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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!


  1. What a perfectly lovely journey, and so much nicer than rushing through in a car.

  2. I'm loving it - next steps please!

  3. Oh, I do enjoy your travels, thank you so much. Dartington Hall must be a hard act to follow.

  4. Still with you and enjoying it all very much.

  5. I'm with you and enjoying the journey and your commentary very much. Looking forward to the next two days.

  6. You are very adventurous, and you have seen some really lovely places. So interesting to me, who has read about these towns/villages in novels but being ensconced on another continent all my life, have never seen. Your summer pudding and the little cat asleep on the bed are my two favorite little details.

  7. Me too. I am travelling vicariously with you and looking forward to the next part of the adventure:-)

  8. My all time favourite places to be. Many years ago my parents built a house in Dittisham so I know the area very well and we go back to visit whenever we can.
    They didn't advertise High Cross very much, so really know one knew it was there, when I found out it was there it was too late for me too, I hope one day they open it again.
    Julie xxxxxx

  9. A wonderful post Jane. I wish I had the courage to go off by myself. Both B & B's looked wonderful. Looking forward to your next post! x

  10. What a wonderful trip thank you for letting me join you :)


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