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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Mini Holiday

I love being elderly, retired and in possession of my bus pass and Senior rail card as with a couple of free days in the diary and fine weather forecast last week we were able to take off on a mini holiday and went out for the day a few times.

Day 1 - Wednesday

Our first outing was to Dartington Hall which you may remember I had visited on my bus pass trip a couple of weeks earlier.  I wanted to show it to Mr M and so on Wednesday we set off on the train to Exeter where we caught a connection to Totnes and from there we walked to the Hall along the River Dart footpath as before.  It was so much easier without the backpack I must say!

I had meant to take a photo of the pathways round the courtyard and forgotten last time so now I was able to do so.  I loved the mix of cobblestone, flagstones and pebbles (taken from the River Dart). I had discovered that the path was designed by Beatrix Farrand an American landscape gardener whose first task was to redesign the Courtyard.  The gardens were developed under her direction between 1934 and 1939.

Here is something else I hadn't seen last time - St Mary's church tower which is 13th century with a top added in the 15th century.  The church stood here until 1878 and materials from it were used in the building of the Church of St Mary's elsewhere at the upper drive entrance to the estate.  The tower remained and was used as an American radio communications tower during World War 2.  Now it stands lonely and looking a little odd without the rest of the church  peacefully in its little graveyard basking in the sun (or at least it was when we visited it)  ......

... and just along side is now a Japanese Meditation Garden designed by Philip Booth in 1990.  Quite an appropriate place to site a meditation garden I thought.

I loved these flights of steps and felt a little nearer to heaven with each step I took!

Joseph's Pillow 2005 (a bit on the uncomfortable side I'd say!)  by Peter Randall-Page is a sphere of 12 spirals aligned with and inspired by the Twelve Apostles - the 1840s row of topiaried  Irish yews alongside the Tiltyard which I showed in my post here.

This bridge was also designed by Peter Randall-Page in 2011 and links the access paths between the 12 apostles and the sculpture.

We had lunch in the White Hart where I had eaten during my stay here - this little alcove alongside our table had this beautiful jug of flowers in it - just my kind of floral arrangement!  Dartington Hall was busy with preparations for the upcoming Ways With Words Festival but it still managed to retain its tranquil ambiance away from the courtyard and lawns nearest to the Hall which were having drinks tents, marquees and so on errected.  What fun a weekend being here during this festival would be especially if the weather was good - I am keeping the idea in mind for next year.

After lunch we set off to walk through the grounds to the Shops at Dartington taking a different route to that which I had done a week or so ago.

We passed this statue - Flora - which was the name of Dorothy Elmhirst's mother.  Flora was presented to the Elmhirsts in 1967 by the people of Dartington.  The statue itself dates back to the late 17th century and now marks the site of the Elmhirsts' ashes and is often adorned with flowers as indeed it was when we saw it.

Leaving the gardens we wended our way along the quiet little road with lovely country views to the left ...

... in to the right we could see Dartmoor in the distance.  We had a potter round the shops which are mainly situated around the area which was once used for cider making.

Just along the path past this little stream and a little distance from the rest of the shops is a fascinating shop called Restore which sells items recycled or restored from what might otherwise become landfill ranging from furniture to jewellery and including a rather clever little pendant made using electronic items and wire based on a bit of printed circuit board (now maybe I will have a go at something like that for Mr M has tins filled with coloured wires, resistors and capacitors and old PC boards in the garage I wonder if he'd let me lose with the soldering iron!)  I also wonder if they'd like some of my little packets made from old book pages or brown paper lined with tissue and fastened with a button?!

Having had a cup of tea and a scone back at the shops we set off for home.  The path to the station led through the trees, and I noticed the way the sun caught the pale trunks illuminating them amongst the deeper green of their leaves, where we caught the train back to Exeter and didn't have to wait long there for the train home.  We got back tired but happy after our lovely day out in the fresh air.  We had wondered whether to stay overnight at Dartington but in the end had decided that it would be easier to come home and go out again the following day as that way we wouldn't need to take any luggage with us a decision I was happy with in view of the heat.

Day 2 Thursday

Having had an early start on Wednesday - well early by our standards these days and getting the 8.39 train - we decided to have a leisurely breakfast and to go to Exeter on the 10.39 rather than rush things.  I am after all a fan of Slow Living!  We got off the train and wandered up this little street which runs parallel with the busier road to the town centre.  It was the sort of place you'd write home about had you gone abroad on holiday, filled with little shops and no traffic!  We walked through the town to the bus station where we used our bus passes to get a free ride to Topsham.

At Topsham we made our way through the little streets which, once off the main route through town, were quiet and peaceful with flowers at many of the doorways of the pretty houses we passed.  We were making for the Ferry and X in the photo above marks the spot we were heading for.  Last July we had walked from Exeter to this place and I wrote about it here and we'd enjoyed it so much we wanted to come again.

Getting off the ferry on the other side of the estuary we walked up this little path .....

...... to the Lock Keeper's Cottage where we were planning to have a sandwich lunch again.

The view from the upstairs window was as lovely as ever - we chose to eat inside as it was too hot to sit out in the sunshine at the picnic tables on the grass.

Lunch over we wandered round a bit trying to decide whether to walk the canal path back to Exeter in spite of the heat and the fact that there would be no shelter or to get the ferry back to Topsham and the bus to Exeter where it would be cooler in the shops!  The latter was decided upon.

So we made our way to the jetty to await the ferry once more.

Topsham is a pretty little town and the Dutch influence is apparent in the shape of many of the buildings.  Back in Exeter we wandered round for a while and then had tea in a pretty little cafe near the Cathedral before getting the train home again.

Day 3 - Friday

I had arranged to meet up with a couple of friends on Friday so once again I was at the station Senior Railcard at the ready to purchase a ticket, this time to Salisbury.  Again it wasn't an early start as we were not to meet till 11.15 so I didn't need to leave till the 10.29 train.

My friends and I wandered round away from the town  a little way enjoying the old buildings before turning back to our chosen destination for lunch Greengage Cafe where we spent a long time over a sandwich and a drink catching up on all the news and gossip.

We wandered through the city centre towards the cathedral away from all the noise of a busy city.  Isn't this a pretty bit of garden?  We walked round the cathedral and noticed that there was a crowd of people looking at something through binoculars and telescopes and of course we had to find out what it was that was so interesting.  There is a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on the spire and apparently this year they have managed to succeed in laying eggs in a box which has been placed for just that purpose since last year the eggs just rolled away!  It's amazing what you come across when out for the day isn't it?  Last time I saw these birds was at Symonds Yat many years ago where they were nesting on the cliffs.  Seemingly the Cathedral spire would be just as desirable a nesting place for them since they would be safe from predators and there would be plenty of food (apparently they like pigeons - not so desirable for the pigeons though!) for them and certainly houses in the Close are considered very desirable and incredibly expensive so why not chose the spire for a nest?

This is the Parish Church of St Thomas originally a wooden chapel built in about 1220 and thought to be for the men working on building the Cathedral.  A small stone church dedicated to St Thomas was built after 1226 and that superceded by a rebuilding programme in 1447 and further building in about 1548 resulted in the church as it is today.  The Cathedral serves the Diocese but this church serves the city.  We had a look inside and wished we had longer as there was much of interest including a Doom Painting which was painted probably in the late 1400s but in 1593 was covered in whitewash and a wooden panel of the coat of arms of Elizabeth I was placed over the chancel instead. This wooden panel is still in the church and the painting has been restored over the years and is now considered to be one of the finest in - was it Europe or perhaps just Britain?I forget!  Whichever it was an interesting and scary painting which would have ensure the congregation didn't stray from the right path!

As you can see from the church clock it was now time to set off for the station and our respective trains home.  Another interesting and enjoyable day and it stayed dry and at times sunny for us but oh boy did the rain come down once I was home!

Three days of outings and this weekend has been spent on the neglected chores!  How was your week?


  1. What a wonderful set of outings and how wonderful to have home to come back to as your B&B! You've really had the best of both worlds, and on a whizzy set of senior travel passes.

    Did I mention being pea green with envy?

  2. You certainly live in a beautiful part of England. I love that Lock keeper's cottage, and the spiral pillow and path look so unusual too.

  3. Fantastic travels and lovely photographs. I love that you describe yourself as elderly as you must be one of the least elderly in spirit people ever!

  4. What a lovely part of the country, beautiful photos Jane, I'm always impressed by your gorgeous skies! :)
    V x

  5. I do enjoy reading about your travels.

  6. You could hardly describe yourself as elderly Jane when you manage to do more in three days than a lot of younger people would ever get around to! I do so love your trips and just the fact that you just do it. Whilst others (do I mean me perhaps?) sit and think about these things you get on and do them. Fabulous photos too . Where next I wonder?

  7. I do so wish that I could still walk, I would enjoy such trips as you take. The Lock-keeper's cottage is beautiful, though I doubt that living there so many years ago would have been comfortable.

    Would the Doom Painting have anything to do with this blog:


  8. Wow what a beautiful adventure! Ever changing, I love the photos of Darlington it certainly looks picturesque. These trips out are making me want to go out and explore!

  9. The Lock Keeper's Cottage looks like a lovely little stopping place. I've enjoyed reading about your days out - such interesting places to explore! We've been camping in the forest, a very different sort of adventure.

  10. What a great way to take a mini holiday, you have got me thinking now.....

  11. Lovely, I feel as though I was there too! We visit Topsham fairly often with my sister who lives near Taunton but have never noticed the lock keeper's cottage- can anybody go inside to eat their lunch?
    Beautiful jug of flowers too, I agree its the only kind of 'arrangement' I can do too! C x x x

  12. PS. Elderly? Surely not? I intend to be Interestingly Eccentric myself....


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