Friday, December 24, 2010


Snow did not stop our traditional Christmas Eve walk, although it nearly finished us all off! We ventured as far as Simonsbath, a tiny little village in the middle of Exmoor, but easily reachable on fairly main roads, all of which were clear of snow. There is little in the village but it does boast a pub, tea rooms and a hotel. Lovely on a nice summer day.

Our first obstacle on arriving was the road to the car park, shown above - a pretty country lane with picturesque cottages, but not to be travelled on unless in a 4x4. We parked at the side of the main road and walked it. In the car park is a very helpful map, showing our planned route (we had the Jarrod Walks Book with it in). The map also showed us our planned short cut down the main road back into Simonsbath. Hooray for the short cut! Read on to find out why.
We followed a footpath labelled Prayway Head up a very steep hill and through the woods. Beautiful trees still laden with snow and nice crisp white stuff underfoot that no one else had trod. The dog went wild. Then on down to a stream and up into a field full of more virgin snow. And up, and up, and up. By the time we were half way up my legs were killing me. Walking through deep snow that no one else has been in is really hard!
It was very beautiful though. We stopped for frequent rests. We took lots of photos, which will be published on the Betazoids blog sometime later tonight. At the very top of the field we turned left into an area the guidebook said was tussocky and boggy. It certainly was that. And the snow got even deeper. Lots of us fell over. Daughter no.2 declared it 'The best Christmas Eve walk ever,' Daughter no.3 got cold and wanted to come home.
When we got back to road we all cheered! An easy walk down hill to the car. I can thoroughly recommend this walk to anyone who is really fit, although I imagine walking it when there is no snow would be a lot easier. For those not inclined to walk, come to Simonsbath in the summer and try out the tea rooms or the pub.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Last Christmas Eve we tried to come here for a walk with the children. Eleven months later I finally made it. I parked in Abbotsham as before, and the dog and I set off down the same path as before. This time, not being in a rush or having children to worry about, we just kept walking. There are sign posts all along the route to Greencliff, so it is pretty much impossible to miss.

Once you get off the road and onto public footpaths through the countryside it's lovely. There are boardwalks to start with, but after that it got VERY muddy. I was glad I had my new pinky spotty wellies on. But the views, once you get to the coast, are stunning and well worth the walk. The only slightly negative thing I have to report is that the signpost back to Abbotsham village is missing. I had to guess based on the map I'd printed from the internet before I left home. If I'd got it wrong I would have ended up in Westward Ho!

The whole circular route took me 1hour and 10minutes. The dog would have gone round again, but I was knackered by then, and if she'd have walked through all that mud again she'd have been completely brown instead of only partially brown.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Barnstaple Rugby Club Fireworks

Firstly, I must appologise for not posting earlier. I have been a bit distracted by things at work.

Now, let me tell you about the Barnstaple Rugby Club Fireworks event. It has changed somewhat in recent years. It's been a while since I've been able to go and I wanted to make an effort to go is year, as its been good in previous years and also there was a danger that next year it would not be able to go ahead without enough support so I wanted to do my bit. In previous years it has been run to raise money for charity, but the costs of putting on the event now mean that they are really only doing it as a community event, there is no way they can make a profit. Tickets are £3 adult, £2.50 child, or £10 for a family.

Last time we went there were a few people selling those glow-in-the-dark toys at the entrance to the Rugby Club ground and that was it. This year there was a whole raft of people, from pancake sellers to people running trampoline things for children to go on, and everything you can imagine in between. I wonder how much of their money went to the Rugby Club? We walked past and ignored them all. I went to watch fireworks, I don't want my children to nag me out of more of my money!

We got into the ground proper and staked our claim to a good-ish spot (all the really good ones having been taken by people prepared to wait in the cold much longer than we were). 7.00 came and went. We waited. We listened to the music being piped through the tanoy system. The fireworks eventually started and the music stopped! What was the point of that? Again, I have to refer to previous years and say that they used to have the firework display to music and it was MUCH better. The fireworks were good, well worth the ticket price, but a little bit of rousing classic music to accompany them would have made it that little bit more atmospheric.

So come on organisers, I find I can't recommend your event as much as I was hoping to be able to, get your act together for next year please! Learn something from the Torrington Calvaliers, (see earlier post), they had it spot on.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Braunton is town that is frequently driven through on the way to somewhere else - The Burrows, Saunton and Croyde beaches, or any one of a number of more picturesque and inviting places. Today we stopped here and investigated this tiny little village. On the surface it appears to be little more than a crossroads filled with pubs and surf shops, but behind that there are winding lanes full of old cottages and medieval buildings.

I found a walk through the backstreets of Braunton on and we followed its 15 pages of instructions into Rock Hill then West Hill Lane and up through country lanes to a place called The Beacon. The 15 pages are not only instructions but also information on the landscape and the history of the walk. The Beacon, it told us, was used as a look out by the wives of the village so they could see when their husbands were returning from their fishing trips and could rush down to the quay to greet them. It certainly did offer fantastic views of the bay.

The walk round the Beacon did not take long, then we followed the path through more backstreets over the old railway track and into St Brannocks Church. The only church in England to have the whole body of its saint buried on the premises. The whole walk took us an hour and was about 2 miles long. When we got back to the car the girls were tired out but the dog was ready to go round one more time. Maybe another day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Barnstaple Treasure Trail

My friends daughter was given a Barnstaple Treasure Trail for her birthday. It is set up like a murder mystery - Simon Snodshaw, a local cidermaker, was found floating in a vat of prize scrumpy, police have revealed he was murdered before being thrown in there - and you have to follow the clues given to reveal the murderer. The booklet contains a list of suspects and murder weapons and the aforementioned clues.

We started the trail in the Square outside the Tourist Information Centre. The children ran enthusiastically to the first clue. It was quite easy to unravel the clue and eliminate our first suspected weapon. We then rushed eagerly from place to place around Barnstaple, along the river front, into the High Street, until we came to the church square shown above. Here the clues are slightly more tricky to find and a small falling out ensued. Nevertheless, we grown ups continued, and soon we were racing over to Roack Park for some of the final clues.

This all took us about 2 hours to complete, at a leisurely stroll, with stops for snacks and take away hot chocolates built in. I think these are a great idea and ideal for getting kids to notice more about their locality. I suspect we will do a few more. Look on their website, there are loads for areas all over Britain, some are walking ones, others can be done with a car. When you discover the murderer you can email the answer to them for a chance of winning a prize.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Combes Gate Beach

Yesterday I found a new beach! That's not to say that I was the first to discover it, but it was new to me. My friend comes here a lot and she took my kids out with hers, two of the three anyway, and I met them at lunch with a picnic. We stayed til gone 5 o'clock which is the longest I've spent on a beach in years.

Combes Gate is a tiny little cove at the end of Woolacombe as you head along the coast towards Mortehoe. Parking is difficult unless you get there early in the morning and nab a free place on the road. I had to park in Woolacombe car park and walk to get there, this cost me £6. That's an all day fee, your only option in that car park, and its pay on exit by feeding coins into the lever-arm machine.

The beach is lovely, with not many people on it at all. When the tide goes out there are lots of rock pools to explore. The kids caught a few shrimp and fish and a massive crab. They also went in the sea lots. Down by the waters edge there was quite a breeze today, but further up into the cove it was quite sheltered and warm. Why couldn't it have been like this through August? And why do summer holidays have to end. I'm off to work now. Doom!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Croyde and Saunton Circular Walk

Well, who would've believed it? Its a Bank Holiday and the sun actually shone! After baking in the garden for a while I thought it was about time we took the dog for a nice long walk. There was much protesting, but I ignored it. We drove to Croyde and parked in the car park in the village and followed a route I'd printed from the internet. It takes you over the hills from Croyde to Saunton then back round the coast, across Croyde beach and back to the village right next to Billy Budds, one of the more popular pubs. Ideal.

The first part of the walk is uphill. Its very steep and we were all puffed out long before we reached the top (except the dog of course). However, there are fantastic views of Croyde Bay once you get there. A walk through a field of horses, two empty fields and into a field of cows offers more fantastic views, this time, of Saunton Sands.

Today you could see as far as the peaks of Dartmoor (according to my husband). Then its back downhill to the coast path, which is not along the busy road with no pavements as I fist imagined, but on a hedged path just above it.
The walk is 3.5 miles long and there are lots of benches along the way to stop, rest, enjoy the views and eat cookies on! And then at the end there is that lovely pub. We stopped for a drink then came home for fish and chips. Why do school holidays have to end?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Torrington Cavaliers Bonfire Event

Last night was the 40th Anniversary of the Great Torrington Cavaliers (adjective as it applies to the town, not the Cavaliers). Every two or three years they host a charity event involving a huge bonfire. They have constructed many things on Torrington Common: a Viking Longship, the Houses of Parliament, HMS Victory. 15,000 people came to watch the last bonfire.

As we hadn't been before, and we'd seen the replica of Torrington's Medieval castle under construction in January (see earlier post) we thought we'd go and watch it burn. It was quite spectacular. And I can recommend the event to anyone with patience and children who also know how to wait. Unfortunately mine don't seem to because they got bored, whined and annoyed each other.

We arrived at 6.30 and already there were loads of people who had picked all the good spots. Nevertheless, we found somewhere to spread the picnic blanket, opened the beer and cookies, and I thought, 'This is great, very civilised.' Unfortunetly the minute the events started all the people in front of us found it necessary to stand up and lots of people who had been behind us piled in front too. So when we did stand up none of my children could see very much at all. If everyone had remained seated we'd all have had a much better view. The events were a comedy sketch from the Plough Theatre group, a battle re-enactment by the Torrington Cavaliers, and archers shooting burning arrows at the castle. Oh and before that we had to sit through a boring talk from a man trying to sell his book about the Cavalier's bonfires of the past.

The fireworks, when they eventually started, were some of the best I've ever seen. Timed to precision with an appropriate piece of classical music, symmetrical and co-ordinated, they went off as the castle was set fully alight. Then the castle was left to burn, and there were more fireworks again at the end. It was great, and I'd have loved to stay longer to watch the castle burn, but the children decided they needed to loo and were too tired to hang around any more. Here's a tip for someone going next time though - there is a better view of the bonfire from back by the loos. One that doesn't involve looking at the hundreds of people all squashed round you holding up their mobile phones and cameras.

Car parking was free in local fields. That was good. Getting out was a nightmare. Cars kept driving up the lane at pedestrians despite being told to leave by the lower entrance. There was a ten minute queue to get out for no apparent reason, and a sign pointing Barnstaple at a fork in the road. We took the wrong fork, along with several people behind and in front of us, and ended up in East-the-Water via Gamaton.
Fireworks: 10/10
Organisation: 2/10

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lee Bay and Sandy Cove

Yesterday there was sunshine! Hooray! We'd almost forgotten what it looked liked. So out we went, here to Lee Bay. Lee is a tiny village on the coast between Ilfracombe and Woolacombe. Its narrow roads can be quite a challenge for cars, but its all so pretty its worth it. We parked in the pub car park and walked down to the beach. The tide was out but the girls weren't much interested in the rock pools so we walked along the path in the photo above and through the gap in the rocks at the end. Here there is another path carved into the rocks which will lead you, when the tide is out, to Sandy Cove, shown below.

Sandy Cove is much prettier and seems to be a well kept secret because there was hardly anyone there. A few groups of people sat around, some very brave people were swimming, and some had kayaks in the water. The name Sandy Cove is a bit misleading because it is actually a shingle beach, but this doesn't stop it being lovely. It was so peaceful, just sitting in the sunshine listening to the wave lap against the shore I could have laid down and gone to sleep.

Sadly, once the children had explored and the dog had been forcably taught that paddling in the water would not actually cause her any harm, we had to leave. The lure of a drink back at the pub was too great. We decided to try the other path out of the cove rather than go back the way we came. This involved climbing up lots AND LOTS of very steep steps in the side of the cliff. The views from the top are fantastic, once you've recovered your breath enough to appreciate them. Then there is a lovely walk back through the fields and the village to enjoy before finally being able to sip a nice cold beer in a sunny pub garden. What a perfect day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Maize Maze, Bickleigh

This is the entrance to the Amazing Maize Maze and it can be found in Bickleigh just outside of Tiverton. So it's not strictly North Devon folks, but only about half an hour in a car. It's half way been Tiverton and Exeter on the A396. Bickleigh is a tiny village centred around the bridge over the River Exe and has some lovely pubs with riverside gardens, Bickleigh Mill and a Railway Centre. Parking outside the Maize Maze is free and entrance is £4 each, but as there were five of us we got in for the discounted price of £18.

The maze is different each year and this year was in the shape of the Tivvy Bumper, an engine that travelled along the trainline that used to run next to the field. So everything inside the maze was train themed. There is no middle to find, which was a bit disappointing. What you have instead is a series of posts which you have to find, each of which holds a portion of a brass rubbing. You making a rubbing on the back of your ticket each time you find one until you have them all and they, in turn, form a wordsearch with train themed words inside. Your prize for completing this task is - wait for it - a sticker!!! Woohoo!

Along the way are boards with information about trains and the trainline, and other boards which ask questions based on said information. They offer you a choice of two answers, and direct you left or right depending on which answer you choose. This was a good idea, I thought, although it still wasn't obvious where the brass rubbing posts were even when you got the answer right. After a while my youngest one got fed up - it was a very big maze, and the older two had split up from us and gone running off on their own by then, so we gave up after finding 8 out of 9 posts. She got her sticker anyway.

We got our picnic out of the car and headed off to the picnic area. A phone call to the other two soon got them out of the maze - thank goodness for mobile phones! There is plenty to do in the picnic area: go-karts, toddlers ride-on toys (which my 13 year old enjoyed immensly), giant chess and draughts, swingball, table tennis, connect 4 and a climbing frame. We ate then played for a bit before coming home. It was nice to enjoy the sunshine.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Barle Valley Safaris

I have wanted to do one of these safaris for a long time so when the opportunity came up I jumped at the chance. We had some European visitors at work and took them out to see the sights of Exmoor.

Barle Valley Safaris operate out of Dulverton car park, a town at the south edge of Exmoor. These safaris must be booked and if you are going to go on one I also advise not using a sat-nav. Using a sat-nav forces you to rely on postcodes and the postcode we found on the website took us to the owners house, and half an hour out of our way! Of course that is quite possibly human error and not the fault of the sat-nav, but really, finding Dulverton car park is not that hard.

Anyway. The safari lasts three hours and is well worth the £25 per person cost. Our driver was Duncan, one of the owners, and he was very informative, and very understanding and patient about our being an hour late! He took us up over the open moorland and down into the wooded valleys. We followed many narrow country lanes and went off-road as well. This was quite an experience for all of us, almost as good as a Disney thrill ride. We bumped over rocks, slid over mud and climed up and down some very steep hills on barely discernable tracks. The last part of our journey took us through the ford at Tarr Steps, and then back into Dulverton.

Along the way there were many stops and sometimes we got out of the landrover and sometims we didn't. I saw more deer than in all my many years of travelling through Exmoor. We saw typical Exmoor sheep with thier curly fleece and smiley faces, cows of all shades and varieties, and lots of wild Exmoor ponies. We even saw an Exmoor pony foal who was very curious and obligingly came right up to the landrover so we could photograph him.

If you want to see an Exmoor that not many other tourists get to experience then I can 100% recommend this to you. It was fabulous.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tutshill Woods

In a quest to find places to walk my dog which aren't too far away from where I live I searched the internet this morning and found Tutshill Woods. If you drive out of Barnstaple toward the hospital and turn left you can park your car near the entrance to the cattery and find, almost hidden away, a public footpath which is a narrow lane between trees with fields behind that.
This leads down to a river where, to the left, the popular play area of Mannings Pit can be found.

We went right, across a nice wooden little footbridge, then on across the field in the photo above and into the woods. The way through the woods (ooh, sounds like a poem!) is narrow and pretty with the ivr tinkling along far below you. It goes out to a road leading back to the main road but we didn't go that far. We turned around and headed back to level ground next to the river bank where we sat and ate sandwiches before returning home with a very knackered dog.

We met a few other people walking thier dogs, so its a popular spot. I liked it, so I think we'll be going again.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Braunton Burrows Update

I popped out here this evening to take the dog for a walk (are you spotting a theme to these posts?) and although I've mentioned it before I thought I'd just update you on a few things. Last time we came we walked through the burrows but there is a beach at Braunton which is accessed directly from the end of the toll road. This is it at low tide. There were a number of people leaving with their rigid inflatable boats towed behind their cars as we arrived and a few who were just starting barbeques.

The toll road seemed particularly long today, I don't remember it being that long, so I measured it on the way back, it's 1 and 1/2 miles, the sign, which says 1 and 1/4 miles of speed bumps, is inaccurate.

The other thing you need to know about is that now there is an automated gate at the entrance to the toll road. You have to feed it with coins to obtain entrance. Good job I had some with me. It costs £1.50 for cars.


Bickington is normally just a town I drive through on my way to somewhere else. Up until now all I have seen of it is the main street and in the inside of the post office (which is much more efficient and quick to use than the main one in Barnstaple). I was in there the other day and notice a leaflet called '5 walks in Fremington'. Fremington is the town next door. I picked up the leaflet and walk no.3 is actually around Bickington taking 40 minutes, the shortest of the walks in the leaflet. Ideal for my new dog, I thought.

So yesterday we went for a walk. I parked in the small car park just off the main street for a very reasonable 60p for two hours. The walk then took me, my dog, and daughter no.2 down a pretty lane full of charming cottages. At the end of lane we were slightly confused as the sign post said the footpath went in two directions, but a very friendly farmer in his tractor pointed us in the right direction, through his field and up to the top of a hill where lovely views of the River Taw and the villages on the opposite banks greeted us.

We progressed onto a bridleway and round the back of village til we reached the end of the lane where we had first started. It was very pleasant and let us see that there is more to Bickington than meets the eye. I think I will try the other walks when my dog is old enough to go for longer walks.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Northam Burrows

Today was the first sunny day we've had in ages and I decided not to waste it. Also we need a distraction to get us away from the chocolate. So to help us wear off some of the calories we had already eaten we came here to Northam Burrows.

It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and can be reached by driving through the tiny villlage of Northam between Bideford and Westward Ho! There is normally a small charge for entering but today there was no one there. We drove down the narrow track with expanses of grassland stretched out to either side of us. Normally this is filled with sheep but there weren't that many in evidence today. Then, once near the pebble ridge we found somewhere to park.

There was a strong wind today that sent rather large wavelets blowing towards us on the pond behind the pebble ridge that I'm sure should have been the car park. No good for skimming pebbles on, although we got a few to bounce.

We took the path towards the Visitor Centre, which was open but which we didn't go in. There are toilets there, for those of you who plan your trips around such things (I had younger children too not so long ago). The path follows along beside the golf course then leads down to the beach. We stopped here and collected pebbles but there is much more walking to do through the dunes for those who wish to stretch thier legs further. The wind got to us today though, that and the fact that daughter no.2 felt it entirely appropriate to come out in a mini-skirt and not much else. I refrained from saying 'I told you so,' when she said she was cold.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Pack o' Cards Inn

After our very muddy walk in Combe Martin (see previous post) we went for lunch in the Pack o' Cards. We booked before we set off on our walk. The Pack o' Cards is a grade 2 listed building dating back to the 17th century. It was built by George Ley after a win at the gaming tables, stand on 52 square feet of land, has 52 windows and 4 floors with 13 rooms on each floor.

Sunday dinner was our only option today, but the children could have had something from the children's menu if they'd wanted it. An adult dinner was £5.95 and a children's was £3.95. There were only four puddings, all stodgy stuff with custard, so we didn't have pudding. The meal was nice enough, although I have no idea why the roast chicken came with Yorkshire puddings instead of stuffing. My major complaint was the length of time we waited. We sat down at our table at 1.00 and it was another 45 minutes after this that we finally saw our food. Considering roast was the only thing on the menu you'd have thought they'd have served it up much quicker.

Combe Martin

This sleepy little villiage is located on the North Devon coast just past Ilfracombe. It has a small sandy beach, as seen in the photo above, the longest street in England, stretching for three miles, and the pub where we had lunch. That's basically about all there is in Combe Martin, but there are several coastal paths leading from the village which offer spectacular views over the seas and Exmoor.

We parked in the pub car park and wandered down to the beach today and from there followed the footpath marked 'Hangmans'. This leads up some steep hills to two high promontories called Little Hangman and Great Hangman. Great Hangman is the highest sea cliff in England. We didn't make it that far. My husband, in his wisdom, said before we let home 'Oh there are good clear paths up there.' Which meant daughters no.2 and 3 decided they wouldn't need wellies and that trainers would do. Big Mistake! The paths were caked in gooey, slimey, slippery mud. Before we'd got very far indeed their white trainers had turned brown. Not long after this my husband was left with mud on his face when he was the first to slip over in it. Unfortunately he took daughter no.3 with him when he went. She did see the funny side - later.

We struggled on for a while hoping that going forwards would be better than going back. There were several places along the way to sit and recover from the steep climb, although I suspect they were actually intended for people to enjoy the lovely views. We did that too. Then we spotted a fork in the path. Go left and make the climb up to the summit of Little Hangman, or right back into Combe Martin. We went right. Perhaps we'll make it to the top of the Hangmans in summer, when the paths might be drier.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Blackmoor Gate

We went for a drive over Exmoor today to see all the pretty scenery. The roads were quite clear, and we stopped every now and then to take photos and for the kids to jump about in the giant snow drifts. Then we headed for Blackmoor Gate, a crossroads right on the edge of the moor where the roads from Barnstaple, Lynton, Ilfracombe and Simonsbath meet. There is a lovely pub/restaurant there that we've been to several times. We had hot chocolates and a snack in the pub section, although daughter no.3 was angling for a plate of chips. It was very reasonably priced, as are their meals when we've eaten there before.

For more photos of the scenery check out NorthDevonPhotoJournal by following the link opposite.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Torrington Common

It's been beautiful weather here for the last three days so today I put my foot down and insisted that we all go out for a walk. There's only so much of listening to Wii music that a person can take before going completely mad.

We drove over to Torrington Common, a large area of open grass land with a good view of the surrounding countryside, and stretched our legs. The Common site where the Torrington Cavaliers, a vountunary organisation who raise money for charities, famously build huge bonfires. They have already started construction for their 40th anniversary bonfire, a replica of Torrington's medieval castle. The last one they did was the HMS Victory and 15,000 people came to watch it burn. This year the date set for big event is 28th August.

We looked at what they'd done so far then followed the path above down into the woods near the Puffing Billy. We walked on the path above the river and my husband and children had fun trying to skate on the icy paths. Then it was back round to the Common, where my little one played in the small children's play area there before we all headed home for a nice warming cup of tea and a slice of cake. There were many other paths we could have followed, so I think maybe we'll be back - perhaps in warmer weather (or when I persuade my husband that we really need a dog - which ever comes first!)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Barnstaple - New Years Eve

Barnstaple on New Year's Eve tries to rival Bideford but never really matches up. We ventured out just before midnight last night and the first difference we noticed was there was hardly anyone in fancy dress - that's because if you're going to do fancy dress then you're going to go to Bideford. There also seemed to be a lot more police trying to sort out the angry drunken youths. I'm spotting a pattern - the pleasently drunk were all in fancy dress in Bideford!

There is a live stage show in the Square with various DJs playing music through the night. There seemed to be hoards of people that way all having a good time, and they were lined up along the old bridge to watch the fireworks, but we didn't make it that far. The children moaned. So we stopped by the riverside and actually had a pretty perfect spot for watching the fireworks. We could hear the countdown to midnight from the Square, said our 'Happy New Year's and then enjoyed the show. That was the second difference - the fireworks weren't as long as the show in Bideford. Still, it was nice to get out.