Saturday, December 24, 2011


We picked Molland today for our traditional Christmas Eve walk. It's a tiny village three miles off the A361 near South Molton. We parked up outside the church, alongside lots of other people, we struggled to find a space! Then followed the guidebook for a 3.5 miles walk through the countryside. We went through farmland, over moors and into woods. Many of the fields had sheep in and we had to keep our dog on a lead in those parts. Not that she was much interested in them. She spent most of her time with her nose in hedges or tussocks of grass sniffing out mice and pheasants. In one field we were followed by a horse and a donkey.
We also passed lots of other walkers, some with dogs and some without. There was only one part where we thought we'd got lost. Thats because it took ages between one set of directions and the next. Daughter No.2 moaned a few times, "The guidebook says 'easy'! I'd hate to find out what 'moderate' is!" But the thought of Pizza Hut spurred her on. We all had muddy wellies by the time we'd finished, but on the whole it was a nice little walk with lots of pretty scenery to look at. Just not as pretty as last year in the snow.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Charles and the Tarka Trail

Yesterday we took the dog out for a nice long walk. It was a bit longer than I thought. We looked in the 'Circular Walks on the Tarka Trail' booklet that my dad got me and decided to go to a place called Charles. We'd never heard of it let alone been there. It's a tiny little village out in the back of beyond between South Molton and Combe Martin. To get there you have to go up some very steep, very narrow country lanes. The book says the walk starts by the church, but as far as we could make out you can't get near the church in a car.
So we parked where we could and off we set - 2.2 miles, said the guide book. We found our way onto the Tarka Trail and down to the river. It was all very pretty - and muddy - but we expected that.
We tramped along for what seemed ages. The book said we should go up hill after a while. Surely we can't have missed the uphill bit, we thought, there are steep valley walls to one side and the river on the other. Eventually we got to it and found our way back onto the country lanes, whereupon we decided, as we had been walking for over an hour, that we ought to take the short cut back to the car. We made our way up a 20% gradient hill. The view was pretty good at the top but I'm afraid my legs were in too much agony for me to apprieciate it much.
It was at this point that we discovered the line in the guide book that none of us had read. Length of Tarka Trail: 2.2 miles, Length of walk: 4.7 miles!!! Oops!
The dog had a lovely time. There were hundreds of pheasants everywhere. She went mental. Look closely at the photo and spot the white dot in the distance. That's my dog disappearing from sight. Willow's best walk ever.
We had fun until the uphill slog back to the car. And daughter no.2 took some lovely photos for her art homework. I'll post them on North Devon Photo blog tomorrow.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Woolacombe Down

This afternoon I took a break from painting the outside of my house and went off to enjoy the October heatwave with a nice walk. I dragged daughters 2 and 3 with me, the dog dragged us.

After turning the wrong way at the end of my road, we eventually made it to Woolacombe and parked in Marine Drive car park for £3. At the entrance to the car park is the start of the footpath up to Potters Hill. We climbed up and around it until we reached the sign that says 'summit' and opted not to go that way as our legs were already aching. We followed the path along towards Woolacombe Down, where an equally long climb awaited us but with stunning views of the beach that made it worth while. My daughter said, 'The people look so tiny!' Plus there was a handy bench to rest on and enjoy the drinks and snacks I'd packed in my bag.
The walk in all on National Trust land. At the top of the Downs horses were roaming free. We kept and eye on the dog but she just ignored them, preferring to sniff around in the gorse instead. After our quick rest we followed the path back down to Marine Drive and into the sand dunes behind the beach. It was very pleasant and mostly flat, and there were plenty of blackberries around if we'd wanted to pick them. There was the option to walk along the beach but the children decided they didn't want to. I don't know why they don't like the beach. They're not normal.
It was a lovely walk, although my legs are killing me now, and we finished it off nicely with a stop in Woolacombe for an ice cream. Who'd have thought, ice cream, shorts and t-shirts in October!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

North Devon Hawk Walks

How about this for an experience? Falcolnry, but not just watching, actually getting to have the birds fly to and from your arm! It was amazing.
We didn't have the best weather in the world, after all the sunshine of the previous three days, but at least it didn't rain while we were there. We drove to the little village of Withypool (mentioned previously) and met Nigel Penfold, the Falcolner. He took us up into the hills above Withypool and from there we walked about 100 metres down into the valley. After that we took it in turns to do things with the birds.
Nigel took two birds with him, Cassius and Lady MacBeth. We spent ages with Cassius, the younger bird. They are both Harris hawks. He told us all about them - their features, how they fly and hunt, etc. It was very interesting. We wore a thick leather glove on our left hand and Nigel gave us bits of rabbit to hold and the bird would fly onto the glove, eat the meat, stay for a bit and then fly off into a tree about another 100 metres away from us.
We were with the birds for an hour so we all got a fair few times of doing this. My only criticisms of the whole experience were that it didn't really qualify as a walk, since we didn't really walk anywhere. And we didn't see much of Lady MacBeth because she wasn't hungry - we'd booked this a month in advance so you'd have thought he would have not fed her to ensure she was hungry, wouldn't you?
Still, it was a great way to end the school holidays. The girls really enjoyed it and I can't think of anywhere else where you can do this, certainly not in your average theme park or zoo. If you're interested, just Google 'North Devon Hawk Walks' and you'll find Nigel's website. It costs £10 per person.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Appledore and Instow Regatta

The Appledore and Instow Regatta is something we always used to go to as children although there is only one thing about it I remember. It is still going today, although not quite as strongly as it used to. We always went to the Appledore bit of it, not Instow across the river, because that's where Gran and Grandad lived. Grandad is still there.

We arrived today at just gone 1 o'clock, in time to find a spot along
the edge of the Quay to watch a rowing race come in. But events started at 10.30 this morning. There was commentary over the loud speakers for all the races. We were also in a prime position to see the Miller and Sweep - people in boats pelting each other with flour. After that we wandered off to get a Hockings ice cream.
The main events of the regatta take place on the water, as you might expect. The life boat was there and did a quick exhibition in the
water with one of it's little boats before motoring off. But there are
also stalls all the quayside. Not quite as many as I was led to expect, but there was a jewellery stall, a hamburger stall and the lifeboat stall.
The main draw for me, and the only thing I remember from being small, was the Greasy Pole. Competitors swim out to a pontoon and get two tries at reaching the end of the Greasy Pole without falling into the water. It's great fun to watch. We used to have an ideal view
from the top floor of my Grandad's house, but now they've built the
Quay up to stop it flooding you can't see a thing. Today we found a spot near the front of the onlookers. A few people got to the end. This chap managed a bow at the end before throwing himself into the water.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Pebble Ridge Adventure Golf

Just behind the pebble ridge at Westward Ho! is a place called, strangely enough, Pebble Ridge Adventure Golf and Go-Karting. Today we did the adventure golf bit of it. It was a blowy day, but it's always blowy at Westward Ho! Adventure Golf costs £2.50 per person regardless of age. There are 9 holes, all very different from each other. At the last hole all you have to do is hit your ball up a slope, avoiding a few pebbles and the tunnel at the end swallows your ball and deposits it in a secure container - so nobody can run off without returning their balls.
We had quite a few laughs when balls kept returning to their starting positions or pinging off the green and out into various other parts of the grounds, or when some of us took forever to sink the damn thing. I don't think the people behind us were too impressed, but serves them right for being too quick.
It's a nice spot, just at the end of the slipway, not too far from the Hockings ice cream van, with the cricket pitch just behind. The only thing that was slightly annoying was the noise of the go-karts. You had to shout while they were zooming round. We enjoyed it though.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tiverton Canal

I ventured slightly out the way for this one. Tiverton is not actually in North Devon. It's at the other end of the A361 (known locally as the North Devon Link Road), and by car takes about 45 minutes. But this is something I've been thinking about doing for a long while and as we are having one of those new-fangled staycations this summer it was a good oportunity to do it.
The Tiverton Canal offers all sorts of entertainment including various kinds of boat hire. The woman in the queue in front of me was hiring some sort of motorboat and had forked out the massive amount of £315. I went to do the Horse-Drawn Barge trip. They offer trips which vary in length from 1 hour to 2 1/2 hours long. It is advisable to check the timetable on the website and reserve your ticket. Today we did a 1 1/2 hour trip which cost £8.50 for adults and £6 for children. And here comes another little tip: adult prices start from 14 years old - this is not mentioned on any of their literature. I found out when I phoned to reserve tickets and was told my 14 year old was an adult - too late to say she was 13 - damn.
There is a crew of 3 on board. One chap does the introduction as you settle into your seats. He comes back on board at the half way point to talk a bit more and do a question and answer session. He is very good at his job and is very entertaining. For the journey you are left in peace to enjoy the experience, although you don't get to enjoy the silence and the clip of the horses hooves, as promised in their leaflet, for the chat of other customers.
Getting seated is a free-for-all, so I recommend trying to get as close to the front of the queue as possible when you see them starting to get the boat ready. We were lucky and got seats in the middle of the boat, good for seeing both ways, as for half of the journey you will be going backwards. We travelled 45 minutes along the Great Western Canal, then, after a rest for the horse, came back again, turning around as we approached the mooring. Some of the time we were out in the country, some of it we travelled past the bottom of peoples gardens and had a sneaky-peek into their houses. All the windows on the barge were open as it was a nice sunny day and the children enjoyed feeding the ducks and swans with the duck food conveniently sold on board. There is a bar at the stern of the barge where we purchased soft drinks, cookies and ice-cream. They also serve hot drinks and alcoholic beverages.
It was a nice relaxing little trip and I'm glad we did it. This is the only horse-drawn barge in the South-West and one of only four left in the country. And, as the guy pointed out before we left, our ticket and beverage money help to ensure its continued survival.
One last tip - buy some polos for the horse, you are allowed to feed him at the end of the trip and the girls loved this bit best.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


The tiny village of Withypool is in the heart of Exmoor just the other side of the Devon border. I've driven through it a few times and always thought it pretty. Today we stopped there, with the dog and daughters no.2 and 3. The grassy area next to the bridge is popular place for picnics and general messing about in the river. There were lots of families there, some with inflatable boats and some with fishing nets.
We parked the car and went for a walk first. Just outside the village is a signpost marked 'Landacre - 2 miles' (see previous posting). We followed the path through fields, along lanes and across a stream until we reached Withypool Common, then took the short cut through a couple of farms until we reached the banks of the River Barle. After that it was easy to follow the river all the way back into Withypool. The walk was 2.5 miles long and was very nice. My husband and I took raincoats just in case and wished we hadn't bothered because although the sky was overcast it was still really quite warm and the rain held off.
Back in Withypool we all collapse by the river. The dog went in up to her knees for a drink but declined to go any further. Husband and daughter no.2 went to the shop across the bridge and bought us drinks. There is also a rather nice looking tearoom, but we didn't try it out this time. Perhaps we'll go back. It's a nice place to chill out and is even prettier when there are blue skies.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bratton Fleming

I am thinking of changing this blogs bi-line to 'things to do when you have dogs' rather than children, as the focus of my writing in recent times is more the places I take the dog than anything else.

Today we found a walk on the internet around the village of Bratton Fleming, about six miles outside of Barnstaple. We parked outside the church and took a stroll up the hill into Beara Lane, then found ourselves out in the heart of the country. We passed farms, walked through fields, over stiles and streams and then back down the country lanes until we reached our car once more.

We didn't pass one solitary soul for the whole two mile walk. It was windy, but the sun shone and although we started with jackets and jumpers on we had stripped down to our t-shirts by the time we'd finished. The flowers in the hedgerows were beautiful: primroses, bluebells, campions and many others that I didn't know the names for. We spotted a few good spots for picnics, so if we ever get a proper summer I might bring the kids back here again.

The village even has a pub, for those of you wanting a bit of light refreshment after exercise. Unfortuntely we didn't have time today.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Movie Bus

Yesterday the Movie Bus was in Barnstaple. Built in 1967, it is the only surviving bus from a fleet of seven and has been carefully restored. It has been travelling around North Devon showing archive film of this area but is soon off to pastures new. It will visit Birmingham and Hereford, then will join the BBC on a filming tour.

The projection room is the big glass bubble above the driving seat. Inside are rows of seats two either side of a central aisle. The screen drops down when the back door shuts. It's cosy, but quite an experience. So if you get the chance I recommend a visit. Each film they have is about 20 minutes long.

We went down today because they were supposed to be showing some animations made by the local schools they have visited in recent months, but unfortunately the animations weren't ready. My youngest helped to make one of them but when she heard it wasn't available to watch she decided she didn't want to go in to see anything else. Shame. The youth of today - no appreciation of history!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cobbaton Combat Collection

Cobbaton Combat Collection can be found just outside the village of Umberleigh, in an even tinier village called Chittlehampton. When you look at their website the tag line under the title reads 'A hobby which got out of hand.' It is a privately own military collection that is fairly extensive. Got out of hand may be a slight understatement.

I had the occasion to visit the collection with a group of school children this week. It is open to the public and costs £6.50 for adults and £4 for children with under 5s going free. When you arrive, on what looks like a famryard, there are two huge hangar buildings awaiting you. These are adjoining, so it is possible, when the weather is as awful as it was this week, to see most of what is there without going outdoors.

The first two sections of the museum hold a mass of military equipement ranging from tanks, and armoured vehicles, to bicycles and motorbikes, most of which have labels but very little else in the way of information. As well as this are cupboards filled with little curiosities such as bayonets, army issue cutlery and blackout lamps. There is even a partial plane mock-up used as part of a set in the film 'A Bridge Too Far'.

Then at the back of the collection, in a much smaller room, is a section dedicated to the home front. There are several little sections which are done out to look like various rooms: a wartime kitchen complete with evacuees, a first aid station, a farmyard with land army workers, and an Anderson shelter. All of these are viewed through metal grills, which is a shame. Again, there are plenty of glass-fronted cupboards stacked with more objects from guns and bullets through to ration books and gas masks.

The children were fascinated, and it made a great start to our topic on WWII, but, being a bit of a girl, my interest in it all dried up after about half an hour. If you are into war-stuff, then this will be a place you love, if not, perhaps give it a miss. I have to conceed however, that it is impressive for sheer scale, given that it has all been collected by one man. If I haven't put you off, then I can offer you one last piece of advice. Wrap up warm. It was colder inside the hangars than outside. I had thermals on and survived. My friends did not and were colder than they had been in the whole of December by the time we left.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Loxhore - Deerpark Wood

We've been indoors for days now, the dog's had quick walks
round the neighbourhood and the children were going
stir-crazy, so it was time to take them all out for a long walk.

We went to Loxhore, a tiny little village in the middle of nowhere. Take the road towards Arlington and it's sign posted right from the village of Shirwell. We parked by Loxhore church and took the walk through the fields to the woods, but discovered afterwards that the best place to park is by the turning to Loxhore Cott (a dead-end). This allows you to walk through the National Trust grounds of a privately owned house, through a gate and straight into the woods. It also avoids the long walk up hill to get back to your car.

The woods are beautiful, although muddy at this time of year. And, as you can see from the photo, there are lots of very well defined paths for you to walk along. All are very well signed too. A lot of the paths run alongside and slightly above the river Yeo, and at a place called Tuckers Bridge you can cross the Yeo for a walk around the lake at Arlington. We didn't do this today, but will definately return to do it at some point. There is also the odd picnic bench along the way to stop and have a rest at. I feel a summer expedition coming on. Roll on the sunshine!