Monday, May 04, 2015

The Hunters Inn

 We had dinner in the Hunters Inn today, a pub nestled in a valley near the coast by Heddons Mouth. Its changed a lot since I was last there with gardens and picnic benches out the front and back. Inside it no longer has that old world pub charm but is being modernised and made to look more up-market. I'm not sure I like it, but other people must as it was packed. We had sandwiches with came on a huge plate also full of chips. They were nice. And we were allowed to take the dog inside, which is always a bonus. Afterwards we went for a walk.
 There are many footpaths around the Hunters Inn as much of the land is owned by the National Trust. We walked up a very very steep hill towards the village of Trentishoe until we found the sign for the South West Coast path. More steep hill walking was involved as we made our way through fields of sheep towards the top of the cliff. The South West Coast path goes, strangely enough, all along the coast for miles in either direction of where we met it. We weren't on it for long though, preferring instead to follow a smaller path around the top of the headland by Heddons Mouth. There were some spectacular views down to the sea 200m below us, despite the gloomy Bank Holiday weather.
Then the path took us into woodlands where bluebells were in bloom. It was a pretty walk but the terrain was rough and steep both up and down hill. My legs are still aching now and the dog has been pretty much immobile since we got home. I hope I manage to get out of bed okay tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Combe Martin

Combe Martin - a tiny village on the North Devon coast. I believe I have posted about it before so sorry if I am repeating myself. Tiny - but very very long. It has the longest village main street in England at over two miles in length and we seem to have walked most of it today.

For our traditional Christmas Eve walk I found this route around Combe Martin online and printed it. It had very clear instructions and started off quite pleasantly by the beach and past a few shops into pretty country lanes. Then the lanes went up, and up, and up some more until we were all out of breath and wondering when the up would end. Half way along the next instruction I read said 'Continue up the path for one mile...' It seemed more like about five! But eventually we stopped going up and started going back down. The views were fairly spectacular though I am not entirely sure they were worth the leg ache.

It was muddy going down and my husband slipped and fell at one point - that amused us, as did playing in the fallen autumn leaves. The lane eventually gave way to civilisation and we found ourselves back by the old church with a long walk back along the main street till we reached our car. There were a few shops with interesting looking windows that would be worth pottering about in the summer season and of course plenty of pubs to chose from including famous The Pack of Cards. Even the houses are pretty. Come for a visit in the summer - and perhaps don't bother with giant walk up into the hills.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Barnstaple Christmas Lights Event

 The Sunday one month before Christmas the time each year that Barnstaple turns on its Christmas lights. I haven't been for years and its a bit more of an event than the last time I went. All along the Strand there are fairground rides and stalls full of people. The pubs and food venues along there were also doing a roaring trade. There was quite a fun atmosphere.
The stage area in the Square was also packed full. There was a large TV screen to one side of the stage for anyone, like us, who couldn't get close enough to see anything. We arrived 15 minutes before the lights were turned on and in time to hear the presenters of Heart radio announcing that there were 10,000 people there. Given that's just under half the population of Barnstaple I think they were being over-generous - the Square was certainly full to bursting but I don't really think it can actually hold that many people.

This years nominally famous act turning on the lights was The Overtones. I have never heard of them but my children have, so I guess that makes me old. The turned on the lights at 6.00pm to great applause and a few fireworks erupting from the top of the stage, then half the crowd up and left instead of staying for the music. What was that all about? I'll let you decide for yourselves what you make of that, and if its for you or not.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

West Somerset Railway

We had a day out today, first time in a long time. I bought a Family ticket for the West Somerset Railway, to go for a ride on the steam train. It's £43 for a Day Rover if you buy it in advance, £45 if you buy it on the day. This allows 2 adults and 4 children to travel along the line and hop on and off as many times as you want. So both my daughters took friends with them to keep them company.

We got up early and headed for the first train, the 10:25 from Bishops Lydeard. The railway runs different timetables depending on day of the week and month. Today was a green timetable day, meaning there were only five trains running, so not a great deal of opportunity for hopping on and off at any of the nine stops along the way. We opted for going straight to Minehead. I don't know that there is a lot to do if you hop off in the villages along the way anyway.

Train travel is great, the train just pootles along at a sensible speed and you get to see great scenery along the way. For some of the time the train runs along the coast, which is really pretty. The steam train had it's windows open, so it wasn't too hot. We had seats round a table, so we could have a drink and a snack too. It was all very civilised.

When we got to Minehead we all wandered off and did our own thing. There is not a lot to do in Minehead so that didn't take very long. Then we met back up for lunch at 1.00. After lunch it was ice-cream on the beach, then the 15:15 train back again. This was a diesel train and not nearly so much fun. It was hot and stuffy and no tables. So my advice, if you are going for the day, make sure you catch the steam trains. I had a lovely day and can completely recommend it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Braunton Burrows

 We came out here to walk the dog today, me, my husband and daughter no.3. Apparently there is more to Braunton Burrows that I knew. I had wanted to go to what my husband said I should have specified as 'Crow Point'. He told me that after he'd driven past the turning. So we drove on to a place called Sandy Lane Car Park where it cost us £1.50 to park.
 There were a few sign posts up in the car park indicating route we could have walked, and a rather helpful dot remarking 'You are here'. I nearly got out my pen and wrote alongside it 'But not where I want to be.' We chose to take the yellow route down the road marked 'American Road' which is known to us as 'The Tank Road'. Unlike the yellow line on the map it went on and on and on with no indication that was ever a right turn taking you out onto the grass and dunes. After a while we gave up and walked back again. The dog had had a good time.

A quick investigation along the blue path led me to the conclusion that it might have made a more interesting walk. But a lot of the burrows still looked be under flood water. Maybe I'll come back.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Georgeham to Putsborough

 Yesterday it was time to stretch our legs and get some fresh air, particularly for daughter no.3 who seemed not to have been out of her pyjamas in three days, let alone out of the house. We drove out to the tiny village of Georgeham just round the corner from Croyde. We walked through the village until we found a sign for a public footpath which took up a country lane and through a few fields then onto a road to an even tinier village called Pickwell. Once around that it was on to a farm with access down to the cliffs above Putsborough beach.
We could have walked on down to the beach but it was getting a bit chillier by then (note the difference in the skies in the two photos) and it seemed like it would be a very steep walk up again so we settled for sitting on a picnic bench for a while and taking in the view before heading back the way we had come. In total the walk was just less than 3 miles. If you like pretty villages and walking through country roads, or if you want to get to Putsborough an unconventional way, this might be a walk you would enjoy, but I don't think I'll be rushing back to do it again.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pizza Hut

It's been seven and half years since I started this blog, and here we all still are, going to Pizza Hut for tea on Christmas Eve. This year my three girls (now 20, 16, and 13) and I walked the dog without my husband, as he had to go to work. Then, when he finished early, all five of us drove to resaurant in Barnstaple. We arrived at just before 4.30pm, probably to groans from the staff, who might have had some hope of leaving early. The food was nice, most of us took advantage of the Christmas Menu, two courses and a drink for £12.95, and the staff were actually very friendly and helpful. We were the last ones to leave the restaurant at 5.30pm, and they were still smiling and wishing us 'Happy Christmas' as we walked out the door. I'm sure we'll be back next year.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Arlington Court Woods

This was a nice discovery this afternoon. I had intended on taking the dog for a walk around Whistland Pound Reservoir, but having travelled the 10 miles to Blackmoor Gate, I discovered that the road was closed and had no option but to turn around again (the diversion taking me all the way back to where I came from). I decided to stop at Arlington Court on the way back because I knew there were public footpaths around there, although I had no idea where they went to.

I parked in the National Trust car park and then followed the signs down the drive below the car park, not the one that takes you to the main entrance where to have to pay to enter the house and grounds. At the end of the drive were two footpaths; I took the one to the right. After that were several more options, all nicely signposted, indicating National Trust paths, all colour-coded and with information like 'Birdhide', 'House', 'Wilderness', and 'Circular path via lake'. I took the later. Along the route were many other signposts to other walks and pathways. I passed the lake, headed off to a small bridge, through a field and up through the woods until I eventually ended up back at the big house. I felt somewhat like a tresspasser, having not paid to go in, but this was where the path had lead me. It lead me back around the house and then back to my original starting point down the left fork where I had chosen the right, so I guess I must have been meant to be there.

It was a lovely walk, and many others were out in the woods too, including families with small children. There seemed to be a lot to keep them occupied, including something concerning monkey puzzle trees that I couldn't quite see, a small camp area, and stepping stone logs through the streams. I think I might come back here again.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pilton Park

Pilton Park hasn't changed much since I reported on it many years ago. Then I used to take my children to play, now I take the dog. It's a popular place for both. The children's playground is quite small but with all the usual equipment, and is completely enclosed. It now has two gates. For dog walkers there is nicely tarmaced path that runs around the outside in a giant circle. There is now also access across the river via a slope so all the people in the new flats can wander across for an afternoon stroll. A popular place in Barnstaple.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dartmoor Zoo

The trip tp Dartmoor Zoo is a long one from North Devon, but one you may be willing to make it if zoos are your thing, particularly Hollywood-famous ones. This is the zoo on which the film 'We Bought A Zoo' is based, from Benjamin Mee's book of the same name. Except that in the film they all live in California. The real Dartmoor Zoo is in Plymouth's backyard in a tiny village called Sparkwell. We drove down via the M5 and A38, it's long in miles but quicker in time as you don't have to go through all the windy Dartmoor roads.

When we arrived there was definately no California weather. It was chucking down and crowds of people stood at the paying kiosk just waiting for the rain to stop. We walked on by with my second daughter muttering, "We're British, we don't mind rain." It wasn't long, however, before they were suggesting we have an early lunch in the Jaguar Restaurant (yes, that's what its called in the film too). The panini's were very nice, although none of us were very impressed with the range of cold drinks.

After lunch the weather was kinder to us and we spent a good few hours wandering around. The bears were nice, the wolves were in hiding, we enjoyed the reindeer but everyone's favourite was the big cats. Dartmoor Zoo has the biggest collection of big cats in the South West: two tiger enclosures, cheetahs, lynx, jaguars and a lioness. The lioness was have a good roar when we were there, then she had fun running round her enclosure and playing with a log on a rope. We went back to see her being fed and that was a bit disappointing. They 'hid' her food, which wasn't actually very well hidden at all, far away from the waiting crowd, then she went even further away to eat it before disappearing altogether. They could at least have hidden it nearer to us.

There are plenty of talks and other feeding sessions throughout the day, some of which we caught. There is also an enclosure you can walk through with wallabies, ducks and goats. The girls enjoyed petting the goats and thought it hysterical when the goats nibbled their fingers. If the weather had been nicer we may have stayed longer. Benjamin Mee was due to make an appearance at 3.00 to sign copies of his book. But really, after about three hours you've pretty much seen it all, and we were getting cold, so we made a quick trip in to Plymouth to do some retail therapy, then drove home to watch the film again.