Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Westward Ho! Rock Pooling

Westward Ho! is one of the best places in North Devon to go rock pooling. It is easily much better than the aforementioned Instow. I came here today with 33 children and it was altogether a much more enjoyable experience than the time I spent at Instow with only 5 five year olds. From the slipway at Westward Ho! you turn left along the beach to find the rock pools and there are lots of them. We spent an hour here and the children caught crabs, prawns, blennies and many other creatures of interest. Not many of them came back with dry feet. One girl was heard to remark that this was her best school trip to date, and many others agreed.

Our experience after lunch was not nearly so pleasant. Turning right from the slipway will lead you along the beach for as far as the pebble ridge goes - it goes a long way. Eventually you will reach a concrete track which leads you over the ridge and onto Northam Burrows which, along with Braunton Burrows on the other side of the estuary, has been declared and SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), it being the only place in England to grow a certain type of grass.

We had lunch at the Visitors Centre, then followed the sand dunes along the edge of the golf course until we reached the coast. Here the children valiently began to sketch the landscape amidst the angrily swirling sand. We had encountered the tail end of Hurricane Gordan which wasn't due to reach us until the following evening. It certainly felt like it (although there may be worse to come). Several sketch books blew away never to be seen again. Fighting our way back into the full force of the wind was, how can I put it - an 'interesting' walk. None of the children now wish to become desert explorers. I am still finding sand in places I never even knew I had!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Barnstaple Fair

Barnstaple Fair dates back to the time of Athelstan in AD930 and was given its Charter in 1852 It begins on the Wednesday nearest to the 16th September each year and lasts for 4 days. It is hugely popular and children of all ages talk of nothing else from the minute September arrives. A traditional ceremony at the Guildhall opens the Fair and a white glove garlanded in flowers, symbolising the hand of friendship, hangs from the Guildhall window for the four days the fair is in town.

The fair is a meeting of three travelling fairs and so many rides are duplicated. It is always crowded and as well as traditional rides such as the Big Wheel and the Galloping Horses there are thrill rides like Freak Out, stalls where you can chance your arm at winning huge cuddly toys or goldfish, plenty of rides for small children, candy floss stalls, and fortune tellers.It has also become a tradition in recent years that the final day of the fair is marked by fireworks. These begin at around 8.15 and can best be viewed from Barnstaple Bridge.

Our children were given a spending limit and we stayed until they'd reached it, which was just about the time they started to wilt. The rides were quite reasonably priced this year. Having expected them to be about £4 a go (listening to rumours and based on the fact that the prices always go up on the Saturday) we were quite pleasantly surprised to find that most were £2.50 and childrens rides only £1.50.

So, we have reached Summer's end and I must now turn my attention to things which can be done in Autumn and Winter with failing weather and the closing of seasonal attractions. Keep tuning in!

Barnstaple Carnival

Usually held of the third Saturday in September, Barnstaple Carnival coincides with the last day of the Fair and is when you know Summer is truly over. It starts in the Civic Centre car park with the crowing of the Carnival Queen at 5.30, then travels along the Strand and round Barnstaple, although the route is prone to change from year to year. It is one of the largest carnivals in North Devon with carnival queens, floats, majorettes and marching bands travelling in from places as far away as Bude in Cornwall. There are also many individual and group entries who walk the route in costume. The best we saw this year being Fred Flintstone and family complete with a very authentic looking car.

Hundreds of people line the route, sometimes three or four deep, and good places go early. Money is collected in buckets by people walking alongside the floats, all going to good causes. In times gone by spectators threw money onto the floats but this is now discouraged; presumably A&E no longer wish to be indundated by fancy dress clad persons sporting coin related injuries. This years carnival only took 45 mins to pass us, my children of course ran out of coins to throw much earlier than this. Then we headed across to the Fair.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This is the other end of the beach from my last posting about Instow and the other end of the season too. There is a car park behind the sand dunes at the estuary side of Instow and from there you can follow a rickety old track to the Cricket Ground. The beach is accessed from a path either side of here and is well away from the one used by most visitors. Perhaps this is why DAISI (Devon Arts In Schools Initiative) decided to use it as the location for some art in nature work - less innocent members of the general public to disturb.

This is where I went yesterday and am only just recovered enough to write about it today. I came with my youngest daughter in my role as Mum, and so was only given five five-year olds to look after - believe me this was enough! There is a reason why I chose to work with older children! The beach was very nice though and there are even rock pools you can mess about in. A little known fact that managed to surprise many locals when I mentioned it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Having survived the night and packed up our tent we decided to pay a visit to nextdoor Ilfracombe. Ilfracombe was once a thriving Victorian holiday destination and is still popular as such. It has fallen into decline in recent years and is starting to look a bit shabby but still has something to offer the passing tourist. The harbour is pretty and is surrounded by plenty of nice pubs, cafes and gift shops. There is also the Landmark Theatre, known locally as Madonna's Bra because of the twin conical shapes of its buildings.

We went today because we happened to be nearby and to buy some seaside souveniers for my display at work; but we also decided to visit The Chocolate Emporium, a chocolate museum, shop and cafe in the High Street, as it had been recommended by a friend. It seemed to be the only shop to be shut on a Sunday but it looked very nice from the outside! You will have to wait for further details in a later posting I am afraid.


I don't know why but last thing Friday night I thought it would be a really good idea to go camping. I think it was the prospect of a beautiful weekend and a vain attempt to prolong that summer holiday feeling. Anyway, we searched the internet, found a good campsite, packed the ca and off we went.

It was a lovely campsite, and very busy too, excellent views over the sea as you can see, and we were lucky enough to find quite a level pitch. This is North Morte Farm Holiday Park in the tiny village of Mortehoe nestled between the bigger holiday towns of Woolacombe and Ilfracombe.

We arrived at around 5.00, set up the tent and cooked our BBQ (once I'd been down to the shop to buy the matches I'd forgotten to pack.) Sitting in the sun and drinking cold beer was lovely.
Then the breeze began to pick up and by 8.30 had turned into a howling gale. By 9.30 it was gusting so strongly I began to wish I'd packed a pair of shiny red shoes to click three times. Unfortunately my husband refused to listen to my chants of "There's no place like home" so we just had to go to sleep hoping that we didn't wake up under a pile of canvas, half way down the cliff or actually in the sea.

You can probably guess from the fact that I'm posting this that I lived to tell the tale, but it was a very noisy night. I can thoroughly recommend camping anywhere in North Devon, especially somewhere with fantastic views, but do check the weather forecast carefully first.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Broomhill Hotel Sculpture Garden

Summer holidays are now definately over, doom and gloom settles as I return to work. Still, we were broken into it gently by a visit to Broomhill. This is a place frequented by teachers undertaking training. Today we learnt the finer points of watercolour painting on very wet paper.

This is a lovely place to visit if you are into art. Head out of Barnstaple towards Lynton on the A39 then turn towards Ilfracombe on the B3230 and its about a mile down a leafy country road. Entry into the gardens is £4.50 for adults and £1.50 for children. The hotel also does fantastic food for residents and non-residents alike (this is why teachers really come!)

The gardens stretch on for quite a way, easily long enough to walk off whatever delights you sampled for your lunch, or that extra dollop of cream you had with your cream tea. There are hundreds of scuptures to look at, ranging from the weird to the wonderful. The most famous is the giant red shoe which meets you at the top of the drive. Some are quite hidden away, so you have to keep your eyes peeled. Inside the hotel is an art gallery, entry to this is free, and there are even scuptures in the loo!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Horse Riding

September has arrived. Winter wends its way towards us. And although you can feel it in the air first thing in the morning by lunch time today it was boiling hot again. Thank goodness for that as we'd booked to go horse riding and it would've been miserable in the rain.

There are plenty of place to go riding in North Devon. They all charge pretty much the same at £18 an hour per person, but some insist on you having lessons before they'll let you out in the big wide world. We went to Kingsland Stables in Woolsery (Woolfardisworthy as the sign reads). They offered us a deal on a family of five at £70 total. They were very friendly and great with the kids. We went on a two and a half mile ride down country roads and along a woodland track. It was very pleasant.

Horse riding - ahh! One of those things every little girl wants to do - until they actually get on the back of one and realise its not all its cut out to be. My littlest one was moaning of a sore bottom by the time we got off! She loved feeding the horses some carrots afterwards though. And actually they all want to go again now! Bums recover easily obviously - well young ones do anyway! I can't say the same about mine.