge over the River Otter. I had just an hour till the next bus which would take me back to Budleigh Salterton so just enough time for my cup of tea and a wander round before waiting at the bus stop.
This time I got off the bus at the right place and having made enquiries as to where my B&B was I walked towards the sea to while away the hour or so till it would be 6.00 pm and the time I had said I would arrive.
I wandered along the South West Coast path enjoying the lovely views especially as by now the sun had come out.
Looking back to where I had come from down there on the beach. I gather that if I had walked a little further I would have reached a viewpoint at West Down Beacon but I didn't have time to go further and anyway by then I was getting tired and hot.
So I turned back having enjoyed my hour of lovely peaceful walking in the sunshine with the fabulous views between the trees.
My Band B was situated in a cul de sac at the end of which a footpath led to the SW Coast path so it was ideally placed. By the time I rang the bell I was hot and tired and the cup of tea and slice of cake I was offered were more than welcome and after that I was able to take a lovely bath which was perhaps even more welcome! Feeling more human again after my bath and a rest I went out for something to eat and had my dinner in a lovely little bistro not far from my B&B where I enjoyed a vegetarian tagine with cous cous and salad followed by a scoop of mango sorbet and a coffee before returning to my home for the next couple of nights where I made myself a hot drink and sat reading some of the numerous magazines filled with articles about the area - I could have had a choice of books from the shelf in my room but I knew I wouldn't be there long enough to finish a whole book and a magazine was enough. I had an early night and slept like a log!
After breakfast in the lovely bright breakfast room - fresh fruit salad, numerous cereals including the whole range of Dorset Cereals, freshly squeezed orange juice, and for those who wished a choice of full English, scrambled egg with smoked salmon, kedgeree, and so on followed by toast (home made bread) and more choices of different preserves than I knew existed and tea or coffee - my normal bowl of porridge or muesli with a glass of orange juice will seem a bit paltry now - I set off to get the bus to Sidmouth. As this would be the only day I could spend without my backpack and wearing lighter shoes I decided that an easy day was called for so off I set for Sidmouth. As the bus wasn't for about an hour I had a wander round Budleigh Salterton in the morning sunshine.
This lovely thatched place in the cottage ornee style is the museum open only in the afternoons so I decided that I'd come back later to see what it contained.
These are the pebbles for which Budleigh is apparently famous. They originated over 400 million years ago in what is now Brittany - it is illegal to remove any of them.
Beach huts along the beach and just look at that sky!
I began to wish I was self catering and could have bought some fish and maybe some of the stuff on offer at the Mill yesterday too!
By now it was time to wend my way round to the bus stop to catch the bus. I didn't take as much notice of what we passed as I might have done as a very nice lady of my sort of age sat next to me and struck up conversation - was I ever lonely? No chance! At Sidmouth we said Goodbye and went our separate ways.
Me to make my way to the beach for a wander.
I finished up in the Connaught Gardens which were lovely and cool too as by now the sun was getting quite hot.
After I had wandered round I set off for the cafe in search of some lunch. I had a table upstairs where there was a cool breeze through the open windows and what views too!
Replete I made my way back to the town ...
... down the steep path ...
past these lovely thatched buildings in the cottage orne style
I waited a while and got the bus back to Budleigh Salterton this time I had no companion and was able to take in the wonderful scenery en route as the bus squeezed through villages, climbed with gears grinding up the hills before plunging headlong into green tunnels formed by the over hanging trees - I was glad I wasn't the one who was driving as the driver manoeuvered past oncoming vehicles in lanes which were never intended for such traffic.
Back in Budleigh I stopped for refreshments before going to the museum - an interesting collection.
And then I decided to wander along to the far end of the beach where the river Otter comes out to the sea and then to walk up the Otter Estuary (part of a walk I had intended to make when I visited Otterton which I now didn't need to do having been there the day before!)
It was beautiful...
I walked up to the bridge which crosses the river before turning back the way I'd come wandering along in the dappled shade back to the mouth of the Otter.
Back in Budleigh Salterton.
Here is the wall which features in the well known painting The Boyhood of Raleigh.
And here is the house in which Millais the painter was staying at the time of painting the picture. I eventually returned to the B&B where yet again I enjoyed a lovely bath, made myself a cup of tea and relaxed on the bed in my PJs for a while before setting off in search of supper. This night I went to the fish and chip shop as recommended to me by my friend on the bus that morning and sure enough it was obviously very popular as the queue snaked back on itself both inside the shop and outside.
The fish was worth the wait though and I took my parcel and a bottle of water to the promenade where I was obviously not the only one with the same idea but there are lots of seats and I sat enjoying my meal under the beady eyes of some seagulls overlooking the sea which was now gradually turning a pearly grey and the sky sugared almond shades.
For dessert I bought an ice cream cone - West country strawberry - and again I ate that overlooking the sea and watching people fishing, some brave few swimming and others lighting a fire for a BBQ. Pure santosha moments!
Slowly and reluctantly I made my way back up the slope to the B&B where I made a cup of coffee and sat thinking about what a wonderful day I had just had. Lucky lucky me.
PS I saw this on the back of a bus in Salisbury some time later and thought I must add it to this post!