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.