Most of my photos look better enlarged - just click on the photo to do this

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Never judge by appearances!

Delicate pale pink blossoms reminescent of diaphanous tea dresses (do such things still exist these days?) or maybe beautiful lingerie adorn a bush at the bottom of our garden......

Their fragility though is not all it seems and far from being ethereal and gentle this plant is a bit of a thug!

It is in a bid to take over the border and to dominate the other plants and the hydrangea and the spirea in front of it are in danger of being vanquished by this tyrannical plant.  Never judge by appearances it seems would be the lesson here!

Speaking of hydrangeas - here is the wonderful deep blue one we brought from France, because we loved its unusual almost indigo blooms,  just coming into flower - now resolutely pink!  Maybe we should have brought some French soil to plant it in!  We have tried feeding it with some special stuff but it has other ideas and prefers to remain pink.

The lavender alongside our driveway this year is an amazing blue not really captured in this photo - it is almost luminous.

 The bees and butterflies seem to like it.

And my sweet peas are still going great guns and here chez Marigold we have little vases of them everywhere giving the place a wonderful perfume - now they are another delicate, dainty flower but at least the plants simply climb up the netting and are in no danger of taking over like their friends the lavatera!

Many thanks for all your kind comments on my recent Bus Pass trip posts.  I did yesterday have a look at some different backpacks and am wondering whether to make my next trip to a different part of Devon or Somerset reachable by bus from here or whether to go somewhere further afield and start from there.  I did have the idea of revisiting all the places I have lived during my 70 years but that might take forever by bus as they range from Liverpool to Suffolk and the Forest of Dean as well as Surrey, Salisbury and round here not to mention France which is not possible on the bus with a Bus Pass - but watch this space for further travels with a backpack!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Bus pass, boots and backpack Mark III - Part 2

Following on from my previous post here are days 3 and 4 of my bus pass trip.

Thanks to those of you who left such kind comments on the previous post. 

Day 3 - Kingsbridge to Dartmouth

I woke early again as the sun came streaming through the window and the birds were singing.  I had planned to do a short walk - supposed to take about 2 hours according to the leaflet - before setting off on the bus to Dartmouth.  I ate my breakfast, thinking how lovely it was not to have to prepare it (not that my normal breakfast requires much in the way of preparation) and to get up and leave it all for someone else to clear away, vacated my room and arranged to leave my bag to be picked up on my return from the walk and set off.

I fell at the first hurdle though as the telephone box I was meant to turn at was no longer where it should have been!  Luckily I was able to ask a young woman taking her little girl to school and she pointed me in the right direction!

It was pleasant walking early in the day before the sun was too high and the heat of the day would have made it too uncomfortable.

Around here I was lost again but again fortunately I was able to ask directions.

Now I was on what the leaflet described as a "rocky lane" cut deep into the steep Devon banks with foxgloves and other wildflowers growing along the way.  Along here I met a young woman with 3 dogs and we stopped to pass the time of day before I overtook her (one of the dogs was elderly otherwise I wouldn't have been able to walk faster than she could I'm sure!).

I turned left as the leaflet said and made my way down this steep and very rocky path glad I was wearing boots and not sandals!  But yet again I wasn't where the leaflet said I should be.  Luckily the young woman caught up with me and it seemed I would need to make my way back up the steep rocky slope to where I had gone wrong or I could curtail my walk, keep going the way I was and  finish up back in Kingsbridge.  As I could see I would not get back in time for the bus if I did try to finish the walk proper I decided to make my way back to the B&B, pick up my bag and call it a day!

Back in Kingsbridge the tide was well and truly in and the Quay did indeed look lovely!  The bus I was to get was the number 93 to Dartmouth  which was supposed to be particularly scenic.  If you click on the link you can see a YouTube video about the route (I can't figure out how to add it other than as a link!)  Bear in mind that I was taking the journey in the opposite direction to that of the video ie going towards Dartmouth rather than leaving from there.

It was indeed a scenic route ...

...with views of the sea across the green Devon countryside.  Many of the fields were pale gold in the sunshine some ridged with mounds of cut grass drying in the sun to make hay,  a few with bales already made and waiting to be collected and I saw some of the old fashioned rectangular bales we used to play on when I was a child and before the modern cylindrical ones became the norm - happy memories triggered of long hot summer days, air filled with golden dust and skin itchy from the scratches caused by the dried grass, of playing with binder twine, not the orange or blue nylon stuff but proper sisal twine, combing it and making it into plaits and so on.  More often these days the harvest is bagged up into black plastic encased cylinders, reminiscent of the plain liquorice sweets in a bag of Bassetts liquorice allsorts which always got left till the last, containing haylage since haymaking is a high risk endeavour in our climate needing as it does a long enough spell of dry weather with sunshine to dry it properly otherwise it might spontaneously combust in the barn.  The bus went along a narrow strip of land at Slapton which separates a freshwater lake from the sea - you can just see the road with the lake on its right in the photo above if you click on it to enlarge it.  Had it been a bit cooler I would have liked to get the bus back later in the day and have a walk here but there was no shade and I knew it would be too hot.  Slapton Sands is today a peaceful place but it wasn't always so and it is the site of a notorious exercise Operation Tiger which went tragically wrong back in 1944.

This is Blackpool Sands which is lovely, a privately owned beach which has kept the worst excesses of beach commercialism at bay apparently.  It did look nice apart from the large car park filled with shining cars radiating heat in the hot sunshine!

Now we began the descent into Dartmouth.....

...and I got off the bus here.

Once again my B&B was up a hill and by now it was lunchtime so very hot work climbing the long steep (or so it seemed!) hill. Having arrived at the B&B I found my room was on the top floor up 4 flights of stairs - I should be fit by the time I finish with this trip!

This is my view.  I settled in and had a welcome drink from the bottle of water provided before walking back to the town for a sandwich which I ate, along with the rest of the water, in the gardens near the waterfront.  Having eaten I set off to explore the town - it is well known for being the home of the Britannia Royal Naval College an imposing building high above the town which we had passed in the bus.  The town has many narrow streets with lots of art galleries and boutique shops along with the usual cafes and coffee shops.

 There were interesting looking old buildings as you can see.

And it is steeped in history.

I wandered round to Bayards Cove and discovered that as the plaque says ...

... the Mayflower along with the ill fated Speedwell had set sail from Southampton but put in here for repairs to Speedwell and then both set sail for America from here but sadly the Speedwell was forced to turn back some 300 miles off Lands End as she was considered unseaworthy.  There is also a fort  just here which was built in the 16th century to protect the Quay.

Now a ruin it offers views of the bay like this which reminded me of Sandsfoot Castle near Weymouth which I have written about here..

This is perhaps the quintessential photo of Dartmouth showing the buildings across the harbour and the Royal Hotel built in the 17th century whose rooms will set you back over £200 per night for a double room with river view so not suited to my budget!  Do check out the link though for more info on the area.

One of the narrow streets filled with little shops selling all sorts.

Having spent a very comfortable night and again slept like the proverbial log I was up early and packed and ready to leave straight after breakfast.  I got talking over breakfast to a lovely couple, maybe in their sixties, who came from Brisbane and who were also leaving that morning and offered to drive me down to the Embankment where I would get my next bus of this jaunt.  This was the garden where I ate lunch the day before looking lovely in the morning sunshine.

And the harbour again this time in the sunshine as it was morning rather than late afternoon.  For more on Dartmouth click on the link

This time I was to get this bus the Stagecoach Gold to Torquay.  You will note the bars on the front of the top deck - most of the double deckers in the area had these and you could see why when we plunged into tree tunnels and under overhanging branches!  The top deck needed some form of protection from the trees - it can't do the paintwork much good!  This bus was meant to be a little bit of luxury with hand stitched Italian leather seats and free wi-fi and  I see from the webpage that
Our chief executive Sir Brian Souter wanted to develop a product which gave something back to our loyal customer base. Our research had highlighted that key elements of the bus journey, including clean vehicles, friendly drivers, comfortable seats and pleasant surroundings contributed greatly to our customers overall journey experience.!  Surely we could reasonably expect clean vehicles and comfortable seats on any bus?  But maybe not.

Another pleasant route apart from long delays due to roadworks in Paignton - hope they get finished before the holiday season really gets into full swing.

I got off the bus at Torquay right outside Debenhams so I nipped in to make use of their facilities and took this photo from the window of the cafe - though I didn't buy anything to eat or drink.

I didn't have long to wait for the next bus on my itinerary the Number 11 to Teignmouth - take a ride with the video above.  (How is it that I have managed to add this video when I couldn't the earlier one?)

It is considered another of the lovliest routes in Devon and so it seemed.... we cross a bridge over the railway line which, a little further along at Dawlish, was so badly damaged in the winter storms - hard to imagine today isn't it?!

I liked Teignmouth - it seemed a more genteel sort of seaside than Torquay and I bought a sandwich and a drink and sat by the sea with my lunch under the beady eye of a seagull who was hoping I might share with him!

Leaving Teignmouth an hour or so later I got the last bus of my trip to Exeter this time our route at times was close to the Exe estuary.

Not long now till I reached Exeter where I had time for a cup of tea in John Lewis before making my way to the station for the train home.  The journey which had taken me about 4 hours on 3 different buses a few days earlier took me just an hour on the train and  Mr M was waiting at the station to pick me up.

I had thoroughly enjoyed my few days on my own in a stunning part of England with the added bonus of wall to wall sunshine and I can't wait to go again sometime.  I came home fired with interest in finding out more about the places I'd been and things I'd seen.  There was so much I now wanted to know and of course it not being far distant I can always go back another time to visit those places I wish I had been able to spend more time in.  I already plan to visit Dartington Hall again, to explore more of the beautiful grounds, for the day - and if I don't go by bus maybe Mr M will join me too.

Was there anything I'd do differently?  Well for a start I will buy a smaller, lighter backpack and cut right down on what I take - just a couple of pairs of clean knickers and a toothbrush perhaps!  I might stay in one place and go off out for days, if I can decide on somewhere to be based which has a good bus service to plenty of other places, as then I wouldn't have to carry the bag so much of the time and maybe I'd spend more time on foot and less on the bus another time but otherwise not really - I love the adventure of going by bus and it appeals to my penny pinching nature to be doing it for nothing with my bus pass!  Why would I want the worry of passports and insurance, flights delayed or cancelled, air traffic control strikes, foreign currency, language problems and so on when I can holiday right here?  It is a greener way to travel and my carbon footprint is kept to a minimum (I also got 5% of the price of my room at the Dartmoth B&B since I had not come by car!).  I love double decker bus travel when you can see over the tops of hedges, into peoples gardens and go to places you'd never visit by car and to let someone else do the driving whilst just sitting back and enjoying the ride is my idea of bliss. I found everyone so friendly and helpful too so here's to the next BBB trip.  If I get another trip worked out I might be able to fit in a September break perhaps before the evenings draw in and the days become short.  Now where is that map and those timetables?! Want to come with me?!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Bus pass, boots and Backpack Mark III

Or  the bus pass ranger rides again!

Note this is a long and photo intensive post so you might want to skip through it, skip it altogether or perhaps make a cup of tea and enjoy coming with me to beautiful Devon.

I have just got back from another little jaunt with my bus pass - this time I went to Totnes, Kingsbridge and Dartmouth and wasn't I lucky with the weather? Devon in weather such as we are currently enjoying is absolutely stunning.  The table has been strewn with maps, timetables and books for weeks whilst I planned my next trip and did my research on the internet and with the weather set fair I quickly booked my B&Bs and was ready to go.  It would be lovely to feel able to just go and to find somewhere to spend the nights as I went along like a proper backpacker but although that might be possible if I was with a friend I am not keen on finding myself without accommodation all on my own!!

Day 1 Home to Dartington Hall

Last Tuesday I set off from home on foot up the path through the woods adjoining us and came out onto the main road where I caught a bus, fortuitously timed at 9.30 the earliest that my bus pass can be used, to Chard a journey of just over an hour most of which was familiar territory to me.  Arriving in Chard I had time for a brief wander round - not much of interest to be seen or at least not in the time available - and a cup of tea, more to make use of the cafe's toilet than because I needed a drink, before my next bus which would take me on to Axminster - a 30 minute ride away - was due.  However it was almost 20 minutes late arriving and I thought I would miss my next connection and maybe have to get a train but luck was with me and although I had allowed only a 15 minute connection time the next bus hadn't yet left!  An hour and a half later I arrived at Exeter.  I have to say that the journey by train is more picturesque and pleasant not to mention quicker and I must admit I found this part of my journey a bit tedious.  However with an hour before the bus to Totnes was due I had time for a sandwich lunch and a cold drink in my favourite cafe at the Real Food Store not far from the bus station I was soon restored and refreshed.  I was finding the back pack heavy though and wondered if I had packed more this year or whether that recent birthday had made me less able - I began to doubt my ability to move on each day and thus to have to carry it with me more of the time than I had on previous trips.

As I had recently been to Totnes with Mr M by train I didn't factor any time for sightseeing there into my plan and duly set off along the footpath beside the river Dart towards Dartington Hall which was to be my first stop for the night.

Luckily the path wound its way beneath trees for much of the way so it wasn't too hot although the back pack was rubbing my shoulders rather annoyingly - however the scenery was lovely and tranquil as the path followed the river towards Dartington.

I toiled up a rather long and seemingly steep drive by now feeling very hot and wondering if I was absolutely bonkers to be doing this. I was by now tired - no make that exhausted - and my shoulders were sore from the straps of the backpack but.....

Dartington Hall is a magical place where ....

... I had this lovely room (for some reason the double room was cheaper than a single for the night I waanted!) in the West Wing of this beautiful Medieval building - up two flights of stairs though but that of course meant I had a lovely view and could sleep with the windows wide open to the cool night air.

As you will see by the clock on the Great Hall, if you click on the photos to enlarge them, it was 5.00 when I got to my room - nearly 8 hours after leaving home that morning a journey which according to Google could have been done in an hour and 23 minutes by car but there's more to life than increasing its speed and I had enjoyed the countryside we passed through from the bus in a way that wouldn't have been possible in the car.

The view from my window across the courtyard to the East wing where the offices and so on are housed.  Having settled in and unpacked - there didn't seem to be anything more than last time in the bag - I had a shower noticing that I now had two red marks and my collar bones/shoulders were quite sore and hoped that they would improve by tomorrow.  Showered and refreshed I made myself a drink and then went for a wander round the gardens in the evening sunshine.

As most of the day visitors seemed to have gone home it very quiet and I didn't see anyone else on my wander....

.... I sat on this lovely seat in  the evening sunshine for a while and felt completely at peace - pure santosha!

The gardens are lovely and exactly my cup of tea not being immaculate so much as natural - apparently there used to be a team of 25 gardeners but now there are just 4 plus an apprentice!

There are lots of sculptures dotted about including this lovely swan fountain - a gift from Austrian artist Willi Soukop to the Elmhirsts.  The base of the sculpture was aparently found in the Tiltyard see below:

The Tiltyard - which was at one time thought to have been used for jousting but later discovered to have been a lily pond a more likely use of the area since it offered limited space for jousting anyway. 

If you enlarge this photo you will see where I have marked which was my room

Back at the house I brushed my hair and went to find my dinner in the White Hart which is next to the Great Hall just across the courtyard.

I loved the ambiance of the place and the food was delicious - my choice was a rissotto of peas, broad beans and asparagus with a side salad which were delicious and for dessert the summer pudding -  beautifully presented and almost a pity to eat it but I did of course, including the pretty little pansy, and it was as luscious as it was beautiful. I love summer pudding.

 Back in my room I lay on the bed in my PJs and having read the information folder (filled with interesting facts about the place and the Elmhirsts who had bought it back in 1925) and the beautiful book One Endless Garden which was provided for my reading pleasure, I watched some TV till it was time for a bedtime drink and lights out.  A tiring day but ending in such a beautiful place I was well content and slept like a log.

Day 2 Dartington Hall to Kingsbridge

I woke early feeling refreshed after my sleep in such a comfortable place.  The clock said it was 6.00 am!  This photo taken through the glass of the open window hence the reflections on the glass.

Breakfast was served in the White Hart where I had dined the previous night and was a sumptious buffet of all manner of delicious options - my choice was muesli with fresh fruit salad topped with yoghurt and to follow some toast and marmalade but I could have had full cooked English breakfast had I so desired.  I noticed this lovely tapestry hanging on the wall as I ate and was reminded that the previous evening when I had ventured into the Great Hall for a look round I had noticed more tapestries in there and wondered who had woven those.

So I went back to have a further look.

These it seems were commissioned in the 1930s and woven by Elizabeth Peacock and the full set took her 10 years to weave.  I wish the reflections on the glass hadn't obscured the information about each one as it was all so fascinating but I can't of course remember it all now!  I was particularly interested in the blue and grey one in the photo above which represents textiles and weaving and spinning in particular since I studied textiles both at college in the 60's and as a City and Guilds course in the 80's.

I decided to walk to the Shops at Dartington - which are a 20 minute walk from the Hall and sited in what was the Old Cider Press so having vacated my room I left my backpack at Visitors Reception and set off through the gardens.

These yew trees are supposed to represent the 12 apostles and are lined up along the Tiltyard - it may be that they were to screen the yard from the house if as is thought it might have served as a rubbish dump before becoming a pond.

As I walked from the more formal part of the garden along the path through the meadow filled with flowers I came across these orchids blooming profusely!

Aren't they beautiful?

I passed these lovely gate posts and on out onto the road.

This blue house - High Cross House - is considered to be one of the best examples of modernist architecture in Britain and had been leased to the National Trust but they opted out of the lease due to lack of visitors and it is no longer open to the public.  Shame as I'd love to have seen inside and what a contrast to the Hall itself!

I continued along the road with views of Dartmoor in the distance till I reached the Old Cider Press and the shops.

I spent some time poking round the shops which sold all kinds of interesting merchandise the profits of which go to help support the Trust's charitable activities but of course I couldn't buy anything as I wouldn't have been able to carry it!  Had a cup of tea in Cranks cafe sitting in the garden with it before wending my way back to the Hall.

Reclining Figure 1945/46 is by Henry Moore - she doesn't look terribly comfortable on that hard stone base does she? The curves of the sculpture echo the rolling hills in the distance and it has been recognised as "perhaps the most serene and elegiac piece of Moore's career, perfectly balanced and harmonious" or so said Roger Berthoud.  I wouldn't know myself.

I must admit that this little bronze donkey is more up my street and reminded me of my visit to the Donkey Sanctuary last year although this time it was warm and sunny and not raining!  He was designed in 1935 by Will Soucop an Austrian artist who lived at Dartington for many years and this little chap was part of a gold award winning Chelsea Flower Show exhibit.  His ears, the donkey's I mean, have been polished by the hands of 70+ years' worth of children stroking them for good luck!

Back in the courtyard now and I made my way to the Round House where I bought a sandwich and a cold drink which I enjoyed sitting outside in the shade before having to take my leave of Dartington.

I reluctantly made my way back to Visitor Reception to pick up my bag - aren't these steps beautiful?

One last look back and I was off on my walk back to Totnes to get a bus to Kingsbridge and my next B&B.  Dartington Hall was going to be a very hard act to follow and I wished I'd booked another night there!

Back along the route I had taken the previous day although this time it was downhill so much easier going and by now I was finding the backpack a bit easier.  I turned off the path near the station where I was to catch my bus and found I had half an hour to spare so I sat on a bench in the shade and relaxed thinking how much I had enjoyed my time at Dartington and that I would love to go back again sometime.  Apparently there is a Literary Festival there each summer called Ways with Words see here and what fun that would be - maybe next year.  Can you imagine sitting about in the sunshine, walking the many paths through the estate, eating at the White Hart and listening to any of the interesting talks - what a lovely way to spend a few days.

My bus arrived and we set off for Kingsbridge through the countryside.  The roads were narrow and tall pink spires of foxgloves covered the roadside banks - luckily the draught the bus caused as it passed seemed to cause them to rear back so as to avoid being decapitated!  We went up steep hills (I was glad I wasn't on foot!) and plunged down through green tunnels before bursting out into the open once again.  We squeezed through pretty villages past thatched cottages almost touching the thatch and round corners so tight I wondered if the bus would make them.  I wonder if you have to take a special test to drive a Devon bus as well as the usual Public Service Vehicle one?  The villages we passed through we all so pretty and every cottage seemed to have roses in profusion as well as many other flowers in bloom.  Of course had I been driving I probably wouldn't have seen much of this as I'd have had to keep all my attention on the road and be ready for meeting head on a bus or tractor or even another car as the roads were often so narrow that there would have been no passing just much reversing!  In one place we passengers on the top deck looked down on two or three cars as they attempted to pass the bus folding in their mirrors and reversing to a slightly wider part of the lane and as they inched past the bus a man in an open topped Porche tooted angrily at the delay!  I thought he should take the bus instead and then he'd be more relaxed about things perhaps!!  Eventually we arrived in Kingsbridge - I don't know the actual distance we'd travelled but it was definitely slow travel and all the better for that - time to look into people's gardens, time to enjoy the views over the hedges, time to appreciate things and all whilst letting somebody else do the driving!  Brilliant.


My B&B here was once again up a steep hill - I wonder if Devonians are healthier from all that hill climbing!  When I reached it I was pleased to note it was even prettier than the webpage had made it look and the lady, who was actually out in her little front yard, seemed friendly and welcoming.  The above photo is of the view from my window.  She made me a pot of tea and we had a chat and after that I set off to have a walk round the town following the instructions in the tourist guide.  Firstly I wandered down to the Quay having seen photos and thought it looked lovely but sadly the tide was out and it was just mud!

As I walked up the main street I passed a shop window with this little cat asleep on one of the beds that were for sale - a good advertisement for comfort perhaps?

This is a little community garden - well looked after and quite productive I thought.

I went back to my B&B and had a shower and got ready to go out and find something to eat - by the time I got back down to the Quay the tide had come in a bit and it all looked a bit better.  Dinner was a disappointment especially after last night.  I went to a place recomended by the landlady which might have been OK but they didn't have any spare tables and suggested I might like to sit in the garden area which I did but sitting alone in a yard overlooked by the other diners on the first floor of the restaurant whilst you eat your lonely meal which was nothing to write home about was a bit embarrassing so I didn't bother with dessert or coffee but paid and left and went back to the B&B where I had a cup of coffee and ate the biscuit provided with the tea things as dessert!  All in all I decided an early night was called for!

As by now you have probably had more than enough I will stop here and do the remaining 2 days later.  If you are still with me you deserve a medal!